Manchester United and Barcelona fall foul to snap judgements and tabloid sensationalism after recent failures
In recent weeks, the footballing community has witnessed a number of shocks that have ensured a thrilling end to what has been a thoroughly exciting season.
Chelsea have come full circle since their disappointing start, beating Barcelona over two legs to reach the Champions League final.
Manchester United saw an eight-point gap at the top of the table diminish, which included relinquishing a two-goal lead to draw 4 – 4 against Everton, in what will surely go down as a Premier League “classic”.
However, instead of celebrating the merits of Chelsea and Everton, to name but a few, that have been involved in these upsets, it seems that many people are making “knee jerk” reactions, writing off top teams and managers alike, who were previously the object of many football fans’ affections.
Barcelona have been lauded as one of the greatest club sides in the history of the sport, but their consecutive defeats to Real Madrid and Chelsea has led some to question whether they are quite the side they were previously believed to be.
To make this point is to overlook the teams that they were facing; Real Madrid are a side that cost hundreds of million of pounds to assemble, are set to win the La Liga title and are headed by one of the greatest managers in the world.
Chelsea are FA Cup finalists this season and their league position is also misleading. A race for fourth spot would never have been the domestic objectives at the start of the season, but the way that Chelsea’s season has materialised is as much to do with their opposition as it is with Chelsea themselves.
Previously, the West London club has been accustomed to qualifying for the Champions League almost by default. However, the recent takeover of Manchester City, coupled with the rise in Tottenham’s stock means that this top four finish is no longer a given.
For the Spanish side to fail to break down this unit at the latter stages of the game, has more to do with the fact that Chelsea are rediscovering the form that made them one of the greatest defensive units in club football for the best part of the last decade, than it is to do with an inadequacy on Barcelona’s part.
Roberto di Matteo has stabilised the back line that wavered under Andre Villa-Boas, for which he should be applauded; it is this that allowed Chelsea to earn a place in the Champions League final and not because Barcelona have been lacklustre.
Equally shocking to these calls that Barcelona need rebuilding, were the reactions to United’s results against Everton and Manchester City.
United fans tweeted in to the BBC calling for Sir Alex Ferguson to be sacked after each result.
To write off the Scot who has held his post for over 25 years, even if they do not win a trophy this season, is incredibly short-sighted.
Sir Alex’s record speaks for itself, but it is not all about the past and United fans will correctly be looking to the future.
They need look no further than the dazzling display Danny Welbeck, 21, produced against Everton and the confidence Jonny Evans, 24, and Phil Jones, 20, have exhibited slotting in to the Nemanja Vidic shaped hole left in the middle of United’s defence.
Even David De Gea, whose Manchester career started slowly, has since produced a number of vital saves to earn his side crucial points and represents the bright future Sir Alex has laid foundations for.
Ferguson has demonstrated he still possesses the ability to recognise and mould young talent and the rejuvenation of United’s season following Paul Scholes’ return from retirement is further proof of Ferguson’s managerial astuteness.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi both missed penalties within 24 hours of each other. Does this make them bad players? Of course not and neither does losing to Real Madrid and Chelsea make Barcelona a team in decline, nor are Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson over the hill as a result of losing a lead against an impressive Everton.
The recent appointment of Roy Hodgson as England manager is proof enough of the way that fortunes can change in a matter of weeks; Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp had been tipped as favourite for the job, before their capitulation towards the end of the season
It is important to maintain a bit of perspective when it comes to these formulations. Barcelona and Manchester United are still great teams, Messi and Ronaldo are still the world’s greatest players and Redknapp’s managerial ability is not determined by three months of football.