Manchester United’s Wilderness Years

Written by John Newsome.

After Sunday’s abysmal final Premier League game of the 2018/2019 season for United, the horrendous 2-0 home defeat to an already relegated Cardiff is a bit like an old Johnny Nash record, “There are more questions than answers!” 

Manchester United are way off the mark at the moment and are struggling to rival Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool never mind Pep’s High Flying City. Manchester United and Ole are in danger of capitulating after the great start to his managerial career at Old Trafford. 

There’s been a lot of talk that Ed Woodward didn’t need to give Ole the job full-time and although opinion was split regarding that decision, it’s now becoming evident that the detractors may have been correct. The recent humiliating 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford against Cardiff for the Red and sometimes Pink Devils was Ole’s 8th defeat in 12-games since Ed Woodward took the decision to give Ole the job on a permanent basis. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to be careful. As an individual player, it shows a real lack of professionalism to suddenly go from being a World Cup winner and superstars to playing like 4th-Division journeymen because a manager the likes of Jose Mourinho is unable to motivate. The then same 4th-Division journeymen go back to playing like a World Cup winner and superstars because Dracula is dismissed and have got their own way. Now, when it suits, the same players have gone back to playing like 4th-Division journeymen. This is scandalous and unprofessional on every level. 

Ole needs a significant clear out at Old Trafford and the biggest team in the world with the biggest financial reserve need to dip their hands in their pockets and buy at least 6, at least 6 World Class players. Manchester United played and lost against Basel in December 2011 under Sir Alex Ferguson. Four of the back Five who played at the Nou Camp in United’s 3-0 defeat against Barcelona in the Champions League, David De Gea, Ashley Young, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling all played against Basel in 2011, 7 and a half years ago. Four of the back Five played against Cardiff on Sunday. David De Gea, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young all played in the 2-1 defeat against Basel in 2011, the defeat against Barcelona and the loss against Cardiff in the final fixture. Therein lies the problem. 

A club the stature of Manchester United have not invested in the core of their defence. Along with Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Ashley Young, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, Alexis Sanchez, Paul Pogba, Fred, (Fred!!) Romelu Lukaku, Andreas Pereira, Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Matteo Darmian are simply not good enough. All good guys, all decent enough players but none of them would get in Pep’s Premier League winning City. Therein lies the problem for Ole and United. Maybe it’s time to let David De Gea head home to Madrid. Maybe it’s time to put Ashley Young, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling out to pasture, Nemanja Matic has been a good player, every good player’s talent comes to an end. No disgrace for Nemanja.

Ashley, Phil, Chris,Cardiff ran further, longer and faster than United on Sunday. As a player, you can be blessed with all the talent and skill in the world but if you lack desire and work ethic, a player will be found out. United’s current batch are simply not good enough. There’s a discussion if not an argument every week about Paul Pogba, “is he good enough?, is he a United player? Etc etc etc” take the argument and discussion out of the equation and get rid. Dr Pepper! What’s the worst that can happen? Paul goes on to win a World Cup medal for his country. Paul plays in a Champions League final. Paul is hailed as the best midfielder in the world. That’s all happened to Paul yet he still divides opinion at Old Trafford. Sell Paul and if Ole is proven wrong, so what. Sir Alex Ferguson saw the iceberg with Paul years ago and sold the enigmatic Frenchman to Juventus for £1 Million. United then paid £90 Million and bought him back. Do what Sir Alex did and sell, someone will pay at least £70 Million for Paul. If Dr Pepper happens, fair play but United are in the bunker and need Tiger Woods to get them out. 

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On that proviso too, sell Romelu, sell Alexis and re-invest that money into players, if not around the world, then in this country. Barnsley FC have 2 potential players who could play for Manchester United. Ethan Pinnock could be the new Virgil Van Dijk. A lot will initially laugh at that comparison. Ethan is 2 years younger than Big Virgil. At the age of 22, Big Virgil signed for Celtic from Groningen, nobody wanted Virgil who was available but Celtic took a chance on him. Barnsley took a chance on Ethan. Whilst at Celtic, none of the top clubs came in for Virgil. Big Virgil played 76 times for Celtic in a 2-year stint in Glasgow yet none of the top clubs, Man City, Tottenham, Manchester United included plus the top European teams wanted Virgil. It was only Dutch legend Ronald Koeman, the then manager of Southampton, who took a chance on Virgil and he quickly became a top Centre Half prospect who Liverpool courted and eventually signed. The rest is history. Ethan can be the next Virgil and United wouldn’t go far wrong in signing the Barnsley Centre Half.

