All things are possible through self-discipline.
Former U.S President Theodore Roosevelt said that. Perhaps right before he survived being shot. In the chest. Needless to say, there hasn’t been an overabundance of organization and self-discipline around Manchester United of late. All of that is about to change, however, as new coach Erik ten Hag has started laying down the law. The Dutchman has implemented a set of five rules around the team that he expects to be followed at all times, no exceptions. These rules are as follows.
Anybody late to training or team meetings will be dropped- That this rule even needs putting in place highlights perfectly how sloppy the club has allowed itself to become. Lateness in any walk of life shows a slovenly approach to things. A level of disinterest for the task in hand. Playing football is supposed to be a passion. Certainly, it’s a privilege. If you don’t see it as such, and you have other, more pressing things to be doing with your time, then Manchester United is not the place for you. Take your lazy ass elsewhere. You have to set a standard in everything you do. If you can’t even organise yourself to get to training on time, it follows that everything you do after will be of a poorer standard. Lateness is a mental thing. In some ways, it suggests that your time is more important than that of the place / person you are due to be / meet. Nobody is more important than this club. Buy in, or get out.
No more personal chefs- Ostensibly, this rule is so that ETH can monitor what the players are eating. Let’s be honest, you can’t always expect men in their 20’s to make the best choices when it comes to food. More than anything, players seem to have personal chefs just so they can show off their meals on Instagram. Another extravagance when you don’t know what to spend your vast sums of money on. Well, no more 2am steaks rustled up on a whim. From now on, players will be expected to use the canteen at Carrington as their primary source of sustenance. Fish and vegetables will feature heavily. Really? Any half-hearted gym rat worth their salt knows the benefits of Omega 3, and anybody over the age of 15 understands the power of vegetables. That this needs to be pointed out to grown men who are professional athletes is highly disturbing. There is also a positive corollary of making the players eat at Carrington rather than at home: they eat together. The team that eats together stays together, right? Well, maybe, but it’s certainly a good way to foster team morale and build bonds. Eat your vegetables, Private Pyle.
Linked to this will be weekly BMI checks to ensure players are keeping their weight and health in check.
Next: Drinking alcohol during a match week is now banned- Seriously, who has been running things around here lately? Homer Simpson? Charles Bukowski? The Fast Shows’ RoleyBirkin QC? What on earth are players doing drinking through the week? With United due to play on Thursdays in the UEFA Cup and again on a weekend in the Premier League, this is another no brainer. It’s effectively a season long ban on booze. Good. Hard work will be the order of the day. Hard work and recovery. And recovery does not mean hitting Da Club on Tuesday nights, baller. Get a Netflix subscription and chill, player. I hear there are some good things on there.
ETH wants all complaints ran through him- No more bitching to your agents. This one seems particularly pertinent to Manchester United right now. Too many egos, too many cry-babies, too many thinking the club owes them something more. If you have a problem, be a man about it, take it up with someone in charge, face to face. You aren’t at school. Too many players think their agents are surrogate parents, there to coddle them and cater to their every need. Grow up and handle your business like a man. How do you expect something to get fixed if you’re discussing it on Instagram like a 14-year-old girl? The club has been decimated by whispers and leaks and the like these last few years. Transparency and dragging everything out into the daylight will be a breath of fresh air for the place. ETH will need eyes in the back of his head and man management skills that are second to none, but these days that seems as much part of the job as tactical drills and exercise. Taking it onto his shoulders, though, is a step in the right direction. Perhaps keeping ‘captain’ Harry Maguire off social media might be another good move...
That any professional football club, let alone one with the stature of Manchester United, doesn’t already have these values in place as second nature is an alarming discovery indeed. Still, what the club are facing now is a total rebuild, and a total rebuild implies you start at the bottom, with the basics. It has to start somewhere, and these rules are as good a place as any, correcting the mentality of the club as a whole. There are no short cuts. Sometimes these lessons have to be learned anew, even for a club with the great history of Manchester United.
Really, this all feels like the start of something, and the end of something else, the end of that toxicity that has festered at the core of the club for too long now. An end, hopefully, to our darkest days. Sure, there’s a long way to go, but ETH seems to be taking the club into his control, turning it in the right direction with small, incremental steps. I like what I’m hearing so far. Let’s hope it starts paying immediate dividends.
Right, I’m off to watch Stranger Things with my fish and rice. Here’s hoping Manchester United’s players are soon doing the same.