As Manchester United slumped to another miserable defeat against a top four rival yesterday, the knives were inevitably drawn toward manager Erik ten Hag. Is his obsession with being “the world’s best transition team” simply not working? What are his tactics and how can he justify certain team selections? Is the injury crisis caused by overtraining?
Many of the criticisms may be valid, but at what point do we start asking, David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, José Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and even Ralf Rangnick have been and gone. Ten Hag could soon follow. Can they all be this bad? What is the common denominator?
Former executive vice chairman Ed Woodward got plenty of the blame but things have not improved one iota since he left. And the players have totally changed in that time … so who or what is to blame?
We were all (rightly) appalled at Cristiano Ronaldo’s decision to wash his dirty linen on the Piers Morgan show, but, let’s face it, a lot of what he said is relevant. How are world class players expected to feel motivated when they turn up to a training ground that hasn’t been upgraded in 20 years, play in a stadium which is delapidated and listen to angry fans protesting and chanting Glazers Out all the time?
If you are an ambitious footballer wanting to win trophies, it must be hard knowing there’s no money for new transfers and seeing your squad being bolstered by desperate loans for the likes of Odion Ighalo, Wout Weghorst, Marcel Sabitzer, Sofyan Amrabat and Sergio Reguilon. These are not new recruits to the army, they are mercenaries, guns for hire … this does not help build for the future.
The club is now rotten to the core and at this point, the (Red) Devil will certainly be in the detail of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s impending investment deal.
If Ratcliffe’s agreement does not provide a clear way of assuming total control within a reasonable amount of time, and instead serves to prop up Glazer ownership, then it is hard to see how anything can improve.
If there is no clear path to rebuilding the stadium and Carrington, Old Trafford’s iconic “fortress” reputation can never return.
If Joel Glazer still has to sign off on transfers and new contracts, that process will be as painfully slow and ill-informed as ever and the club will continue to make poor choices and miss opportunities, time after time.
If the FFP issues are not resolved – which have come about through a lack of owner investment – and we return to the days when United were among the top three biggest spenders on transfers in the world, then Manchester United will remain a Europa League, upper-mid-table Premier League side, at best, for years to come.
Nobody is exonerating the players for some of these recent performances and yesterday, the attitude of many in the team was terrible. Of course they must play their part and take responsibility and do better.
Ten Hag, too.
But let’s face it. Overall, United are probably about as good as they can be given the hand with which they’ve been dealt. Mourinho famously commented that getting United to second in the Premier League was one of his greatest achievements in football, and that is probably true. A complete exorcism is needed at this point, or “open heart surgery”, as another former boss, Ralf Rangnick, put it.
For things to change, a complete reboot from the top down is needed and this Ratcliffe announcement – if it ever comes – is set to be the single biggest turning point in the club’s history since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. It simply has to be done in a way that provides the antidote to the poison that is killing our beloved club.