I really don’t even know where to begin. What I do know without a shadow of a doubt is that the circumstances surrounding the biggest and most storied sports club on Planet Earth need to be scrutinized. And to put it modestly, no one better in the game than yours truly.
Manchester United is in a goddamn chaos state. And we need government sponsored aid immediately. Someone get Bob Geldof on the phone to do a concert or something.
This is not the time to panic. No, sir. That auspicious moment has long since passed. This is time to possibly notify your loved ones that you’re personally contributing funds for a manned mission to Mars. With specific interest in sneaking on the ruddy shuttle!
“Dire” would be complimentary of recent performances. “Cow pat” more accurate. We can all at least agree on the fact that it certainly hasn’t been pleasant and it certainly must end.
This doesn’t start or stop with José Mourinho. While I called for his badge and gun upon hearing the final whistle of the 2018 FA Cup final (a legitimately dour affair which saw Chelsea’s Eden Hazard score the only goal of the game from the spot and Paul Pogba miss a point blank second half header), I knew deep down that the club wasn’t ready to part with the Portuguese man. They just foolishly thought he would get it right. Mourinho’s CV is awe inspiring. He’s won the lot and with different teams in different countries (his 2 year spell at the helm of Inter Milan culminating in winning the Champions League essentially cementing his status as an all time great). But he has a vivid history of falling out with club hierarchy and fans (see Chelsea and Real Madrid) and eventually forcing his way out with a hefty severance. José just doesn’t last with teams and that was my primary concern when he signed for United.
José is a winner. He finds ways to win. And he can put on a tactical masterclass. It may not always be the most pretty sight, but he gets results. And those results and the consequent trophies silence any lingering doubts you have about the man and his style. However, when the results and the trophies dry up, Mourinho is left vulnerable and open to a cacophony of critique spanning the globe. And that’s exactly what happened at Old Trafford.
The 2017/2018 season ended with United grasping zero pieces of silverware. And that simply is unacceptable. It wasn’t the failure of a campaign the media would like to portray as the club did finish second in the league and reach a cup final. But that’s not good enough for a United manager. And José Mourinho knew it. And when he’s backed into a corner or feels as if his credentials or expertise are being questioned, he fights for himself and his reputation. And that was the beginning of the end.
Mourinho rubbed the United brass the wrong way by (correctly) criticizing their inability to get any meaningful deals done for defenders in the summer. He then fought with players publicly and the entire situation spiraled and created for a radioactive waste site masquerading as a football team.
The side was playing poorly and without much creativity or heart. José sought to defend those performances as he took them to be a personal snapshot into his decision making and general abilities as a manager. This type of behavior does and did sow discord. José backed the players he thought were committed to the cause and lambasted those he butted heads with or disagreed with stylistically. Like I said, this is borderline career suicide in this field.
And then Liverpool happened. A match I took to be 90 minutes of a torturous April Fools joke. And just like that Mourinho was unceremoniously sacked after we all gloomily witnessed United stumble wounded into their worst start in Premier League history.
But with that said, it would be reckless to lay all the condemnation on the manager who at times was put in severely unfavorable positions.
The players for one need to shoulder a substantial amount of the blame. They have been abysmal. I understand they may have been restrained by recent tactics or psychologically bludgeoned by the manager, but that is no excuse to not remain professional. The negativity definitely crept in. Agreed. But these are elite athletes getting paid absurd sums to knock a ball about. They need to be tougher. They need to put themselves aside for just one moment and fight for the crest on their shirt. Paul Pogba started sulking and became a shell of the World Cup winner we saw in Russia. Jesse Lingard seemingly started prioritizing his Instagram modeling over his football skills. Romelu Lukaku couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn door with a shovel at the moment. That poor man is shot of every ounce of confidence. A product of the toxicity, yes, but also a magnificent striker with an ungodly amount of potential not working hard enough. Fred doesn’t even really exist. And dearie me, let’s not even begin to discuss Phil Jones.
My point being: where are the leaders? Who’s taking responsibility? Where are the individuals you can trust to carry a team when it is needed most? I wouldn’t back any of the above to be that person. Which is alarming.
