“Oh, how far the mighty have fallen!”
This is probably the first thing that comes to my (and every other Red Devils’ fans’) mind whenever they watch Manchester United playing nowadays. There was a time when they were considered as the undisputed champions of England, thanks to Sir Alex Ferguson.
But, since he left, the high-profile team from Greater Manchester has fallen from grace… and, boy, they have fallen down pretty hard. Even the most ambitious forecasts for sport tend to shy away from rooting for them in the Premier League, let alone the UCL.
Why has it happened, though? Why’s the team, which couldn’t stop winning a decade ago, has suddenly stopped playing good football?
Let’s find out more about it.
Reason 1: The “We Can Do It” Mentality Is Gone!
Sir Alex Ferguson was probably the most adaptive football coach to ever grace the game. And, thanks to his extremely flexible mindset, Manchester United reached the highest of highs during his tenure. However, that’s not the only thing he brought to the club.
SAF was also known for his passion and instilled a “we can do it” mentality in the team. I feel like this is something he has taken with himself when he decided to retire in 2013.
There was a time when Manchester United was known for exceptional comebacks. And the Juventus vs. Manchester United game in 1999 UCL is a prime example of it.
The first leg ended in a 1-1 nail-biting draw, while Juventus took over a 2-0 lead thanks to a masterclass performance from Zidane and Inzaghi.
However, Roy Keane was having none of it. He drove his squad forward from the get-go and ended up getting a goal, while the other two were scored by Andy Cole and Yorke.
They won this game by 3-2 in Turin while missing out on their best winger, Ryan Giggs.
Now, the team is failing to win against F.C. Copenhagen, a team from the Danish League. Unfortunately, it’s happened not only because of a lack of true leadership but also due to the loss of a “must do it” attitude.
Reason 2: Bad Recruitment!
Sir Alex Ferguson had an eye for talent.
It was thanks to him that Manchester United got players like Christiano Ronaldo, Rooney, and Eric Cantona. Each of these players played a huge part of United’s glory extensively.
However, if you compare them with the club’s current recruitment, you will see where the fault lies. Antony, the ex-Ajax player, joined the Red Devils in 2022, and since then, he’s scored eight goals in 56 appearances. And this is a player who cost United 82M Euros.
I mean, he’s still only 23 years of age at the time of writing. But it’s not looking good for him at all.
Another player I’d want to mention here is Harry Maguire. He joined from Leicester City for £80 million and has become an internet meme of sorts.
A few other ineffective signings of Manchester United in recent times are —
- Paul Pogba (reportedly £89 million)
- Memphis Depay (reportedly £31 million)
- Donny van de Beek (reportedly £39 million)
- Romelu Lukaku (reportedly £75 million)
- Jadon Sancho (reportedly £73 million)
These five players came with a combined price tag of a whooping £307 million and didn’t offer much in return. If the talent acquisition efficiency of a club is so disappointing, how can anyone expect them to perform better on the field?
Reason 3: Subpar Coaching Recruitment!
Don’t get me wrong; Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal are, indeed, legendary coaches. However, they were never suitable enough for how Manchester United usually plays.
For example, Fergie’s Manchester United were quite poised on the ball, thanks to players like Scholes. And, due to having players like Giggs and Beckham on the wings — United could also counter quite creatively.
Rio Ferdinand was an unbreakable shield in front of the goal, which was guarded by none other than the Dutch giant Edwin van der Sar.
Each of these players knew their role and were able to play it perfectly due to Ferguson’s diligent coaching style and the ability to get the best out of everyone.
Fast forward to 2023, Erik ten Hag, the highly-accomplished ex-Ajax coach, is yet to find out which playstyle suits his team perfectly. It’s not like he is a bad coach, though.
After all, he took a young Ajax team to the UCL semi-final after convincingly defeating the goliaths of the competition, Real Madrid.
But, he looks quite out of depth here in Man United, as did the likes of Mourinho, Moyes, and Louis van Gaal. Does this mean they were incompetent as a coach?
Their style simply didn’t match how Manchester United is more used to playing.
Last but Not the Least: Glazers — The Undeserved Owners
The Glazer family acquired a percentage of Manchester United’s stake in 2005, and soon after that, the crucifying era of sheer bad performance began.
Glazers took over United with the promise of making the team better than ever. However, the only thing they have done till now is sucking every penny out of the global brand that is Manchester United. And they’ve been doing this for 18 years as well.
Some people may proclaim that the Glazers have supported Erik ten Hag eminently since he joined the Red Devils. And it’s true to some extent. But when you see the signings the owners have made, you’ll find a clear lack of judgment and planning.
And, honestly, the last two words perfectly sum up the tenure of the Glazers.
Can the Red Devils Bounce Back?
Almost every “big” team in the world has gone through a few bad patches. It’s happened to Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, and many others. But all of them have come back in the end. So, yes, Manchester United is bound to repeat the same feat as well.
I think they have already made a step forward by onboarding Sir Jim Ratcliffe. They have probably also begun searching for a competent sporting director. Hopefully, the people at the helm will make a few changes in the team to help them get started in their journey.
It will take time, but the Red Devils will surely bounce back. And maybe, just maybe, we will again have the opportunity to sing our heart out…
“Glory, glory, Man United!”
Photo: Wallpaper Abyss