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One year on…has the Manchester United Pressure Trap Changed?

Just under one year on from when the world was buzzing with the news of Sir Alex Ferguson’s resignation and the appointment of Everton Football Club’s David Moyes to Manchester United FC, here we are again talking about the MUFC manager. I recall with interest the points I made in last year’s blog regarding our fears about the dramatic shift in levels of scrutiny and expectation that Moyes would come under (which you can read http://www.gazing.com/gazing-performance-systems-blog/football-club-pressure). Of course, hindsight is a great thing but it’s fair to say that the ‘Man U pressure trap’ was just that. It wasn’t possible to escape the scrutiny of a 24/7 fish bowl and let’s be honest, the job has subsequently become seen as the poisoned chalice, or the impossible job. However you prefer to describe it, it’s been a tough situation for anyone to deal with.

 

It’s interesting to look at why. Manchester United is certainly unlike any other football club in the world. A $1.7 billion business, with the biggest fan base globally, it’s not a usual football club. It has certainly changed the way people look at clubs, and made them recognise the nature of the business that large clubs have become.

From our perspective at Gazing, there are three key things that we’ve taken from this.

  1. As a massive club, there’s a huge expectation on the manager. Acknowledging this as the starting point and the associated pressure involved has got to be the first step in hoping for any kind of success – and of course avoiding the risk of failure. Whether or not Moyes was the right man for the job isn’t really the question that should be asked; perhaps it is a lot more to do with how the club as a whole prepared for the change that was encountered when Ferguson left and a new manager came on board, for the first time in decades.
  2. There’s been a lot of debate about what was happening in the dressing room. Frankly, it’s too late to review that now. What is important is to look at the levels of engagement between the different areas of the club and at its most critical level, between manager and the team. For whatever reasons, it appears there weren’t the levels of engagement that were required to make effective change happen and result in success – as a team and on the pitch,
  3. Finally, the fundamental and most critical aspect to the dismissal of Moyes has got to be the lack of evidence that the team was building towards something. There was a lot of rhetoric about the building blocks being established, about the club being in it for the long run. However, there is a need to demonstrate evidence of progress. There may have been the occasional win but on the whole, there was a lack of momentum and certainly a lack of evidence of milestones along the way.

This all leads back to the expectation of performance. Why is this all important? In my view, if the club doesn’t acknowledge these key factors in success, it risks facing the same problem and issues with its new manager. The factors that Moyes faced in the world of Manchester United won’t change – the excruciatingly high levels of scrutiny and expectation won’t disappear. Manchester United remain in the same class as the likes of Brazil or Real Madrid:  winning i a prerequisite, bringing with it sky high expectations. We still see this as the ‘Man U pressure trap’.

We hope the club will be ready to support the new manager and take on board the joint responsibility required to achieving success within this pressurized environment. For one thing can be assured - Manchester United faces commercial pressure as a business to ensure the team starts to perform again; let’s hope Ryan Gigg’s initial revival of the team continues. Establishing high performing environment in high pressure situations is tough - easy to say but much tougher to do. Get in touch if you’re keen to avoid a pressure traps in your company or organisation and if fact, want to start developing your own high performing environment. 

Martin Fairn, CEO, Gazing Performance Systems

www.gazing.com  

@gazingtraining

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