Is it the board? Is it the manager? Is it the players? No it’s all of you!

It’s normal when things are not going as well as people would like at a football club to start pointing the finger of blame at whoever they feel is responsible. Whether this is the owners, the manager or the players and opinion from those who care most about the club will always be split. The goings on at the club so far this season, to put it politely have definitely divided opinion, but in truth, no one involved within Manchester United at this present time is covering themselves in any glory.

I wrote an article towards the end of the transfer window discussing United’s frustrating summer of transfer business and who was responsible for this: Ed Woodward for not delivering or Jose Mourinho wanting too much. The response from the article on social media and others who read it seemed to suggest that Mourinho was not backed sufficiently by the board. However, since that article was written we now have to add a third dynamic to this argument and that is the players. A pre-season littered with bad performances and poor results and now three games in to a new season and with the exception of one or two players, the rest of the squad just aren’t performing well enough.

Everyone involved at the club needs to take a look at themselves and see where they can improve to get this club back to where it belongs. United looks like it is crying out for wholesale changes, but they’ve got what they’ve got now and the club needs to be United moving forward. This will only start when everyone inside the club makes the necessary improvements.

The Board

The first thing that strikes me looking at the United board is the lack of “football people” on it. Yes, there’s Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alex Ferguson when he returns to full health, but apart from that, the rest is what you would call businessmen essentially. Whilst it’s important to acknowledge that whether we like it or not football nowadays is a business, I can’t help but think that United’s global brand has made them forget the importance of success, especially for the supporters.

As supporters, you’re more interested in the next trophy your clubs going to win, not the next Chinese food company to sponsor the club. It was announced by Forbes on Wednesday the 29th of August that the Red Devils are the most valuable team in the world at $4.8 billion replacing the NFL’s Denver Broncos. The sad reality for most connected to United in the last five years is that this has come about through commercial success and not the success we’re used to seeing in the Premier League.

Although many Manchester United supporters will be disappointed with the board for not improving the squad enough this season, any fan would be hard pushed to say that the board of Manchester United have not backed their managers over the last four years. Since Ed Woodward took over from David Gill, United’s CEO has had the authorisation from the Glazers to back their managers to the tune of just over £700 million. Let’s be honest, so they should, Manchester United is a very profitable business and this is the case whether they are winning games of football or not.

It becomes difficult to defend the United board when it comes to footballing matters though, more specifically when it comes to choosing managers. Unquestionably they got the David Moyes and Louis van Gaal appointments wrong their style of play and approach to games was never going to make them a success at Old Trafford. Now behind every great football team, there is a clear philosophy. It seems like United as a club are trying to follow their history and traditions, by trying to promote youth as well as signing younger players who can be developed. Whilst no one will have an issue with that, when you appoint a manager like Jose Mourinho, that philosophy surely gets thrown out of the window? Mourinho is a winner and therefore whenever he joins a football club he will look for instant success and as a consequence will sign players accordingly. There’s no doubt about it when Manchester United brought the Portuguese manager to the club after three long seasons in the wilderness they were prepared to throw their philosophy out of the window for what they thought would be guaranteed success.

The problem the board now has is we are in to Mourinho’s third season and realistically they are no closer to winning a title than they were before he took charge. Now because of this they want to go back to the philosophy they had, but with a manager that just doesn’t fit see the game the same way. This goes some way towards explaining why the manager and the club were at loggerheads over transfers this summer. Mourinho wanted to sign the likes Toby Alderweireld (29) and Diego Godin (32), ready-made players who can help the boss and the club win and win now. It is clear though; if you are not going to back your manager you should sack him.

The Manager

Outdated? Slow? No structure? These are all words that have been used to describe Jose Mourinho’s tactics at Manchester United. The worrying sign for United fans is there seems to be a stubbornness about Mourinho, which would suggest that we won’t be seeing him change his tactics anytime soon and the likes of Kieran McKenna and Michael Carrick look like they are yes men and are not standing up for what they believe needs changing.

The most concerning aspect for Mourinho must be the lack of defensive organisation. Historically every successful Jose Mourinho team has been built on solid foundations at the back and they go from there. With a lack of confidence in all of the club’s defenders it seems and still yet to settle on a suitable centre-back partnership the Portuguese will feel like he has no control of any game and like the fans won’t be confident of winning any game right now.

Now nobody does history quite like Manchester United, but since the 0-3 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur it is Jose Mourinho who has felt the need to remind everyone about his history within the game: Talking about how he’s won more Premier League titles (three) than the other 19 managers in the league put together (two). We have also heard Mourinho state that he has won eight major honours in three different counties (the only manager to do this). The truth is that whilst United fans respect what their manager has achieved previously, it’s about the here and now and what should define him as a manager now is what happens in the future and whether or not he can bring the glory days back to Manchester.

The transfer window is closed now so Mourinho needs to work with what he has and unlock the potential of his team. I hate to compare and contrast but you look at Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur and their coach’s Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino, they improve players whether it be the young talent or first team players. Mourinho seems to want these ready-made players that can bring him immediate success. He will also need to improve his relationship with a couple of members of the squad who he has heavily criticised since becoming the manager, these being: Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial. It’s was nice to see the Portuguese manager acknowledging some good performances from Shaw recently. In the case of Martial, you can’t help but feel if the Frenchman does sign the five-year contract offer on the table, Mourinho’s days must surely be numbered, Martial a player he has been seemingly happy to sell all summer.

The Players

First of all, we should point out that Luke Shaw has started well and earned a call-up to the latest England squad, which is just another testament to how well he’s been doing. His need to improve to resurrect his career is something I’ve written about in the past, this after he’s been on the receiving end of some of Jose Mourinho’s harshest criticism. It was visible after the Tottenham game how much Mourinho is appreciating the efforts of the England left-back at the moment. When the final whistle blew, the manager came on the pitch and made straight for the despondent Shaw to tell him how well he had done.

When I look around the rest of the team and certainly the back four, no one else can hold their head high and say that they are performing anywhere near their best. With the exception of Shaw whoever has been chosen to play at the back so far looks nowhere near good enough. It doesn’t matter how good of a coach you are you can’t legislate for the kind of mistakes United’s defence has been making. You have to feel a little for the likes of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof because you can see bits of potential in them, but you feel it would help their development playing alongside a top quality, confident centre back. Just imagine if they could have had a couple of seasons playing with someone like Nemanja Vidic for example.

Then there’s Paul Pogba oh boy how he needs to improve. Once again this season he flatters to deceive doesn’t look like he’s taking anything serious and worst of all admits his attitude was wrong for the Brighton and Hove Albion game. United need an on form Pogba more than ever and if he is genuinely angling for move away from the club in the future, like some other players in the squad, the advice to them should be they need to improve fast to get their current club back on track or any club in their right mind won’t look at any of these United players twice.


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