After some mid week European action, the Premier League was back in action and as usual there’s plenty to talk about.
Manchester United, the all-powerful Manchester United, has slipped from the throne it once held for years.
The club has been underperforming since their most excellent manager left in 2012, and no one who’s come after has been able to work things out and return the club to its rightful position as first in England’s top-flight, as well as dominating on a continental scale.
United’s days of winning the Premier League year after year are over, and fans are left wondering what happened.
It had been 26 years since United had won England’s top division when Ferguson guided them to victory in 1992-93. In the first 21 years of Premier League football, United won 13 League Cups.
Manchester United has not been able to re-establish its old persona and swagger due to an attitude gap, combined with fan and board pressure. The expectation was to fight for the championship.
Still, following David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal, the next managers after Sir Alex Ferguson, fourth place was deemed satisfactory in the players’ and coaches’ eyes, leaving fans angry with the team as a whole.
The next two were subsequently fired; Jose Mourinho had set his stall out when he first arrived at the club, insisting that a Champions League berth alone was insufficient.
“It would be easy, noble, and realistic for me to reflect on the previous three years and the fact that we failed to qualify for the Champions League and say, ‘Let us fight, let us try to be back in the top four, let us do fine in the Europa League,’ but I am not suited for that, and I do not want to be healthy; I prefer to be more competitive, and to be more competitive is to say, ‘Let us try to be back in the top four, let us,” said the Portuguese on arrival to the north of England.
The years following Ferguson’s retirement were marked by an exceptional lack of direction and experience.
Within a year of Ferguson’s resignation, leader Nemanja Vidic, vice-captains Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand and club icons Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes had all left the club. Ferguson was also a winner, and his teams were successful more often than not.
Visiting Old Trafford was the most difficult match-up on most teams’ schedules, with opponents finding life difficult at the Theatre of Dreams. “But you believed you had clubs defeated in the tunnel when I was playing for Manchester United,” striker Mark Hughes once said during Moyes’ tenure.
“That is what Old Trafford can do to teams and players,” Hughes continued. “That is not the case now.”
Performing in front of 75,000 people must be an exceptional occurrence for many Premier League athletes, particularly now that they are no longer shivering in fear. United spent £200 million (A$360 million) in Ferguson’s closing five years in command and spent £456 million (A$820 million) in the four seasons after his resignation.
It’s uncertain if United’s lack of action in the transfer market under the Scot was due to the Glazers’ penny-pinching or the manager’s caution. It was a mash-up of the two possibilities, most likely. Regardless of the owners’ numerous criticisms, it is entirely fair to say they have been willing to back each of Moyes, Van Gaal, and Mourinho with substantial war chests.
However, much of the money was squandered, and Ferguson, regrettably, lacked the financial means to spend such large amounts for some reason. If he had been, United would have won the Champions League for the third time since his arrival.
Manchester United used to be a Champions League fixture on a regular basis. Entering the group stage was considered the absolute minimum, which was understandable given United’s history of reaching the semi-finals and finals during Ferguson’s reign. This mindset and expectation did not carry over into the seasons after his departure.
United was once a club where the fans would proudly be able to back their team, where players and coaches had the drive to strive for greatness, not a club were mediocracy was accepted. This is not the club which many supporters grew up watching – the management has completely decimated all ambition and goals that were once set out.
Other teams now laugh at the stupidity of our club’s leadership. As fans, we must never again accept this lack of quality and leadership and demand year-in, year-out consistency and high-quality performances from every player who puts on the jersey which teams for decades feared and respected.
In total, Manchester United needs to go back and see what Ferguson did when they were winning title after title and they need to find the right man to get the job done for the fans.
Also, if the board wants the fans to watch more games and wants bigger and better sponsorship deals, they would be inclined to start to put the club’s performance back as the number one priority, instead of lining their own pockets.