Last night's game against Manchester City at Old Trafford proved only one thing. From top to bottom Manchester United are simply not good enough.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær called on the players to put in the effort, play for the badge and earn the right to win the match. And in fairness, the majority of the players did just that. The problem was Manchester City were - and are - just better in every department.
The squad of players that has been assembled over the last five years is, almost to a man, well below the standard required to play for Manchester United and certainly challenge for the league. I've already ripped this squad apart in this article...but maybe I didn't go far enough?
I'm starting to believe José Mourinho when he said finishing second was one of his greatest achievements. Throw in the Uefa Cup as well and José did well, even if in the end he HAD to go.
If we're being 100% honest about the players currently pulling on the shirt we love so much only two would make it into any top side in the world. David de Gea and Paul Pogba.
What's up with David?
We all know de Gea's performances have dipped a little this season. especially in the last two to three weeks. I put it down to three things. Firstly, he's still suffering from the backlash he received back home following his disastrous World Cup. Secondly, he's right in the middle of probably the most important contract negotiations of his life and as part of that is wondering if a move might not be better. Perfectly understandable. Lastly, he's stood behind 10 players that are never going to challenge for honours...and he knows it. He's distracted and it's showing.
But we, as United fans, have absolutely no right to criticise him beyond pointing out that his performances have dipped. He is probably the main reason we're not (yet) a mid table also ran. We owe him a lot - our full support should be the bare minimum. And if he decides to leave for Real Madrid, Barcelona or even Atletico Madrid, who could blame him? I wouldn't.
Paul Pogba is not a bad player. He's not shit, wank, toss or any other derogatory comment thrown his way match after match on social media (and increasingly in the stands). In pure footballing terms, Pogba is brilliant.
The Frenchman is, in fact, our best player. Here's some stats from this season so far:
- Goals: 13
- Assists: 9
- Shots: 69
- Opportunities Created: 50
- Successful Runs/Dribbles: 52
- Successful Passes: 1532
In ALL of these areas his stats are the highest in the squad. We watch him week in, week out and we know he's been ineffective for long periods of games and the season. And yet he is STILL the best player in the squad.
His sulky, moody, lazy, can't be arsed attitude is why we're all on his back. But, just to play Devil's Advocate for a moment, wouldn't you feel that way if you were surrounded by players you know aren't good enough and you know you won't win things with?
That's not to excuse him. He should be putting in 100% every single game and encouraging, dragging, forcing the rest of the team to do the same. This is what WE expect of a Manchester United player. He doesn't though. There's truth to suggestion he's toxic.
There have been players as good, if not better, who have come to United and just haven't worked out for whatever reason. Juan Sebastien Veron is the one that really sticks out to me - and he was playing in a far superior team to this one.
So Pogba, understandably and frustratingly, wants out. He wants to go win things. Let him go...as good as he clearly is, he's not and never will be a Manchester United player and we, as a club, would be better off without him.
The elephant in the room
Social media is awash this morning of lists of OUT and IN; players people want to see binned and players people want to see signed. They are all pure fantasy.
You don't keep trying to rebuild a house on foundations that are crumbling. You fix the foundations. In Manchester United's case that's the idiots above Solskjær who have, over half a decade plus, made terrible footballing decisions, sanctioning the purchase of below par players or players who would bring in the most cash through shirt sales and commercial opportunities. The focus has been on the bottom line and not the trophy cabinet.
While the Glazer family continue to suck cash out of the club and the massive debt they saddled us with needs paying that focus isn't going to change.
The Glazers and their puppet Ed Woodward are quite happy to spend money - we can't level that accusation at them - but only on signings that are likely to bring in MORE money or on cut price players even Wolves wouldn't bother with.
What they don't and won't do is sanction signings we actually NEED. They're quite happy to watch Smalling and Jones run around like headless chickens while Ashley Young tries (and fails) to force his ageing body to perform like a 23 year old and bomb up and down the wing making saving tackles and delivering telling crosses. Quite happy to surround Paul Pogba with water carriers and 'kids' who should probably have been released at 16 and quite happy to put the not inconsiderable weight of expectation of 30 million United fans around the world on a 21 year old who got a lucky break.
