Manchester United’s Problems Should Come As No Surprise


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It may be a new year but, after a disheartening capitulation against Arsenal on New Year’s Day, Manchester United are entering 2020 with all the same old problems.

And by ‘old’ we’re talking about issues that go back to the days of Sir Alex Ferguson. Think about that for a moment. Ferguson retired six and a half years ago. Michael Carrick retired two ago, though had become a bit-part player long before that. And here we are, with Fred and Nemanja Matić the only two fit, senior midfielders in United’s creaking squad, about to embark on the most crucial period of Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s reign as manager of what the Glazer PR machine is so fond of calling the biggest club in the world.

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Talk is cheap, which is probably part of the reason United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, is still in his job, despite residing over the club’s most unsuccessful period in decades. Woodward, after all, talks a brilliant game. Only a few months ago, you couldn’t move without tripping over a self-aggrandising interview with him in the press. United, according to Woodward, had revolutionised their scouting network, which begs the question, why on earth did they go into this campaign with just four recognised senior midfielders?

One of those – Nemanja Matić – is so far over the hill he appears to have rolled down the other side, a pail of water in hand, and bumped his head so hard he’s forgotten how to carry out the most basic of midfield tasks. The other – Paul Pogba – appears so desperate to leave the club that it would come as no surprise to find a vast collection of bottles with pleading messages in them, written in his hand, washing up on the beaches of Spain and Catalonia on a daily basis.

Now, with Pogba injured, presumed dead inside, and Scott McTominay out for a few weeks, or months, depending on which Solskjær interview you happen to have watched last, all that brilliant forward planning Woodward spoke about looks like little more than the breathless bluster of a man who has been out of his depth for years.

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The biggest club in the world is going into a crucial, hectic period with Matić and Fred at the heart of the team. Quite how much fear they will strike into the hearts of their opponents is anyone’s guess. For while Fred is rightly being praised for his remarkable turnaround in form and fortunes in recent weeks, an attacking midfielder with an eye for a pass he is not. As for Matic who, like Pogba, also doesn’t want to be at the club, the less said the better.

Who could have foreseen these woes? Solskjær, probably. The Norwegian is regularly being accused by United fans of being a ‘yes’ man, a Glazer stooge, a Woodward puppet, happy to go along with his employers’ whims and trot out the party lines of long term visions and exciting times ahead.

This, of course, is as big a pile of steaming horse manure as you’d find on Sir Matt Busby Way on a cold match day. For Solskjær may not be the most sophisticated coach in the world, and is clearly still learning on the job, but he adores Manchester United and has the club’s best interests at heart with every decision he makes. It’s probably safe to assume, therefore, that he enquired about the possibility of signing a midfielder or two last summer, was given assurances by Woodward, only to be left high and dry, the ex-banker’s soothing promises of better luck next time ringing in his ears.

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Perhaps he should have stamped his feet and quit his dream job, and with it the chance to try, in his own limited but determined way, to return the club he loves to some semblance of what it was, rather than trying to make the best of it under nigh on impossible circumstances. That would have been the principled thing to do, according to some, but this is the real world and Solskjær has, like the rest of the fanbase, been watching his club disintegrate for six years and been given an opportunity to arrest the slide.

This is not to say that the Norwegian hasn’t made mistakes. It’s simply to suggest that expecting anyone to right the sinking ship he leaped aboard as interim manager back in December 2018, with just one transfer window under his belt, and the incompetent Woodward holding the purse-strings, might be a bit of a stretch.

United’s season has been one of hair-tearing frustration, lurching from the sublime, as against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, to the ridiculous, as against Watford and Arsenal, with dizzying speed. Now, with injuries to key players, and the first-team looking exhausted, the thinness of the squad looks like it could bring all of Woodward’s incompetence home to roost and undo the good work Solskjær has managed to do.

Sacking the manager and bringing in another new one may appease those fans who see a broken limb and reach for a sticking plaster, but it would come as no surprise to find United going into 2021 in a year’s time still with the same old problems, and yet another man trying to fix them.

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One Reply to “Manchester United’s Problems Should Come As No Surprise”

  1. Ferguson left behind a very poor (relatively speaking) United team that was in urgent need of the injection of several world class players . That hasn’t happened and the current team is a product of 6 years of poor decision making , starting with the Glazers and Woodward which continues to this day. While these people stay in charge nothing will change for the better and only a slump in profitability will bring in a (hopefully) more progressive ownership that has a clearer vision of what United are and should be.
    Solskjaer has been hung out to dry and the shocking lack of investment in the team has undermined him . Tactically he has shown recently that he can compete tactically with Guardiola and Mourinho , but hasn’t got the quality of player to do this consistently.
    Finally , I don’t understand why the club has failed to respond to the reported comments made by Raiola ; this man is demeaning United by making outrageous statements that have not been refuted . Where is the club leadership at this time ? I cannot believe that Gill and Ferguson would have allowed these alleged comments to have been made without a response.

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