Manchester United has many problems at this time. The Glazer’s are the biggest problem as the club has stagnated under their ownership. Granted, under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson during the Glazer ownership, which commenced in May 2005, the club won five Premier League titles, one FA Cup, four League Cups, six FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League, one UEFA Europa League and one FIFA Club World Cup.
Whilst many clubs would have loved that success, the stagnation is very much real at United.
Post-Ferguson, the club has now had five managers; David Moyes (2013-14), Louis van Gaal (2014-16), Jose Mourinho (2016-18), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (2018-21) and now Ralf Rangnick (2021-present).
Former players Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick also temporarily took the management role after the sackings of both Moyes and Solskjaer. It is sad to see United unable to find a manager to bring the glory days back – even though Solskjaer’s tenure seemed to be the closest, before everything went wrong.
Rangnick is only an interim manager and a new manager will be brought to the club in the summer with him taking up a consultancy role at the club once this has happened. Prior to signing for United, the 63-year-old was the manager of sports and development for Russian Premier League side Lokomotiv Moscow.
United will be linked with many permanent managers ranging from Erik ten Haag, who is currently at Ajax to Mauricio Pochettino, who is currently at Paris Saint-Germain. It will be a long season with these rumours.
The owners are parasites but the only other main constant in the problems at United is the players.
The Glazer’s have a reputation for taking money out of the club, not investing it in the club. This could be seen as early as the late Malcom Glazer’s purchase of the club with the family taking out loans to purchase United, eventually writing off the debt to the club, not them.
The family take dividends each year and half sold shares in the club, despite them being ones with lesser voting rights, so they continue to stay in control of the club. Old Trafford has suffered massively too with a lack of regeneration.
In addition to this, it seems that the Glazer’s and their stooge, Ed Woodward were interested in making even more money by plunging United into a European Super League which emerged in 2021 to a massive backlash of the supporters with protests that ended up cancelling a Premier League match with Liverpool at the Theatre of Dreams.
United and other Premier League clubs quickly pulled the plug in the ESL – but the owners of United will never be able to forget what they tried to do. More recently, the players, with many of them not being around from Ferguson to Rangnick, but similar things have happened before a manager was sacked.
Gone are the days that footballers are 100% professional. They are guilty of holding back in performances and ensuring that a manager is put under immense pressure, most of the time with the said manager defending the players and taking the blame themselves.
United seem to have done this from Moyes right the way through to the present. It is going to take a logo work and a lot of time to get this team challenging for the Premier League title and the other domestic and European honours. The Glazer’s have allowed this to happen, so they are the main constant that is culpable.
Standards have dropped but there are players who still have high standards for United.
Under the ownership of the Glazer’s, despite Ferguson winning 14 trophies between their ownership starting and him retiring, the standards soon started to drop. Moyes won the FA Community Shield, Van Gaal won the FA Cup and Mourinho won the FA Community Shield, League Cup and the Europa League. United have never challenge for the Premier League since Ferguson won it is in final season (2012/13).
They have come second in the league twice, third once, fourth once, fifth once sixth twice, finishing seventh once also – currently seventh at this stage of the 2021/22 season – which is not good enough based on the players at the club and the second-placed position obtained at the end of the 2020/21 season.
It would seem that the Glazer’s are happy for United to operate as a business first and foremost, playing football as a sideline. As long as the minimum is obtained, the money still comes in and there are still dividends to take each year – also shares can be sold to give the family a better income. United is being used as a cash cow.
More than £1 billion has been spent on players between Moyes and Solskjaer with a total of 39 players being signed by the club, with just 22 of those players still remaining at the club – although two players will be out of contract in the summer with three or more linked to exiting the club either during the January transfer window or in the summer.
Whilst the money has been available to get United back on track, it seems that the likes of Woodward and the Glazer’s felt that was all that was needed. In many cases, the wrong players were brought to the club as they did not fit in to the squad under the manager they were signed for, or just did not want to be at the club. It is shocking to see United in this predicament.
Whilst the standards for the club have dropped, which can also be said for the majority of the players – there are still players who have that winning mentality and want to achieve on the pitch. Others though, are happy plodding alone and collecting their wages each week – which is devastating to watch.
