Manchester United is the most valuable sports club in the world—according to Forbes magazine—topping the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees. The Red Devils are also kings of the UEFA Champions League and Barclays Premier League, bringing home both titles last season.
Despite their successes, the club entered its latest campaign in August with more questions than trophies. A lack of team chemistry, new transfer players and injuries to veterans had Man U supporters seeing red. And to top it off, the team was scheduled for a mid-season speed bump: playing in the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
Teams don’t become champions without learning to overcome adversity. And as the club’s manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, watched from the sideline in Tokyo, he noticed a change in his squad’s attitude. Gone were the lineup frustrations and squandered scoring opportunities. The team began to fire on all cylinders, dominating the semifinal match and rolling into the final against Liga de Quito of Ecuador.
When asked what caused the sudden turnaround, Ferguson credited the bonding that was taking place off the pitch. Players were site-seeing, hanging together in the hotel and even shopping together for souvenirs for family members back home.
After a second-half goal from Wayne Rooney sealed Man U’s victory, Red Devils supporters could sense the swagger was back, and that another league title was within reach.
“[The trip] was terrific for the unity of the team,” Ferguson said. “I think the players all enjoyed their time together. When you’re at home in England, you tend to go off in different directions after training. Some players go home early; some hang around to practice; and some linger around the canteen having their lunch. There are all different ways they behave regarding their lifestyles.”
What matters most, especially to teams chasing trophies, is unity. Manchester United, with all its heritage and pageantry, would’ve fallen out of contention without team togetherness. Barclays Premier League teams: You’ve been warned.
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