When Manchester United lost the league to their City rivals in the dying seconds of the 2011-12 season, it was not on points but on goal difference that they lost out by a miniscule margin.
It’s safe to say that Manchester United are in a bit of a rough spot at the moment.
Monday’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal all but confirmed their worst start to the season in 30 years, something that the club and the fans are not accustomed to.
After a promising start to the season with a 4-0 win over arch-rivals Chelsea, United have collected only six points from a possible 18 and sit tenth on the ladder. This simply isn’t good enough for a club like Manchester United and for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The game also provided some insight into how two giants of English football have come crumbling down over recent years. The quality on display during the first half at Old Trafford as was summoned up by most reports – dismal, until Scott McTominay managed to score for United before the break, did the crowd come to life at the Theatre of Dreams.
The game opened up during the second half, which unfortunately for United fans, allowed the Gunners to equalise after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pounced on some sloppy passing from the United defenders and slid past David De Gea.
After Monday’s draw, United now sit 12 points behind Liverpool this early on in the season and it illustrates just how far they are from being real title contenders. Gone are the days of grand duels between Sir Alex Ferguson’s and Arsene Wenger’s title-winning sides and the likes of Roy Keane battling it out on the pitch with Patrick Vieria, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Robin van Persie tearing apart defences to score some spectacular goals.
The thing is, this isn’t something new to United and to an extent, Arsenal fans as well.
The hierarchy at both clubs have done poorly, especially Ed Woodard at United. Since Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012-13 season, the club has made a number of poor decisions. David Moyes instantly comes to mind, as are some of the players he signed (with the exception of Juan Mata).
United then looked to Louis Van Gaal to try and revive the club’s fortunes before moving onto Jose Mourinho. They signed some players that made you wonder if they were worthy of the United badge. Now we have club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer trying to steer United back to their glory days.
The only issue I have with this is that I don’t believe Solskjaer should have been appointed as the permanent manager, another knee-jerk reaction by the Manchester United hierarchy. Yes he managed to lift spirits and install a bit of confidence in the club after Mourinho’s sacking, yes he is a club legend who apparently who won titles, yes he has Mike Phelan as his number two; however, his managerial record doesn’t reflect this.
Apart from managing Molde in Norway and his disastrous spell at Cardiff City, Manchester United is only his third managerial job.
Whilst doing some research for this article, I found this quote from Gary Neville from Sky Sports and the following spoke volumes to me as a United supporter:
“No one should ever be allowed to enter Manchester United’s training ground or Old Trafford ever again to shape their own philosophy. That is done. Manchester United’s philosophy is so deep and so meaningful, it’s like Barcelona’s and it’s like Ajax’s. At Manchester United you play fast, attacking football in an entertaining way. You bring young players through and give them belief. And you win.”
Reading the article, there are parts where Neville goes on about his support for Van Gaal and Mourinho. I happen to agree with Neville and personally believe that Van Gaal should have been given one more season to try and turn things around. Yes, he somewhat pivoted away from the club’s attacking philosophy and played ‘boring’ football, but at least he won matches that mattered.
The same with Mourinho in his first two seasons at the club where we managed to win some silverware and take the club to second position after floating within the top four for a few seasons. Again, there were some issues with his style of play and whether he understood the ‘United way’, but he too won matches where it mattered.
The difference between Van Gaal, Mourinho and Solskjaer? The former two are both experienced managers who have won league and continental titles over a number of years with different clubs such as Ajax, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Internazionale. Solskjaer has only won the Tippeligaen (top Norweigan top football division) twice.
The first few weeks of the EPL season are looking like another tough year for United fans. Only time will tell if Solskjaer can turn things around and get his players into rhythm and as a United fan, I sure hope they do.
I fear that he may go the same way as David Moyes if results don’t start turning around soon. The question still remains, who would take over the reins at United if they sack him?