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Monday, October 26, 2009

Who Needs A Team When You Have A Player?

TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More… Right? Well, not necessarily. In fact, this weekend’s Liverpool-Manchester United clash defied all traditional adages of teambuilding throughout sports history.

On Sunday, we watched two of the world’s best teams square off in Anfield. But despite their status similarities, Liverpool and Manchester United have two very different on-field strategies.

First, you have a Liverpool side that is, essentially, two men deep. For the most part, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres are the Reds’ offense. Not to take anything away from the likes of Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt, two class acts, but Liverpool’s past three games tell the story of their last two years: With no Gerrard or Torres, Liverpool lose to Sunderland, and three days later, to Lyon at Anfield. But upon Torres’ return, the struggling Reds take down the defending English champions. The string of results might not make sense—until you see the personnel involved.

Manchester United, on the other hand, have a well-balanced on-field approach. Alex Ferguson has a diversity of goal-scorers, as well as capable replacements on the bench. All around, United sport a more well-rounded, more well-built team than Liverpool.

So if teambuilding was anything its been made out to be throughout the history of sport, all factors here point to a United win—Or so the pundits thought. In a shock result this weekend, Liverpool defeated Manchester United 2-0.

So what happened? Well, on Sunday, Liverpool had what United did not: Fernando Torres. Out of nowhere, in a relatively balanced game, Torres’ individual efforts allowed him to outmuscle Rio Ferdinand and beat Edwin van der Saar in net to score the game’s winning goal. It was more a Torres goal than a Liverpool goal.

However you see it, though, the result goes to Liverpool, and that is what matters. You see, in all sports, a championship-caliber team needs a championship-caliber player: a Lio Messi, a Kobe Bryant, a Sidney Crosby. For Liverpool, this game-changing influence comes from the likes of Fernando Torres. Manchester United, though, after the loss of a certain Portuguese pretty boy, have been reduced to a team of nothing more spectacular than 11 men.

So after Sunday’s result, Liverpool critics are silenced. The Reds’ approach might be shallow, but in defying traditional sports logic, they got the three points. This begs the question: Who needs a team when you have a player?

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