And of course the Board remains the most significant culprits in this pandemic malaise. They calculatingly masterminded this downfall. Chairman Ed Woodward is a slimy and idiotic nonce without even a molecule of football know how. The man is a banker and somehow in charge of the trophy machine Manchester United. Please explain that to me, YOU GUYS!!!
Woodward couldn’t close deals. Which led to United not getting the players they needed and wanted in numerous transfer markets. He also didn’t recognize the absolute shambles that this team was becoming. The only thing that matters to these loons is money. No Champions League qualification? Cool, we’ll just get another Asian sponsor to compensate for the loss of revenue. The manager is terrible? Cheers mate, who’s available to buy off that wouldn’t completely expose us as frauds? There simply was never a plan in place for the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era. Nothing. And this is what happens.
I am surprised United finally sacked Mourinho. It certainly was a gamble midsession heading into the jam packed festive season of seemingly four hundred matches in 8 days, or whatever the math is. I am not surprised to find out that Woodward sought the advice of some players in the dressing room. Because as previously discussed, this particular gentleman is largely unaware that the company he oversees plays a sport. I do agree with the decision and am upbeat by the somewhat early nature of the change. My worry was that José would be given the January window by the error prone Board and then nonsensically sacked in the Spring.
Now it’s time to attempt to reconcile and salvage. And then finally build and move on. The club needs to get back to winning. A trait synonymous with this organization.
And that first step involves finding and hiring a Director of Football. To be honest, they should sign me up. But that’s not happening. I’m not available. Your man is busy and in Brooklyn. But the club does need one. Someone to make the football decisions. Someone to analyze the scouting data. Someone to intelligently negotiate with agents. Someone who has the savvy to wade through the increasingly more murky waters of the high price transfer market. Someone who has watched a football match before.
And that Director should hire the new manager. A man or woman who should begin the job in earnest on June 1, 2019 and not a day later.
Until then? Well, Sir Alex took the reins and hired Ole Gunnar Solskjær from Molde on an interim basis. Ole will be assisted by longtime Ferguson aide Mike Phelan and current assistant Michael Carrick. All three of those names have played extensively for Manchester United in the past. All three know the club. Love the club. Understand the familial culture and the distinct point that United is bigger than them. And will continue on without them.
Solskjær scored one of the most famous goals in Champions League history in 1999 as part of a legendary career. The Norwegian striker is revered as an icon amongst United supporters. A banner reading 2OLEGEND still flies high at Old Trafford. No one will ever forget that night in Barcelona as United completed an unprecedented (and yet to be replicated) Treble. Which is why fans are excited to see him lead the charges. His managerial record in the Premier League is not wonderful. He mistakenly walked into an availability for a Cardiff City ran by mega clown Vincent Tan. I called it a blunder when he said “yes” in 2014 and that proved to be the case. The entire situation was misguided and Cardiff were simply ill-equipped to subsist in the league. Did Ole contribute to the lack of results? Of course he did. But am I going to judge the entirety of his managerial career on a less than half a season joyride in Wales spearheaded by a mustachioed cartoon of a man who changed the team’s historic colors as well as their nickname and logo?? I am not. And I have faith that at the very least Ole will bring stability to United. Because that right now would be worth its weight in gold.
I love United. They are part of my family. I owe them for always being something I could rely on. Lean on. They represent my upbringing, my northern England roots and a connection I have with family that will never cease. We have been spoilt by success. Hard earned and well deserved triumphs. Players nobody had ever heard of transformed into billboard stars all across the globe. This is what since 1992 we have been accustomed to. And that glorious past is where we need to return to once more.
The pieces are there. United need tinkering. They need a breath of fresh air. They need proper leaders. Warriors. They need to get back to what made them famous and trust in the youth setup. Find youngsters and groom them into champions. Meticulously plan for the future. Build a squad that fights for the group. No one is bigger than United. And the grass is the greenest on this side.
Most importantly, United need belief. From top to bottom. A quality that in the old days went hand in hand with donning the famous red shirt. But now has waned away.
These days are the darkest. And the joy United’s downfall brings others is lost on no one. This team will be back. This club cannot be held down. The devil will never sleep.