The other Barnsley player United should go for is Cameron McGeehan. A lot may scoff at that but Cameron has only just turned 24 and would fit into United’s midfield. Harry Maguire would be another player with the right temperament who should be looked at.

United now should look sideways and down instead of always looking up at the Top European teams for potential players. Unlike of old, United have to compete with, City, Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal as well as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint Germain, Juventus and the Milan Giants to attract the top players, but this is the Manchester United of now and although one of the biggest clubs in the world are no longer a big draw for the top players. Manchester United need to re-address the situation and change their thought process. If it means a Director of Football, so be it.

Innovation, renovation and standing ovations are what the Old Trafford faithful deserve. There is this machine from Amazon (other Service Providers are available!) it’s called Alexa. You ask it questions and it usually answers, unless you ask how to make gravy. Ed Woodward and Ole should ask Alexis Sanchez why he’s not the player he was at Barcelona and Arsenal. Half a Million Pound a week, “Alexis. Why? “. Ole, providing Ed Woodward doesn’t do a u-turn and revokes his decision on the permanent United boss, has some tough decisions ahead of him over the summer. Good luck Ole. 

Manchester United were once a brand new Rolls Royce Phantom with all the mod-cons and new gadgets floating through the Premier League. Unfortunately, like a lot of prestige things, the Phantom has been garaged for a number of years and is now covered in cobwebs. The 4-tyres are flat and the oil has leaked and the bodywork has become discoloured and outdated. The Phantom needs a complete overhaul, the 4-tyres (Fred, Matic, Pogba and Lukaku) are flat, the oil (De Gea) has leaked all over and the bodywork (Smalling, Jones, Young, Lindelof, Lingard, Shaw, Mata, Pereira, McTominay, Darmian, Sanchez, Martial) needs a complete paint job.

The Equaliser has to back Ole and the biggest club in the world needs a complete overhaul including a big paint job. Has Ole ever watched the day, passing by his door? Powerless to change its course, his feet fixed to the floor. When all the people he thought he knew are changing more and more even the girl he thought would see, seems only to ignore. Has Ole ever had it Blue?

United need an overhaul but is Ole the man to overhaul United? At first, yes, Ole came in and steadied the United ship but has his reign, similar to that of Lady Jane Grey, been short-lived. There are others out there to consider. Chelsea took a chance on Maurizio Sarri, Arsenal took a chance on Unai Emery, Tottenham took a chance on Mauricio Pochettino, there are managers out there other than Ole. Who had heard of Niko Kovac? Who had heard of Ernesto Valverde? Who had heard of Thomas Tuchel? Who had heard of Max Allegri? These 4 managers are in charge of the teams who have won the Bundesliga in Germany, La Liga in Spain, Ligue 1 France and Serie A in Italy.

What about Erik Ten Hag? That’s not to say United should go and get one of these guys, as to be fair, none did particularly well in the Champions League. It’s just to say that there are options if Ole proves to be the wrong choice. Manchester United are not just a Football Team, they are an institution. Sir Alex built up a legacy which should at least demand that the team competes with the best. If Ole can’t do that, then United should look elsewhere. There are managers out there, it’s up to the hierarchy at United to make decisions that their legacy demands. 

