Sad but true, it is now official: Manchester United is in a crisis and in danger of becoming the “has-been giants” of English football. For clarity sake, I repeat that they are in danger, not yet there, and below are why their fans should worry.
We are talking about a team that has spent in the last three years almost half a billion dollars in players and coaches acquisition and currently the most successful club in the history of English football.
This latest defeat at the hands of Fenerbahçe SK at the Europa league group stage has sent Man United to third on the table and at a risk of being knocked out of Europe’s “Economy class” championship (Europa League) before Christmas.
The most troubling aspect of this defeat is not just the failure to win, but the manner the defeat was absorbed. Man United never had a grip on the game, nor looked hungry enough to win and looked lost at times.
Ten games into the Premier league, Man Utd have accumulated 15 points, are eighth positioned, eight points behind bitter local rivals Man City, and, most importantly, seven points behind the all-important fourth position (now occupied by Chelsea) that guarantees champions league participation next season.
The self-acclaimed Special One, José Mourinho, is now at the helm of affairs at Man Utd and, at his best, one thing his teams always were great at was defending. In fact all his successes have been built around effective defending to exploit weaknesses of the opposition.
However at Man utd this is missing, as in 10 premiership encounters they have conceded 12 goals, most notably the painful 4-0 drubbing at the hands of his former club Chelsea, and they have lost two of their four Uefa League encounters due to poor defending. Is the supposed savior, the “special one”, no longer special enough to bring United back to the top? If not, who then, and at what cost?
In the past, prior to the arrival of Abrahamovic to Chelsea and the Middle East owners of Man City, Manchester United had the ultimate first pick of players in England and most players dreamed of donning their colours for the glory it brings and the financial security that comes with it. That is definitely a thing of the past today.
Wonder boy N’Golo Kanté, now of Chelsea, revealed that he refused to join Mourinho’s Man Utd from Leicester, for now obvious reasons.
If there is one sight Man Utd fans abhor the most, it is the sight of local rivals Man City, whom Sir Alex Ferguson at his prime nicknamed the “noisy neighbors”, winning titles or taking centre stage. With Man City currently topping the Premier League table and stealing the headlines with their recent exploits, especially the historic victory over Lionel Messi’s Barcelona at the Champions League, it seems like the noisy neighbors are set to get louder, to the Man Utd fans’ displeasure and nightmare.
Can you imagine the sight of Man City becoming the No 1 club in Manchester or England? Unthinkable to Man Utd fans!
The season is too early to give a definitive evaluation of Man Utd’s future fortunes, but we must admit it is not looking bright. Mourinho needs some more time to get this team into English domination mode, the question is will he get the time and the possibility if the negative results continue?
I personally believe Man Utd need to improve on the personnel and that is not going to be cheap if they want to get the best, not forgetting that they have to find suitors for the ones that need offloading and they also need to agree to leave willingly. We are all aware how badly the Schweinsteiger attempt to be offloaded by Mourinho is going. That could mean more unhappy players on the bench, and in the dressing room. These are nightmare situations for any success-seeking club.
One thing I learned playing for some of the world’s biggest teams against lower ranked clubs, is that we won many games before we even stepped on the pitch, thanks to the presence of fear in our opponents that immediately made them go into damage control mode even before we started showing our strength.
Man Utd has definitely benefitted a lot in the past from this kind of situation, and, as was evident when they hosted Burnley at the weekend, the fear in the opposition was not present and the game ended in a draw! In the past Burnley would have been happy with a 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford.
My point is, cheap points that help the top clubs save energy and manage a full season better, are no longer there for Man Utd and it’s going to take a lot of merciless crushing of the lower-rated clubs in the near future to get that back. My only worry is: is this Man Utd capable of doing that?
In conclusion, football is not mathematics and nothing can be calculated in advance. José Mourinho’s Man Utd could just about get it right and make their doubters eat their words, but, like most Man United fans I talked to recently, some of whom are my family members, the doubts and worries are too great to ignore.
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