Since 2012, it has been an unmitigated disaster. Everything that’s great about United happened prior to his tenure, since then they have gone from one calamity to the next and the people responsible for those calamities haven’t even once hinted they’ll hold themselves accountable. Instead they appoint new manager after new manager giving the illusion of change when it’s nothing more than an optical illusion.
It is truly unfathomable that Ed Woodward and his staff could inherit a Football Club in the condition that they did and proceed to run it in to the ground and leave it in a position where you have to go back to the 70’s to find the last time United finished this far behind the leaders. No other Football Club in the world would tolerate this level of ineptitude. Take a look at Bayern Munich, a Football Club run by Football people who make Football decisions because they know why they’re making them. Everything at that club is synchronized, the academy plays in the image of the first team, by the time they reach maturity they can be surgically brought in from the youth team to play in the first team.
When they decide what managers they want, they look for them based on specific set of criteria, they make sure that individuals teams play in the image of Bayern, the individual that comes then seamlessly adapts to Bayerns identity and they don’t require huge turn over with every new manager to fit his style. They scout the best players in the world to fit the system so you rarely get players signed that look like a fish out of water after 4 weeks, they know exactly who they are as a club and they know exactly what they want, they are what one would call “a proper football club”.
Compare and contrast that with Manchester United, the club went for Louis van Gaal without any serious consideration about what it would take to get the best out of him, the squad he inherited was nowhere near good enough to play the way van Gaal wanted or to deliver the success Woodward thought he would get by hiring him. Signing after signing was made with exactly the same thought process managers were hired with, ‘he’s a bit good, he will do’.
No thought of how they fit a system, no idea what a system even was or looked like beyond commercial monetization, big money signings looked like Sunday League signings within months, destroyed of confidence, desperate to leave and finally sold at a loss when they reached rock bottom. Incredulously, lessons were never learned, after growing bored with van Gaal and feeling the pressure from the tabloids, he would soon be sacked because he failed to deliver success without Woodward ever asking why.
At most clubs, this would be enough to get the decision maker sacked, but they’re football clubs. Predictably Jose Mourinho was signed for the same reason van Gaal was, ‘he’s a bit good, he’ll do’. Now even the most casual semi conscious fan knows that to get success under Mourinho you have to completely bend to his will, you have to sign players that may not necessarily sell shirts but they will embody his image.
Just like van Gaal, Woodward started to lose faith and interest by the 2nd season. First of all, the Glazers aren’t in this to spend big money every summer, when Mourinho demanded certain players in his 2nd season, Woodward the businessman got in the way. He balked at the idea of signing Perisic for 35m due to him failing the United algorithm, age, sell on value and commercial potential, as mentioned earlier, he didn’t fail Bayern Munich’s algorithm so Woodward decided it made sense to deny Mourinho the players he needed to do the job he was hired to do inexplicably after handing him a new contract which would later cost the club millions when he sacked him. From that point on it was entirely predictable what would happen next, it took 6 months but it happened all the same. Another expensive failure for exactly the same reasons.
Next up was Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, a darling of the fans but by no stretch of the imagination a top manager. One thing we do know, Ole didn’t get the job due to his body of work, it was about being in the right place in the right time. Three months later, that same man went from temporary manager to permanent, if anything illustrates that vision and recognizing one gets you the job at United it’s this. What should have happened is, an exhaustive process should have been undertaken by football people to find the best candidate to deliver success for Manchester United consistent with an identity that is set from the top down and doesn’t change every time you sack someone. The problem is, to accomplish “a mold” it has to be set in place by Football people who actually recognize what one looks like, the people who are making Football decisions for United have no idea what it looks like, their vision is winning trophies every year, capitalizing on that commercially and think that can be achieved by hiring people who are a bit good.
Every United manager since 2012 has complained the squad is unbalanced, that’s exactly what you should expect when the club is rudderless and who half commit to managers with very different styles. Solksjaer to be fair has done a fantastic job, it has been down to him and his coaching staff to restore some of United’s identity, the club have stumbled upon a solution rather than unearth one. However in order to retain that identity, the club must sign the players the manager asks for rather than the ones Joel Glazer and Woodward think we need. Fans of this club are left clasping their hands together in hope that the people who have taken United from league title winners to one who has to borrow enough cash to meet it’s basic obligations both have the resources left to support Solskajer and have the self awareness to acknowledge, that they owe it to the fans of this club to not make the same mistakes again.
As we approach the summer, 2nd summer syndrome seems to be rearing its head once again. The noises coming out of the Football Club seem to be setting the table for disappointment again. Solkskajer who is increasingly sounding alarmed has resorted to things that are out of character for him. He said after Leicester that he gave the club a list of what he needed and it was now over to them, the club look no closer to securing a single name on that list than they were the day he gave it to them. Solskajer once again spoke out after Sevilla with a not so subtle message about the fact it costs money to sign players that are better than what we have, I’m no Sigmund Freud but that has the sounds of a manger who has been offered cheaper and lesser talented alternatives, we’ve been here before.
The new season is four weeks away, the only thing Utd have managed to do is move players on from a squad that was razor thin in the first place. The first half of last season was 100% down to the club not signing the players it needs to fulfill its primary objective, win football games. The men who fill these suits and who are responsible for running this club are almost offended they are criticized at all, they won’t feel responsible for leaving the club short in the summer and they certainly won’t if they do the same this season. Solskajer got them out of jail, he saved every single one of them, they owe him yet they will behave like the opposite is true, Every year the highlights clips gets older, the people of the present, forced to bask in the glory of an era they had nothing to do with. As Chelsea move closer to the signing of Kai Havertz, the imposters who run this football club will shamelessly sit on their hands.
They will think nothing of starting the season a month from now with the squad exactly as it is. At United there’s always money for everything but Football, there’s always money for dividends, always money for massive Executive bonuses and always enough to cover the mistakes of the people who not once have demonstrated they possess the capabilities to run this club. I pray against all hope that a magic wand is waved, competence is found and Solkskjaer is given the players he asks for but history is the greatest predictor of the future and it suggests otherwise. Many United fans will react with anger then apathy at another disappointing summer but when the inevitable failures happen next season, please direct your anger beyond the manager.