In 1998, the main striking partnership of Manchester United was Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham. For readers unitiated in European Football, these two had primary responsibility for scoring goals. To do so against good opposition required a great deal of co-operation between them.

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Poor Relationships?

Does good teamwork require good relationships between team members? Below is an example that seems to dispel that myth.

Good Teamwork, Poor Relationships?

A Breakdown in Relationship

In 1998, the main striking partnership of Manchester United was Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham. For readers unitiated in European Football, these two had primary responsibility for scoring goals. To do so against good opposition required a great deal of co-operation between them.

During a game at Bolton, an incident occurred that caused a complete breakdown in their relationship. When Bolton scored, Sheringham blamed Cole for it, and Cole then refused to talk to him

The breakdown in relationship was never resolved, and reputedly they never spoke again.

Superlative Performance

In the following season (1998-1999) Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham continued as the main striking partnership, supported by other players. They continued to play games and co-operate on the pitch, but off the field they didn’t speak.

During that season, Manchester United achieved a unique treble that no British club had ever achieved. They won:

  • The Premiership League
  • The FA Cup
  • The European Cup (the biggest club football prize in Europe)

Cole and Sheringham continued to play together during the next season as well, that is 1999-2000. During that time, with Cole and Sheringham as the main striking partnership, Manchester United set two Premiership League records:

  • The reached 50 goals in just 19 games
  • They scored a total of 97 goals in the season

Here we have two people whose relationship was reputedly so bad that they hadn’t spoken to each other for over a year. Yet, despite the off-field hostility between them, their co-operation on the field was excellent and they made a significant contribution to, arguably, Manchester United’s most successful season ever.

Conclusion

This may be an extreme example, but it illustrates the principle that personal liking, or a harmonious relationship, are not essential for good teamwork. What matters is that the behaviour used (in this case, on the pitch) is one that leads to optimum performance.