Breaking the habit of losing

Breaking the habit of losing

Published Apr. 17, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

Learning how to win takes time - it doesn't happen overnight. Just ask Sir Alex Ferguson.

The Manchester United gaffer had to wait four years for his first trophy, the FA Cup, after arriving at Old Trafford. Once the floodgates were opened though, he turned winning into a habit that has shown no signs in the last 21 years of being quenched.

Losing can also be habit forming. Just ask any Manchester City supporter under the age of 35.

They've never seen their team lift a major piece of silverware (the last was the League Cup in 1976); however, that may change in a few weeks time as long as they don't fluff their lines against Stoke City.


Given the recent history of City, that wouldn't be untypical. They beat the neighbors who have gleefully rubbed their noses in the stinky stuff, dubbed them 'noisy' and then comically stumbled against the underdogs - but lets not get too far ahead of ourselves. Let's allow the blue half of Manchester a minute or two to soak up the thrill of victory, because it hasn't happened that often against United over the last 20 years.

Thinking about it, robbing the Red Devils' the opportunity to win their second treble must've been particularly satisfying, and to then witness Rio Ferdinand's meltdown against Mario Balotelli, icing on top of the cake. The Italian youngster is certainly a troubled young man with an incredible attitude problem, but for Ferdinand to take the bait on offer and then blame Balotelli was hypocrisy at it's finest.

I suppose the United captain was suffering from convenient amnesia, forgetting that his old teammate, Gary Neville, used to love winding up Liverpool fans at Anfield with the old chestnut of kissing the badge.

Instead of chasing down Balotelli for some schoolyard handbags, Rio should've been having a word with his teammate, striker Dimitar Berbatov. The Bulgarian had two chances in the space of a minute that my dear mother would've put awa,y and had he converted, the game would have been over. City, in the opening 20 minutes, was ready to be taken to the cleaners, but somehow they survived.

Still, I can't quite figure out how United's top scorer managed to put that second opportunity over the bar from less than two yards out. It really was a chance that was harder to miss than to score.

With Wayne Rooney watching from the sidelines, I wonder why Sir Alex Ferguson didn't start Javier Hernandez. I realize Chicharito had played in midweek but this is a kid who can't stop scoring goals (as opposed to Berbatov, who is as streaky as they come). It was a mistake that Ferguson will surely rue in private because ultimately it cost United the match.

I did admire Ferguson in one respect though, and that was for not making excuses in regards to Paul Scholes.

The Ginger Prince has always been one of my favorite players; however, his challenge on Pablo Zabaleta was borderline criminal as the 'red mist' descended. It's sad to think that this may well be one of the last acts we'll see from this legend who was, without a doubt, the best passer of a ball I've ever been privileged to watch. Unfortunately he was also one of the worst tacklers I've ever seen as well. He will be missed, though, as he has graced the English game for over three decades with a technical expertise that no English player has since been able to replicate.

So what do we make of the 'noisy neighbors' who finally might have something to shout about?

As mentioned earlier, in the early going they were there to be put to the sword, but upon realizing that it might actually be their day, they played some fantastic football. One hopes that Mancini comes to the realization that his side looks better value going forward than they do playing defensive football.

Yes, I understand his conservative nature when you consider the pressure he's under but when you look at the quality of players at his disposal you can also sympathize with a squad who want to be released from the shackles. At the end of the day, footballers want to play. The Italian should look across Manchester to Ferguson in that regard, because the one thing SAF has always encouraged is attacking football.

United have spent the last 20 years dominating the English game with that attitude and have fully developed the winning habit. Mancini should look back at his past. He does know how to win - he's won as a player and as a manager.

Thirty-five years of losing is a habit that runs deep in the psyche, though, and it runs through Manchester City. Can Mancini break that habit? We'll find out May 12th.

Nick Webster is a senior writer for covering the Barclay's Premier League and the English national team.