Football Psychology: Manchester United – The Cause

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So Manchester United are through to the Champions League Final. Despite a nervy last ten minutes, their spirit was simply greater than that of Barcelona. The Spaniards had the artists and technicians, but what they didn’t seem to have was a powerful sense of purpose. A cause. United, on the other hand, had two powerful causes to support their endeavour.

The first was the fiftieth anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster. To play for a place in the Champions League Final, on behalf of those who lost their lives in honour of the football club. That, in itself, would get the most unemotional player fired up.

The second was Paul Scholes. The loyal servant, who missed out in 1999. Coming to the end of his distinguished career. Maybe this would be the last chance to enjoy Champions League glory. The pinnacle of a players club career. Imagine that, as a player, you are playing to secure your esteemed colleague a place in the final. Surely, you would give everything to that cause too.

In return, Barcelona had individual brilliance, and technical excellence. But they couldn’t hope to match Manchester United’s spirit. For the Red Devils had something to play for, that meant it would take a superhuman effort to beat them. In fact, defeat was probably inconceivable to them.

Whoever faces United in Moscow, may be their equal technically. But the true test will be if they can match United’s sense of cause. If they can, the final promises to be a supreme test of will.

Football Psychology Note: The purpose of a cause is to create a powerful sense of collective focus, that means the team are simply playing for more than just themselves. The more emotive and meaningful the cause, the greater the power. The art is in being able to correctly channel that emotional power. When used correctly, it is the equivalent of a Twelfth Player. It can make a team feel unbeatable.