Date: 10th November 2008 at 3:44pm
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Okay, so challenges aren’t exactly new for Sir Alex Ferguson. He’s faced some during his Old Trafford tenure and more often than not managed to tackle them and find solutions.

This one is not even the biggest he faced, it’s far from that. What he needs to do is convince his players that they’ve still got a lot of things to play for after last season’s magnificent Double success.

My ‘article’ on the Arsenal game was little more than incoherent rambling but you must forgive me as I was a wee bit annoyed and frustrated by the team. I don’t expect us to win all the time and I don’t expect us to play always well – and we did not play badly, mind you – but I always expect United to fight for the cause.

At the Emirates, however, we seemed reluctant to fight and work without the ball. United did some excellent stuff with the ball at their players’ feet but without the ball we were reduced to watch Arsenal passing it around. And it’s not the first time either: at Liverpool or at Everton things were pretty much the same. Or I could cite the Hull game as a prime example – we attacked brilliantly but did not bother to do the defensive job.

These are professional players and play under one of the best managers of all time. Still, motivation is an issue. I do not say they consciously protest against hard work but there is little to spur them on when things are going badly. In their subconscious they know that they have already reached the peak, that if they don’t win the league this season it wouldn’t be something to regret for the rest of their lives.

Now, of course, this is unacceptable from sportsmen who earn the kind of money they do. They must do their best to motivate themselves, obviously. But we also pay coaches and a manager to find solutions to this problem. I do not know how – this is not my job. Our job as supporters is to demand that our team do not surrender meekly, and is able to concentrate for 90 minutes.

There are side-issues, of course – injuries, lack of match fitness in case of a few players, bad luck – but mostly our problems are down to two things: bad defending and woeful finishing. And it is quite simple what causes the problems with these: concentration, or the lack of it to be precise.

And lack of concentration is the result from insufficient determination – so we are where we started: MOTIVATION.

When the spring comes and the trophies will be in sight, motivation will become much easier than in these days, in the cold, wet November when the season is still stretching out into the seemingly infinite distance. However, we must stay in contention so no matter how United need to start picking up results. We’ll have a much easier fixture list in the second half of the season but a fat lot of good it’ll do if we fall so far behind that climbing back would be impossible…