How will Michael Owen get on at Manchester United?
When I heard he had signed for Man Utd my heart dropped. In his prime he was a Liverpool hero, he won the FA Cup for us and then he left us for Real Madrid. Since then his career has taken a nose dive and he went as low as he could go this summer when he signed for United.
In the cold light of day, you could argue he had no choice; Liverpool didn’t want him back and he had to then choose between the likes of Hull City and Man United, the current Champions of English football. As his goal is to get back in the England squad for the 2010 World Cup, you can’t really blame him I suppose…..
So how will he do? I think the key, injuries aside obviously, is the nature of the team he is joining compared to the team he has left, the newly relegated Newcastle United.
In a sport such as football you are only as good as the team you play for. Real Madrid, when they last spent fortunes on Galacticos, had a fantastic group of Superstar players but they failed to win the European Cup, the Holy Grail for them. This season they are again buying “the best” money can buy but will they build a successful team?
The key to success lies in teamwork with everyone working to a common goal. When Owen signed for Madrid I doubt that was the case, with Beckham signed, for example, for the amount of shirt sales and other merchandise revenue he could generate. Madrid appeared to be a collection of egos managed in a political cauldron, little wonder that Owen wanted out after one season despite having the best goals to minutes ratio in the Spanish league.
Unfortunately he ended up at Newcastle, lured partly by the 100,000 a week salary he was offered. Once again team spirit wasn’t all that it should be, a lack of direction from the top, poor management, no clear goals, unrealistic expectations and general apathy culminated eventually in relegation.
Now though, Owen is at a club where, like in his Liverpool days, there is a strong sense of teamwork, clear direction and a clearly defined sense of belief running through the club. Everything is geared to success, everyone knows what is expected of them, everyone understands the role they need to play and the communication throughout the team is simple and specific. Yes, Owen’s prime motivation is to get back in the England squad for probably his last shot at winning the World Cup but he knows that if he is to achieve that goal, he needs to achieve the goal he has been set at United – to score goals! His first two games for United? Two goals.
Yes, he has endured many injuries in the last few years, yes he has lost a yard or two of pace in that time, yes he isn’t the player we saw at Liverpool, but…. If he steers clear of injuries he will be a huge success at United (unfortunately!) and he will get back into the England squad as a result.
As much as I dislike United they are geared for success, teamwork is paramount to them – look at the midfield they had when they won the league last season, dreadful, but the whole (team) was greater than the sum of the individuals, the sign of a high performing team.
There are a variety of characteristics that can be found in high performing teams, and it isn’t hard to identify these within the United set up:
Commitment – Squad members see themselves belonging to the team. They are committed to group goals above and beyond their personal goals and agendas (Ronaldo aside last season?).
Trust – Team members have faith in each other to maintain confidences, support each other and generally behave predictably and consistently according to pre-determined plans and training routines.
Purpose – The team understands how it fits into the overall aims of the club. Team members know their roles, feel a sense of ownership, and can see how they personally, and as a team, make a difference.
Communication – Effective teams communicate effectively and frequently with each other and also communicate clearly and consistently with people outside the team about team activities. Effective internal communication allows these teams to make balanced decisions, handle conflict constructively and provide each other valuable feedback.
Involvement – Everyone has a role on the team. Despite differences in roles, perspectives and experience, team members feel a sense of partnership with each other. Contributions are respected and expected. Comments from Tevez at the end of the season suggest he didn’t feel part of the team.
Apparently whenever anyone joins Man United, whether it is as a player, a cleaner or a coach they are all shown the same presentation. It includes video of the last 2 minutes of the 1999 European Cup Final, when United came back from 1-0 down to win the Cup 2-1. The message is clear, at United we never give up, we fight until the end, we are winners.
In 2001, Liverpool were 1-0 down to Arsenal, when Owen scored 2 goals to take the Cup for Liverpool. It is a message he understands too well.
Don’t score too many for them Michael.