Sir Alex Ferguson was at Old Trafford on Sunday and must wonder why all the hard work he did over the years he spent at United has gone to pot. David De Gea is losing faith in his back 4 and has started looking troubled. The Back Four David has lost faith in are useless. Ashley Young, Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones (Phil Jones !), Luke Shaw are all rubbish and should be sold. The midfield of Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata and Paul Pogba are slower than an old Granny collecting her pension from the Post Office and Romelu Lukaku plays like he’s 2 stone wet through when in theory, he’s 2 stone overweight. A man the stature of Romelu should be dictating and bullying the defence of every team in the World. A man the stature of Paul Pogba should be dictating and bullying the midfield of every team in the World. Marcus Rashford is only 20 and can be excused from harsh criticism as he will come good. Luke Shaw was voted the Manchester United Player of the Year and Players Player of the Year! Really? Is that the standard United have fallen to. 

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It’s a question as to what The Equaliser Ed Woodward and The Glazers want. With Ole, they can achieve something but Ole has to be backed. United paid £75 Million for Big Rom to score goals. That’s the equivalent of paying £20,000 for a BMW 3 Series and it drives like a Vauxhall Corsa. 

Sir Alex had his mistakes in the Transfer market, remember Eric Djemba- Djemba, so good they named him twice! He also had his good moments, buying another Eric for £1.5 Million, buying a young Lee Sharpe, Paul Ince and a Danish goalkeeper called Peter. Sir Alex also sold a young wayward talent who was no good for him at Old Trafford for £1 Million to Juventus. If only that same guy would return to Old Trafford, win the World Cup and prove Sir Alex wrong. If only! Sir Alex knew what he was doing! 

Manchester United are not only a football team in the Premier League, they are also one of the biggest establishments in the world and part of history, a legend! Granted that still doesn’t guarantee them anything but it should guarantee TRYING!!!!!One of the first problems encountered by the Post-Sir Alex era was David Moyes. When David took over at Manchester United, who, by the way, were the current Premier League Champions, David decided in his wisdom to get rid of Rene Meulensteen, who, along with Mike Phelan, had been an integral part of the United coaching staff who had been so successful under Sir Alex Ferguson.What Mr Moyes should have done when he rocked up at Old Trafford was get out a deck-chair and a cee-gar and said to Mike and Rene “Crack on boys, you are doing a great job!” The subsequent demise of Manchester United can be traced back to that decision made by David Moyes. 

The mentality installed in United not only under Sir Alex Ferguson but over the past 50 years is to provide entertainment for the thousands who work all week then turn up at Old Trafford expecting their team to perform. In the ‘60s, ’70s and ‘80s it was just the same even when the team were relegated to the 2nd Division in 1974, the thousands of United faithful turned up to watch their team attack, attack and attack some more. The past is our knowledge, the present our mistake and the future we always leave too late.

United won’t catch Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham or Arsenal anytime soon. The FA Cup is a target for next season and of course the dreaded Europa League. Ander Herrera has already seen the iceberg and decided to leave Manchester and head to Paris. That in itself is a worrying indictment of the way United and Ed Woodward are running the club to allow Ander to let his contract run down and leave. Ander Herrera will be a really big miss for United. 

If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is still at the helm of Manchester United and is backed by The Equaliser then United have a future and the faithful have optimism. However, to add and this is a sobering thought, if Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku and the rest are not shown the door this summer, United won’t progress and the faithful should get used to a relegation battle. 

There is not a quick fix situation at Old Trafford, the recruitment has to be staged, to bring in players not only of quality but also with the right temperament, the right attitude and who want to play for United in stages. Recruiting players to Old Trafford will be difficult enough and there are not many players of Ander Herrera’s ability out there. The right 2 or 3 recruits, at the moment, can improve the fringe players who have a future at Old Trafford, given these new signings have the right minerals. 

In 12-months time, the United faithful should not expect to be Premier League Champions. United need to be in the Top 4 and have a Cup run of sorts. They will be playing on a Thursday Night too in the Europa League which means a lot of Sunday games. The starting point for United and Ole’s wheel is to produce 11 players who will run, fight, sweat, perform and give everything for the Red and sometimes Pink shirt. Then in 12-months time re-assess where they are and go again.

Whenever honesty persists, you’ll hear the snap of broken ribs, of anyone who’ll take no more of the lying persons roar, in Chile, in Poland, Johannesburg, South Yorkshire. A stone’s throw away, now we’re there. United will come again.Attack, Attack, Attack.

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