When Alex Ferguson took charge of Manchester United in November of 1986, he inherited a team that sat 19th out of the 22 teams in the First Division table. His first match in charge was a 2-0 defeat to Oxford United. They would only win once away from Old Trafford that season in finishing 11th. After finishing 2nd the following season, they fell back to 13th. At the beginning of 1990, Manchester United sat 15th in the league table, and Ferguson was seemingly on the verge of the sack. A run to win the FA Cup was enough to save him that season. Twenty years, 11 league titles and 2 European Cups later; Sir Alex Ferguson is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest managers ever.
The 7th episode of Giant Killing sees ETU off to a bit of a rough start to the league campaign. The first 3 matches of the season bring 0 points and no sign of optimism as Tatsumi’s methods begin to wear on the media, the ETU staff and the more established first team players.
The reaction to adversity is the dominant theme in this episode, beginning with one of the local fans expressing the shock that ETU have conceded the fourth goal to Iwata in a 4-0 defeat to start the league campaign. Fujisawa, the freelance reporter covering the team, notices that the team fell apart from the moment they conceded the first goal despite it being a complete fluke.
Since she was expecting Tatsumi to begin working miracles right away, not least to save her own job, she asks him after the match if those hoping for an exciting league should keep their hopes up. Tatsumi responds to the challenge by making her attitude the major issue before saying they could keep hoping.
A 2-0 defeat in the second match away to Sanfrecce Sun Arrow Hiroshima,was beginning to raise some doubts as to whether the players, or Tatsumi himself, knew what the were doing. Akasaki and Kuroda get involved in another skirmish over defense-versus-attack, but Tatsumi has an idea to change things up a little.
After trying to get a number of defeats he can take before being sacked by Gotou, Tatsumi has the squad pair up by position in a game of soccer tennis, with an important prize handed out to the winning team. Kuroda expresses outrage playing a childish game and along with Sugie decides not to try. Eventually, Tatsumi informs Gino that the prize they are playing for is a position in the lineup for the next game against Shimizu S-Pulse Impulse. Which explains why the youngsters Kobayashi and Kame start in defense in place of Kuroda and Sugie.
Despite Sera scoring a diving header late in the match, ETU fall to their third defeat of the season by the score of 2-1. After the match, Kuroda tells Sugie that he is putting in a transfer request as he can no longer stand playing for Tatsumi. Sugie goes to Midorikawa for advice, and he doesn’t get much from the goalkeeper other than he thinks Tatsumi is trying to plot his own course for the club, and Kuroda isn’t alone in disagreeing with the methods.
The next day, Tatsumi again tells the players they will be playing a game to determine starting places, and nearly everyone disagrees with him. While Kuroda just walks off the training ground, Tatsumi emphasizes that the match results are not the most important thing at the moment.
Thoughts: Eventually ETU have to get a draw in here somewhere. As far as Kuroda’s transfer request goes, I have doubts any other club would want him unless he wants to drop down a division. Otherwise, I think Tatsumi is trying to build a team around young hungry players who are willing to do what they are supposed to in their given roles built around the experience of a more focused Murakoshi. Whether Tatsumi can succeed before they are relegated, or he gets sacked, is going to be the defining question in the series. I also have to wonder if there is a cup competition that is going to pop up at some point. In addition, is it fair that Tatsumi is being judged on the performance of players that previous managers have brought in?