Between the Lines

"Of all unimportant subjects, football is the most important" – Pope John Paul II

Archive for April, 2010

Lessons to learn from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Posted by hakanrylander on April 14, 2010

Not only United fans are unhappy with the Glazers. Supporters of the family’s NFL franchise the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are getting increasingly fed up with the owners’ unwillingness to invest in new players to secure long-term sporting success. The Buccaneers won the Super Bowl in 2003, but since then sporting success has slipped. They finished last season with the dreadful record of 3 wins and 13 defeats (the worst since 1991).

Even so the Buccaneers is one of the most profitable clubs in the NFL. One of the reasons is the very favourable lease at the Raymond James Stadium, owned by the County of Hillsborough. Some say that the club uses the stadium more or less for free. But in recent years profits have also been increased by a strategy now familiar to United fans; lower spending on players. Last season the Bucs spent less than any other club in NFL on player wages.

Despite the almost total lack of sporting success, the revenues and value of the club have kept increasing steadily. In this context sporting success is only important to the extent that it’s necessary to maintain or increase income. And it seems that the Buccaneers’ poor performances on the pitch have yet to influence the financial results. One explanation could be that the brand still benefits from the Super Bowl triumph in 2003.

But it’s also interesting to note that high ticket prices and poor team performances have started to hurt gate receipts for the Bucs. Attendences were down more than 10% last season. A few years ago there was a 100,000 person waiting list for season tickets (probably exaggerated for marketing reasons, but still very long). Today anyone who wants a season ticket can buy one and prices have been slashed.

Still, the ominous conclusion is that, based on their experiences with Tampa Bay Bucs, the Glazers will be quite happy to spend less on players and accept several years without success on the pitch since they will feel that this is unlikely to hurt the financial performance. Indeed, they are probably convinced that such a strategy will improve the financial results.

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Posted in Financial, Manchester United | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Berbatov and Puccini: A Comparative Study

Posted by hakanrylander on April 13, 2010

This might be slightly off topic, but while browsing youtube this morning I came across this wonderful performance. Not quite up there with Berbatov bamboozling Collins, but almost.

Posted in Non-United | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

One more reason to look forward to the World Cup

Posted by hakanrylander on April 9, 2010

I must admit that before yesterday I’d never heard of Javier Hernandez. Now he’s on his way to Old Trafford and I don’t know what to make of this transfer, particularly as the fee is undisclosed. Maybe Ferguson has found a real bargain, or maybe the bargain basement is the only place where the Glazers allow Sir Alex to go shopping.

I was expecting/hoping for a more established international striker to join us this summer, and this could of course still happen. With Macheda, Welbeck and Diouf we already seem to be fairly well stocked with promising young strikers. Anyway, Hernandez aka Chicharito (Little Pea) certainly looks good on youtube. IMScouting had a good look at him already in January and concluded that “it seems that the little “Chicarito” is actually going to be a big star”.

The timing of the transfer is important since Ferguson apparently expects Hernandez’ value to rise as he performs on the world stage in South Africa this summer. Maybe after the World Cup every big club in Europe will regret not signing him. Let’s hope so.

Posted in Player Analysis | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Nine Days That Shook the World

Posted by hakanrylander on April 9, 2010

I can’t remember when we last lost three straight games (two of them at Old Trafford), let alone three games as important as Bayern, Chelsea and Bayern. Suddenly we’re out of the CL and will find it very difficult to catch Chelsea in the PL with only five games remaining. It took only nine days for our season to disintegrate.

(Edit: As Morten has pointed out in his comment we did in fact beat Bayern 3-2 at Old Trafford. But somehow it felt like a defeat…)

As Sir Alex will no doubt tell you it’s not too difficult to find “external” reasons for a defeat; maybe the referee favoured the opposition or German’s behaved in a “typical” unsporting way. But after these three games we need to take a long hard look at possible weaknesses in our own team. United did in fact play some very good football, maybe their best this season, in both first halves against Bayern. But in the end they were still knocked out. I believe that a major reason was a lack of confidence.

This was most obvious against Bayern at Old Trafford. United were cruising 3-0 ahead when in a short space of time Rooney started limping, Bayern scored a soft goal and Rafael was sent off. These were bad blows, but not bad enough for the team to withdraw completetly into desperately defending the lead. Until then Bayern had found it very difficult to handle the pressing in midfield and in particular Nani and Valencia running at their full-backs. But United now more or less gave up any attacking ambitions thus making life much easier for Bayern’s weakest link Badstuber and freeing Lahm to get forward in support of Robben.

Compare this to Bayern who in both games showed a remarkable resilience and mental strength. In Munich they were second best for most of the game but kept going and managed to turn the game around towards the end. In Manchester they were outplayed for 40 minutes, but even at 3-0 down their heads didn’t drop and to my mind they had begun to change the pattern of the game even before Rafael was sent off.

This is exactly the kind of strength that has characterized great United teams in the past (the semi-final in Turin 1999 springs to mind). Possibly the team’s self-belief is now too dependent on Rooney. I think the team is strong enough to match Bayern even without Rooney, but somehow the players themselves didn’t really seem to think so.

Finally, a note to Sir Alex. The German players didn’t get Rafael sent off, he did that himself. It was a correct decision by the referee.

Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »