I am struggling to remember a time when the EPL app on my iPhone notified me of a Manchester United line-up that didn’t make me roll my eyes and flood me with that little bit of anxiety as I prepare for what should be my favourite part of the week.
“You had to play forward, it was always about being positive… the mindset was, you go out to win games, okay you might concede goals and they won’t be happy with that but it was always about scoring goals, winning games and being positive. We all loved being them kind of players.” – Paul Scholes on Sir Alex Ferguson’s style of football.
Under Sir Alex Ferguson, an all-conquering Manchester United side were expected to show attacking intent every time they took to the field. However, in Ferguson’s absence, the club has moved away from that philosophy. We now believe that a defensive mindset can be ‘just as productive’.
Paul Scholes then goes on to say, “Mourinho obviously thinks parking the bus is now apparently a necessary requirement for Manchester United to get results” (after the shocking Sevilla defeat in Champions League). He then says that the club would have struggled to justify that approach in his day, but “times have changed”.
It’s clear Paul Scholes is being facetious. In truth, he disagrees with Mourinho’s defensive-minded tactics and has even publicly criticised him in the past.
Scholes is not the only Manchester United legend to have come out and said they disagree with Mourinho’s style of football. Eric Cantona has stated that he doesn’t understand why United brought Mourinho in, when they could have had a much more attacking manager like Pep Guardiola.
“The way I played, the way Ferguson played, it’s very creative football. It’s why I’d prefer Guardiola to manage united. It the more logical way,” said the Frenchman.
Many Manchester United fans couldn’t agree more with Paul and Eric when it comes to being unsatisfied with the Red Devils’ current tactics.
‘Unsatisfied?’ You might ask. Second in the league, Champions League round of sixteen, FA Cup semi-final, ‘how are you unsatisfied?’.
Here are the reasons. One, Manchester United always will be an attacking football club, that doesn’t just beat their opponent, but they also have fun while doing it.
Two, we are the richest club in the world, almost 60 million euros ahead of second-placed Real Madrid. We buy the most expensive attackers, and yet we are going to try and ‘not lose’ by parking the bus against Sevilla who are currently not even in the top five teams in Spain!
In the glory days (long before my time) of the mid 90s, legends such as David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Eric Cantona and Andy Cole graced Old Trafford. All of whom were attacking players, known for their amazing goals; Cantona’s outrageous chip against Sunderland, crazy skill moves; Beckham’s 70-yard dimes.
They wouldn’t just win, they would ruthlessly destroy their opponent and like Scholes said, they had a great time doing it.
The evidence is in the records. During the 1998-1999 Premier League campaign, United scored three goals or more in a third of their matches. Look forward eight years, in the 2007-2008 campaign, we do the same thing in the Premier League, scoring goals for fun. This was what a fan (back then) would have expected when he bought a ridiculously overpriced ticket. Now, the tickets are even more expensive and we are told to think different?
To Mr Mourinho, the new generation of Manchester United supporters, including myself, believe that we shouldn’t have to park the bus to win. We should start every game with an attacking mindset. If you looked back ten years ago, we had that mindset, and we were one of the most dominant and convincing looking teams ever.
However, our reign shouldn’t be a thing of the past, it should be ever-present, it is an expectation to uphold. Don’t get me wrong, since you’ve arrived at the club, we have definitely improved (as you constantly reminded us in your last press conference).
However, just improving is sadly not enough for this club, and this season is a testimony to that, especially when the enemy across the city is playing such free-flowing attacking football. It’s not nice being a United fan knowing our rival team is doing so much better than we are.
I can’t imagine it’s nice being a United player either, seeing your arch-nemesis having so much fun attacking, while also scoring and assisting goals while your manager tells you to stay back and help out the defence. I would feel misused.
If I was to sum up the season so far, I would say that we started off confident and dangerous but as time has progressed, we have become unreliable with inconsistent attacking threats, mostly because you don’t let our attacking players attack!
Our top goalscorer is currently fifth in the league’s leading scorers. Fifth! It seems like ever since 2014, Manchester United strikers haven’t been up to the standard that the club demands. When Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge, the top goal scorers for United also ending up being the top scorers for the Premier League.
Sir Alex knew how to get the best out of his players through an attacking strategy, a positive psychology and ruthless passion. When asked (on BT Sport) what it was like to deal with Sir Alex’s notorious locker room rant after a loss, Rio Ferdinand replied “Everyone knew they were in for it after a loss, we would always prepare to be yelled at. But it made us want to improve”.
This season when asked how losing feels (on multiple occasions) your response has gone something like, ‘We should have won, we deserved it, but we were unlucky and now we move onto the next game’. If you’re not angry with losing, why should your players be?
This kind of passion and competitive spirit has not been seen in the locker room since Sir Alex left.
So Jose, what’s going on? Why does it seem like your distancing yourself from players, you did it with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and look how that turned out. We got Alexis Sanchez, paid him 400,000 pounds a week and the man has scored one goal in ten games, and that was a rebound penalty. He isn’t just a waste of space on the pitch, he has taken the place of either Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford or Jesse Lingard, three young talents who were having a much better season than him anyway.
All I’m asking is that you find a way to make the players want to fight for you, make them show heart during games, teach them that it’s an honour to play for this club, and tell them that anything less than a one hundred percent effort in training or on the pitch is not good enough. We should only be satisfied with a dominant, destructive and attacking performance. Set the standard high, because we have the talent to reach it.
At the moment, all we look like is a club with a lot of money, a lot of potential and no-one who can harness that potential. That is why I feel I need to write this piece, because it is frustrating to watch such good football players play so defensive and conservative. Let them be free, let them express themselves. Jose, let them attack!