Manchester United face Barcelona in the Champions League final at Wembley at the end of the month, and we spoke to former Man United Assistant Manager Steve McClaren about the chances of the Old Trafford club lifting the trophy and the competitiveness of the Premier League…
How does this Manchester United side compare to that which won the treble and multiple titles while you were there?
It’s very difficult to say because every team that Sir Alex’s has built has had different strengths and different weaknesses. They all have a common denominator, however, with a driven manager, good leaders, a good philosophy, and good coaching. I suppose the game has moved on from 10 years ago when I was there: it is different and more modern now. You just cannot compare the different sides, but to achieve the treble was very unique and hard to do.
What game plan would give United their best chance of beating Barcelona in the Champions League final?
I do know that it will be a great game of football. Barcelona can only play one way, and United can only play one way: that makes for a great game. The only thing I can see is that United may have learned lessons from the 2009 final in terms of how to handle the role and movement of Lionel Messi. That has to be the main focus: to play their own game, but also to deal with the movement of Messi, which they didn’t handle very well on that previous occasion.
What do you think are the main things you learned from your time working with Sir Alex Ferguson?
Leadership is absolutely essential in any team, and that comes from the top. There is no one better than Sir Alex. The professionalism, the culture, the competitiveness, and philosophy of the club has been ingrained over the years with him. Hard work is also the key to success, along with leadership and professionalism.
Why do you think the Barclays Premier League has been so much more even this season, with more teams from lower down the table beating those higher up it?
I think that has always been the case, but now the teams coming up are stronger. The league in general in becoming more competitive and I coaches are developing.
It was obvious at the World Cup that teams win games, not individual players. Spain won that tournament outright because they had both the team unity and also talented individual stars within it. That’s why the likes of Brazil and Argentina fell by the wayside because the strong ‘teams’ came through. That’s exactly what is happening in the Premier League, with less emphasis placed on the individual and more placed on the team. Smaller clubs have got more competitive with good coaches, good organisation and a team work ethic of very hard working players.