There does not seem to be much leadership from the players at United.
Harry Maguire is the captain at United with Cristiano Ronaldo, David De Gea, Nemanja Matic, Bruno Fernandes and even Scott McTominay, among others wearing the armband during matches that Maguire has not featured in. Maguire was a prominent player for United last season, ending the season with a calf injury which kept him out of the Europa League final against Villarreal, which was lost 11-10 on penalties. This season though, Maguire seems to be devoid of ability, often prone to many mistakes. He is not a leader of men either.
Some will see criticism as hate, but it is not. Criticism is something that everyone should be able to take, accept and learn from. Hate is something that is put out there to alienate someone. Whilst there is a lot of hate for these United players, including Maguire, that is not something I am guilty of. I criticise when I see something that should not be happening and everything that has happened to United in the past eight seasons (including this one) is not something I ever wanted to see or experience but I am thankful of it.
United’s players, especially on the pitch, seem to be void of all confidence, seemingly just getting through matches and not putting the best of themselves forward. There could be many reasons for this but leaders within the team should be putting a stop to that. It seems that players feel they can get their management companies to tweet apologies from them to the fans when they have let them down. Based on the wages they are being paid each week, that is weak coming from millionaires to the very supporters that have placed them in the position they are in by spending their hard-earned money on this football club.
It seems that these players are not thankful for that, as without the supporters – football means nothing. Now, whilst some supporters have turned their backs, seemingly saving their money instead of paying to see poor performance after poor performance, week after week, it is not something that is going to happed to 100% of the fanbase. But these players need to be more respectful of the cause and give 100% or as close as they can for each performance. Without that nothing is going to work for United.
What we would all like to see if each and evert Manchester United player stepping up and putting in a performance that we would be proud of. Under Solskjaer, especially after the coronavirus lockdown of 2020 which saw football postponed for around three months, United were at their best and swept apart their opposition more often than not. As the team was capable then, they should be capable now. But all we every get is pointless apologies and explanations for placate the masses, which does not work.
If you are in privileged position, such as playing for United, what you should be doing each time you represent the club is to stand up and be counted. Without that, the only way is failure and that would be even more devastating.
The rise of the youth player.
United’s DNA is something that the club is very proud of. The tradition of blooding youth players into the first team and having at least one academy player in every first team match for over 80 years is a record that other clubs will not get a chance to get close to, let alone break. At various periods in the history of the club, youth players have been added into the squad, some of them at the right time to start something good.
With what is happening at United, which more recently has seen many lacklustre matches with these ‘professional’ players most of the time looking like they have never played football, let alone with each other. It shows that something is happening behind the scenes which is causing this lack of professionalism. But supporters of the club who ‘stan’ a particular player tend to defend them to the death for anything, putting various narratives out there, specifically racism, to try and win Twitter battles against the critics.
It seems that you cannot criticise a player that puts little effort into life at United and if you happen to have a different skin colour, racism is the reason you became a critic. Look at Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial for instance. Both of the players have been criticised for laziness by managers, pundits and supporters but those who ‘stan’ them are quick to fire off allegations so their heroes are not are not called out for what they are.
United have some great young players coming through the ranks with Ethan Laird, Marc Jurado, Willy Kambwala, Björn Hardley, Álvaro Fernández, Isak Hansen-Aarøen, Dylan Levitt, James Garner, Charlie Savage, Charlie Wellens, Zidane Iqbal, Shola Shoretire, Noam Emeran, Dillon Hoogewerf, Hannibal Mejbri, Anthony Elanga, Tahith Chong, Joe Hugill and Charlie McNeill – to name a few.
Many of those names will not be ready to step straight into the first team, but some of them will. If the ‘professional’ players in the first team see this happen, straight away there will be a precedent set at the club which will raise the bar as these players promoted to the first team could take their positions away from them, leading to uncertainty for them whether it be them sitting on the bench or not involved in matches at all.
Changes are needed at Manchester United and a lot of that is down to the players who are mostly full internationals that have been putting very poor performances into their participation at the club more more than the past few weeks – for some, this goes back a long time. It is like they don’t accept criticism from their manager, the coaches or anyone else at the club and that is pathetic, if in fact it is correct.
Written by John Walker