IT'S DOUBTFUL Sir Alex Ferguson was aware of what was trending on Twitter in Sheffield on Saturday night. If he had of been he’d surely have chuckled.
As YouTube video ‘The Wisdom of Geese’ went viral in the city following Sheffield United manager Nigel Adkins’ post-match comments at Swindon, Sir Alex had flown that particular nest 13 years earlier.
United’s celebrating players had Swindon in a flap and careered down the pitch waving their arms enthusiastically in formation to celebrate Billy Sharp’s 75th-minute strike which sealed an emphatic 2-0 victory.
“I’m going to tell you the story about the geese which fly 5,000 miles from Canada to France,” said the boss. “They fly in V-formation but the second ones don't fly. They're the subs for the first ones. And then the second ones take over – so it's teamwork. If one goose falls ill, two always have to go with him.”
In this case the United boss in question was Manchester’s, speaking during a French television interview in 2011 recalling what he told goalkeeper Fabian Barthez prior to a team talk in 2002 at Old Trafford.
“What I was saying, said Fergie, was that I'm only asking you to go 38 games in the League to win it. I'm not asking you to go 5,000 miles!"
Adkins referred to the YouTube video ‘The Wisdom of Geese’ which he had shown his players prior to their trip to the County Ground. It’s motivational value certainly worked as United produced their most complete team performance in many years.
Solid at the back, dominant in midfield and dangerous up front, if anyone still needed reassurance of the progress the Blades have made under Nigel Adkins they should have been at the County Ground.
What a transformation from the chaos of their last two visits. A 5-2 battering in League One and a bizarre, tactically inept 5-5 draw in early May – United were 3-0 down after 18 minutes – which ended their hopes (agg 6-7) of reaching the Play-Off Final. No surprise either that Swindon were swept aside 4-0 by Simon Grayson’s far superior Preston at Wembley.
United are a force to be reckoned with now. Sharp and Conor Sammon give them the cutting edge lacking for so long. Chris Basham, now freed from last season’s defensive duties, is a driving force in midfield and defensively Neill Collins and new arrival David Edgar are forming a formidable-looking central defensive partnership.
The spine of the team looks strong but there is quality elsewhere, too. Kieron Freeman an attacking right-back, has improved his game under Adkins, as has the dramatic development of Che Adams. Another youngster, Louis Reed, gave a composed display alongside Basham which belied his 18 years.
Once pacey winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce removes the corrugated iron from his boots, his deliveries into the box will create plenty of goals. Beating his man appears to be the easy part, but for as long as I’ve been watching him at Bramall Lane, over-hitting the all-important cross has always been a problem. Less porridge in the morning, Jamal.
View From The John Street has continued to make the case for a commanding holding player in midfield. Reading between the lines from Adkins’ comments after the match, it appears that may be the case as he confirmed that United are actively seeking to strengthen in that department before the transfer window closes on Tuesday at 6pm. “We’ll be very pleased if we succeed,” said the manager.
Pleasing too, was the manner in the way United went about their business at Swindon whose manager, Mark Cooper, courted by Sheffield Wednesday in the summer, like Adkins, prefers possession football on the grass.
United were patient and intelligent, holding their shape, but unlike so many performances last season, also pushed forward and were a constant threat. Protecting a point, the dogma of the last campaign, was not part of the game plan.
After Collins glanced in his second goal of the season to give United a 70th-minute lead and underline what a valuable asset was wasted by bull-headed former manager Nigel Clough, United of old would have shut-up shop, invited the opposition on to them and tried grimly to safeguard their lead. Often with disappointing outcomes.
Unitedites only disappointment was that next Saturday’s home date against Colchester has been postponed due to four international call-ups from the Lane. Edgar (Canada), Adams (England Under-20s ), Reed (England Under-19s) and Callum McFadzean (Scotland Under-21s). Nevertheless, a good sign for the future.
Momentum is important and the pendulum has swung United’s way. Up to second in the table, it is difficult to fathom what exactly went so badly wrong in the 4-0 humiliation on the opening day of the season at Gillingham just three weeks earlier.
Since then they have won all four league fixtures, scoring nine goals and conceding one. Five wins out of six if you include the Capital One Cup and defeat by Fulham last week, with ten team changes, was virtually against a reserve side.
United are flying like those proverbial geese. Even Sir Alex might be impressed.