It has been widely assumed, over the last three years, that Manchester United are going through a ‘transitional period’. That’s the buzz term where it comes to the 20 times champions of England and holders of 3 European Cups.
Another common perception is that what Sir Alex Ferguson did in his years at the club will never be achieved again. That is to say, in times of omnipresent wealth in The Premier League, no one team will ever enjoy the almost total dominance that Manchester United did for two decades – lest we forget this was a club whose fans were regularly disappointed to end the season merely with a league title in the bag.
And while we do subscribe to the second theory, we don’t believe that it should be acceptable for a club the size of Manchester United to have such a transitional period.
When we hear the term we instantly think ‘bad management’. Good management, the sort that Alex Ferguson and David Gill oversaw for so long, involves strategic planning for the present and also the future.
In order to keep his teams constantly on the boil, Fergie would regularly tear up a winning formula in its pomp. The sales of the likes of Ince, Hughes, Beckham, Kanchelskis and van Nistelrooy – household names at the top of their game – raised many eyebrows but allowed younger players the opportunity to show what they were worth. And, if nothing else, these players had boundless amounts of possibly Sir Alex’s most important quality – hunger.
An elite club doesn’t just think about the here and now. It also plans for the future by assessing how the average age of the team will look in 2,3 and 5 years. The elite clubs all do it and that’s what keeps Barcelona, Bayern and Juventus ahead of the rest.
So we think ‘a transitional period’ is just a euphemism for bad management from top to bottom. It’s simply not acceptable for a club with Manchester United’s resources – a club which still sees itself very much as part of the elite – to use this term. After all, the fans don’t get to pay ‘transitional period’ prices do they? They pay top whack every week and should fully expect that the infrastructure of the club is such that the squad doesn’t suffer the periods of weakness that it is clearly afflicted by now.
Ed Woodward, David Moyes and Louis van Gaal have, between them, acquired an almost entirely new squad but the quality hasn’t noticeably increased and the best two players – Rooney and De Gea – were Fergie buys. Furthermore a lot of younger players like Chicharito, Danny Welbeck, Jonny Evans and Rafa da Silva have been released – players who all had the tenacity and fighting spirit so strongly associated with winning Fergie teams – so United can’t really argue that the main purpose of the buying process has been to lower the average age of their squad.
When Fergie tore up his sides he usually bought better players to replace the departed. That just hasn’t happened under Moyes and Van Gaal.
And despite what some think Sir Alex left a squad that had great quality and desire. It was a title-winning crop.
It is nonsense to suggest that Fergie left a poor squad behind when he retired. Do you think the club would have finished 7th and 4th in the league had he stayed on for two more years?
Having spend a quarter of a billion pounds – at a far faster rate than Fergie ever invested – the team has gone backwards and Manchester United fans are now clinging to the hope of a fourth placed finish – at this point, that would be deemed a successful end to the campaign. A far cry from the disappointment of only having a Premier League title in the trophy cabinet at the end of the season.
Woodward and Van Gaal have tried to temper expectations this season as the club looks for a winning formula again. What they are actually doing is trying to excuse themselves for poor performance. Louis is a great character but has he been successful at United? Would he have called this ‘success’ when he took the job? A trophyless two years with a team that hasn’t even got close to challenging for silverware? Louis can talk about injuries and other mitigating factors. But he has had an open chequebook. Perfect conditions for success in the present and future. But his best signing was left to rot on the bench for three months in his first season and how United could use the speed and guile of Di Maria now. LvG has made terrible decisions and privately he must have regrets.
Unless the management of the club is rectified by replacing Ed Woodward and Van Gaal sooner rather than later, United fans will have a lot more time to reminisce about former glories. Unfortunately we think that these two, in particular, have failed the club and their records speak for themselves in a heavily results-based business.
We found this fantastic BBC documentary about Sir Alex on YouTube. Enjoy