The only positive thing about failure is that it gives you the opportunity to prove people wrong.
For Manchester United, who face Real Madrid tomorrow in Ann Arbor, Michigan, there will be no shortage of motivation when the new Barclays Premier League season starts this month.
Seventh last season and now attempting radical reconstruction under their second new manager in a year, even Louis van Gaal — appointed in the wake of David Moyes’ sacking — has warned that improvements may be slow for the 20-time English champions.
In the dressing-room, however, there is a desire for improvement to come more quickly. ‘People are saying Manchester United can’t win the league. That is a big motivation to us,’ said central defender Jonny Evans. ‘I think last year everyone hurt. The players, the fans, David Moyes himself I’m sure was hurting.
‘It was a hard time to be a Manchester United player because the bar had been set by so many great players before and you don’t want to be that player or part of that team that didn’t qualify for the Champions League, but it happened.’
Earlier this week in Washington, Van Gaal told of how the changes he wishes to make will be slow to take effect. Among those changes are cameras at their Carrington training centre to track players’ every move in training. It has been the same during United’s two-week tour of the USA.
As Evans explained, every yard counts. ‘I think it is a lot more detailed now at the training ground,’ said the Irishman.
‘We have this system at the minute where he can watch us on the pitch. The manager is saying: “You should be five yards to the right”.
‘We went through a video last night and I was 10 yards out. There are things you are doing on the pitch, and the whole team will be feeling the same, where you are thinking: ‘Am I in the right position?’ Then the manager will show you in the video and you will know.
‘The case before was that as long as we got the results everything was fine. That is not the way now.
‘The question is whether you lose instinct and that sort of thing by thinking too much but I don’t think you do.
‘I don’t think the manager thinks you can think enough. The manager said to us: “You will find it hard”.
‘Not so much the tactics and results but perhaps he thinks we will find it hard mentally because he is demanding and he wants us all to push ourselves to the limit.That is what it feels like, we are all going to bed and sleeping well anyway. Certainly we want to be winning as soon as the Swansea game comes, though.
‘We don’t want to be thinking: “Right, three months in now we are ready to go”. We want to be winning all our games.’
If Evans, 26, is going to establish himself as a footballer of genuine United worth, then one feels this will be his time. ‘If you look at Nemanja Vidic, he did not join us until he was 25 or 26,’ he said.
‘I think I have benefited playing with Rio (Ferdinand) and Nemanja for a long time and Wes Brown before that, and learning a lot through my career. But it is a big time in my career now. I don’t think a new manager commits to who he likes particularly, not this early on anyway.
‘But the new manager is quick to congratulate you when you have done well and is also quick to tell you when you have done something wrong.
‘He is demanding and he knows that himself. But that is the standard he has set for us.
‘So there are a lot of fine details that we all have to stick to but I think what it does is give everyone a comfort because everyone knows: “Right, that is the standard” and if anyone steps outside of the line the other lads will be quick to help them out.’ – Daily Mail