All the while the manager sits between a rock and a hard place, unable to operate in an effective manner, unable to make the sweeping changes required or stamp his authority on the club.
David Moyes was handed a poisoned chalice and had zero chance of success following, as he did, the greatest manager English football has ever had. Louis van Gaal, a highly decorated and experienced coach who loved to marry youth with experience, didn't stand a chance when shackled in the transfer market and faced with slim pickings from the reserves and youth sides. José Mourinho, a winner across Europe at all the top clubs, couldn't get the freedom to operate in the way that has always worked for him in the past and, ultimately, committed managerial suicide by going up against 'the board', alienating the players and pissing us, the fans, off.
Yes, all three spent money, all three were 'backed' but only to a point. And it is common knowledge that all three were unable to make the signings they wanted when it mattered. Moyes was forced to sign a ridiculously overpriced Fellaini in desperation as signing after signing failed to complete, Louis van Gaal spent millions on marquee signings guaranteed to sell shirts and on overpriced 'potentials' like Anthony Martial, all of which flopped and were sold or are still inexplicably hanging around. José Mourinho was desperate for a genuinely world class centre back from which to give these players a foundation from which to play and he got Victor Lindelof and also had the waste of fucking space Alexis Sanchez forced upon on him on a salary that upset everyone else, not least Pogba.
I'm not defending any of these managers. Blame lies at their doors too. But don't let that blind you to the fact that the REAL problems at United are the owners, Ed Woodward and their dangerously destructive greed for MONEY over success.
There's a bitter irony in the fact that success on the field guarantees money off it. United today is built on the success of Busby and Ferguson, not the relative failures of Tommy Doc, Dave Sexton and Big Ron Atkinson.
Fearing for Ole
Ole, one of our favourite sons and one of the nicest men you could ever have the pleasure to meet, has placed himself between the rock and the hard place and I genuinely fear that, in the face of of all I've written about above, he'll end up on the scrap heap like Mourinho, van Gaal and Moyes before him. But before that I fear he will have to suffer the indignity of the fans turning against him. Ole doesn't deserve that no matter what happens on the pitch.
Not while he has no real power and no real say in how the football is run.
Solskjær has a vision and it's one us fans will readily buy into. But how can he turn it into a reality with Ed Woodward ruling the roost?
Ed and the Glazer family pulled an absolute masterstroke in appointing Ole following Mourinho's departure. In one move they appeased the angry support, deftly deflected the criticism that was coming their way at an increasing volume and made most of us forget what we were angry about.
They then got lucky when Solskjær actually managed to get performances out of this shower of shit we call out team. Then they fucked it up by announcing his permanent role before the end of the season.
As well-intentioned and potentially successful as Ole could be...I fear he's fucked already through no fault of his own.
Long, cold summer
As we limp towards the end of this ultimately frustrating and anger inducing season all eyes will be turning to the transfer window. It's just human nature. As is asking the question "Who will we sign?" when what we should probably be asking is "Who can we get rid of?".
We can't sign a whole new team and we won't be able to get rid of as many players as we need to. We'll go through the motions, as we have done for the last eight to 10 windows. We'll start next season with a promising youngster, a relatively big name and maybe a couple of middle of the road players. The first game will see Lindelof line up alongside Smalling or Jones again. Ashley Young will start at right back. And NOTHING will have changed. Except we MIGHT be minus out two best players.
It's going to be long, cold summer full of frustration for us and for Ole.
It's a depressing picture I paint, isn't it?
This is Manchester United under Glazer ownership and Woodward management though. Nothing will change until THAT changes.
You know it, I know it, Ole probably knows it, the players probably know it, hell, the whole fucking world probably knows it.
Still...at least Liverpool are less likely to win the league now, eh... :rollseyes: