Things haven’t been great at Old Trafford for a few years now, but after that defeat to Spurs, we ask what exactly is going wrong at Man Utd?
The 6-1 home defeat to Spurs on Sunday is a low point in the recent history of Manchester United but should we really be surprised by it?
As bad as it was, things haven’t been great at United for a while now – both on and off the pitch!
It’s amazing how quick the fortunes of a whole football club can seemingly turn on its head though.
Just as recently as 26th July, everything seemed to be going well for United.
They had just beaten Leicester City 2-0 at the King Power, securing a top 4 finish and champions league spot.
They were one of the favourites to win the Europa League, and the arrival of Jadon Sancho at the club seemed to be imminent.
Everything was going well at the football club.
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Things going wrong on the pitch at Man Utd
Fast forward a few weeks, and who could have envisioned that by the start of October, just 3 matches into the new season, United would be in such a mess?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but using it, we can see that things were starting to go wrong on the pitch for Man Utd and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before the end of last season.
There was the two home draws with Southampton (2-2) and West Ham (1-1) in the final two Premier League matches at Old Trafford. And sandwiched in between that, was the FA Cup semi-final defensive shambles against Chelsea.
Europa League Woes
Then the Europa League experience also went badly wrong.
United made hard work of beating Copenhagen in the quarter-finals, before again in a last 4 match, ridiculous defensive errors cost them the semi-final against Sevilla.
At the other end of the pitch in the Sevilla match, things weren’t much better either. The stats show 20 shots on goal with 7 on target for United. Compared to 9 shots, with 3 on target for Sevilla.
It’s not difficult to pin point the problems United have.
Current Campaign is even worse
And now we have the shambolic start to the current campaign. With again, defensive errors costing the team dearly.
The home defeat to Crystal Palace in United’s opening game was put down to rustiness. Fair enough.
Next came the extremely lucky win away at Brighton.
How many times did Brighton hit the woodwork? On another day, United easily lose that match, as Brighton win that match 9 times out of 10 times.
And now, the ultimate calamity of losing 6-1 at home to Spurs on Sunday.
The 6-1 defeat has been coming for a while
There is no way Man Utd fans can say something like this hasn’t been waiting to happen, because it has been.
With such a shambles at the back, and no focal point up front, surely the club would be focusing on recruiting much needed centre backs, and a decent out-and-out striker? To try and avert such a result as yesterday’s.
Well apparently not! It looks like the club were just looking towards Jadon Sancho – who is not an out-and-out striker.
People will be quick to point the finger at Ed Woodward for this. And yes, he must have to take the blame for failures in the transfer market.
But it’s not just all down to Ed Woodward, and the transfer policy. There’s far more reason’s why things are going wrong at Man Utd.
United’s under fire Chief Executive can’t be blamed every time Harry Maguire switches off. He can’t be blamed for all those times David de Gea can’t stop a routine shot, or for the days when Paul Pogba can’t be arsed.
Woodward also can’t be blamed because Marcus Rashford and his strike partners have 20 plus attempts on goal without scoring.
You might be able to blame him for sanctioning the signings of some of those guys. But I bet he’d get far more flak, had he not bought some of those players!
There’s only so much you can solve in the transfer market.
Things also going wrong off the field at United
That said, Woodward, and whoever’s job it is to identify targets and buy them, have clearly failed.
There was no top quality and top of market out-and-out striker signed, or no sign of a decent central defender coming in to plug the gaps.
The transfer strategy seemed to be Jadon Sancho on the cheap, or nothing.
Borussia Dortmund made their stand. It was up to United to either pay the money, or move on. In the end, they look like they did neither.
I understand that United didn’t want to pay the money Dortmund wanted in the current climate. That kind of makes sense. So I do have some sympathy with Woodward.
But when it became obvious Dortmund weren’t backing down on the price, was it not time to move on and look at other options?
What are Man Utd and and Ed Woodward’s aims?
Moving forward from all this, and what exactly are the aims for the club and Ed Woodward?
At the moment – to me anyway – Manchester United look like they are a ‘part-time’ big club.
By that, what I mean is, they call themselves a big club when it suits them.
When it comes to signing a big name player, big clubs go out and do just that. United haven’t.
Whatever the reasons, is another debate.
But big clubs, go out and get their target player signed. No matter what!
United’s transfer policy this summer looks to have just been to try and buy Jadon Sancho on the cheap. That’s not how the big elite clubs operate.
Yes, they will obviously do all they can to get a player as cheaply as possible. And who can blame them?
But elite big clubs will know whether the tactics are going to work, or not.
United aren’t acting like an elite club anymore
Elite clubs don’t just sit there and hope for the best. They force the issue, pulling out all the stops.
This time United’s plan seemed to be to sit back and wait and hope Dortmund would relent. Well they didn’t!
That’s what big clubs do, and United didn’t.
People at Manchester United will no doubt shout from the rooftops that they are a big club. So why not start behaving like one then?
At the start of this passage, I asked what is United and Woodward’s aims?
Well I can only surmise two possible theories.
- They unbelievably thought the Jadon Sancho transfer tactic would work, right until the 11th hour. Therefore have ambition, but are just grossly incompetent.
- They weren’t that bothered, as they are happy to not spend money, and just hope for Top 4 finishes, Champions League cash, and using Woodward’s commercial skills (his obvious strength) to finance the club. In other words, they are running the club as a cash making business, at the expense of having ambitions to win trophies.
United will bounce back from this defeat… but
Despite the shocking defeat to Spurs, things probably aren’t much worse at Old Trafford than they were just 12 months back.
How can you say that after a 6-1 defeat at home to Spurs? I hear you ask… well the reality of the situation is…. things were never that great in the first place.
It just seems they are a lot worse now.
United still have top class players. It wasn’t that long ago that they were doing well, so better times will return.
They will be short lived better times though, as the same issues still remain at the club, and the same issues are still unresolved.
Issues like Which Paul Pogba is going to turn up today? No obvious transfer strategy. No out-and-out striker, and no reliable partner at the back for Harry Maguire (who himself is fast becoming a liability).
Yes, United had a great end to last season, but that inspired run was merely thin wallpaper covering the cracks.
The team’s appalling start to this season has just exposed the – already there – cracks.
In reality, was it any major surprise to see United pick up 3 points from a possible 9, at any point, prior to the arrival of Bruno Fernandes?
Not really! So why should it be such a shock now?
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Bruno Fernandes can only do so much to help Man Utd
Bruno Fernandes did improve the team, and he did have a massive impact on the players around him. That is certainly true.
But you can’t keep relying on Fernandes to bail you out. One man can’t change the whole club in 9 months. He’s merely a piece in the jigsaw.
United will probably go out and win a couple of their next two to three matches, and all will seem rosy again. For a while anyway.
Another good run will make everything seem good again, and all the pundits will say the corner has been turned.
But even if that happens, I still believe things will be back here again within 12 to 18 months.
Arsene Wenger Groundhog Day
United are starting to remind me of Arsenal under Arsene Wenger, in his latter years.
A good run beating the cannon fodder at the back end of the season, providing just enough optimism for the following season.
Then the following season, when the reality kicks in that nothing has changed, everyone – bizarrely – acts all shocked.
This is where United are. And where they will remain until significant changes are made!