“King” Cantona will not be strutting out of the Old Trafford tunnel with all his confidence and swagger this season. David Beckham will not be unleashing one of his trademark free kicks at opposing goalkeepers. Roy Keane will not be leading Manchester United to victory after being down 2-0 like he did against Juventus in 1999. And Sir Alex Ferguson will not be unleashing his “hairdryer treatment” on players when their effort just isn’t good enough.
Those days are gone. Every day is a new day and every match is a new match. It’s that simple.
This current Manchester United squad needs to start forging its own history before this season is a thing of the past. And after early returns (albeit, very early returns), this season could be one of the worst in the recent club’s history.
United are the reigning champions of England. They built up a sizeable lead last season and waltzed through the finish line well ahead of Manchester City and the rest of the Premier League.
But since April 8 2013, United have played 14 matches in the Premier League. Out of a potential 42 points, United have taken 19. Over that span of time, they have lost to Manchester City twice (home and away), drawn and lost to Chelsea (both matches at Old Trafford), lost to Liverpool (away), drawn with Arsenal (away), and lost to West Bromwich Albion (home).
If you believe the press and most English football experts, Manchester United have a team full of veterans with championship pedigrees and they will right the ship well before the end of the season. But United have failed to address inherent weaknesses in their squad (midfield and defense) and have had significant losses over the past six months.
The truth is that United need to start making decisions and playing to their potential every second they are on a field, or this season will be one to remember. And not in a good way.
Mistakes have been made at the club while personnel losses have been monumental.
Manchester United lost arguably the greatest manager in the history of the sport. Sir Alex Ferguson was the individual who envisioned and engineered the Manchester United revival that the world was witness to. He stood in front of the press and proclaimed: “My greatest challenge is not what’s happening at the moment, my greatest challenge is knocking Liverpool right off their f**king perch. And you can print that.” He then proceeded to build a club in his image while also paying respect to United teams of the past. His teams and players grinded out matches. It may not have always been pretty, but United never gave up until the final whistle was blown. And Ferguson was the one pushing them to play to their maximum.
The other huge loss has been former Manchester United chief executive David Gill. Many people may argue this, but Gill was the man working behind the scenes for Ferguson, and Gill had his hand in most of United’s success.
“David has been a magnificent chief executive,” Ferguson said. “Of course, we have had a million arguments, but I have always enjoyed them because I know that David has two great qualities: he is straight and he always puts Manchester United first. No disagreement is ever personal with him. He always wants the best for United, whether it’s the players, the training ground or the staff.”
Ferguson was quoted as saying prior to the announcement of his own retirement that “[Gill] stepping down is a big loss to me.”
With the club facing the loss of those two key individuals, it was important for them to make the right decisions and address any recurring issues on the squad.
To replace Ferguson, United made a safe and solid decision by appointing David Moyes as their new manager. Moyes’s track record at Everton showed that he could have success on a limited budget. He stood toe to toe with the big clubs in England and proved he could handle himself and lead a team. He also shared similar qualities to those of Sir Alex Ferguson: work ethic, appetite for success, disciplinarian, investing in young players.
There are three things a manager can do when he takes over a club:
Blow Everything Up and Do Things His Way — If a manager is confident in his approach and style of play/management, he just says, “Screw what happened before me…I’m going to do it my way.” Paolo Di Canio did this at Sunderland, Brendan Rodgers did it at Liverpool, and Roberto Martinez is doing it at Everton.
Slowly Integrate His Style While Utilizing Methods from Previous Success – David Moyes appears to be doing this at United.
Carry the Torch of the Previous Manager – This has been going on at Swansea for a number of years (Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup).
One mistake Moyes may have made while trying to toe the line at United was firing the previous coaching staff. Veteran players aren’t very good with change. And the staff at United was universally loved by the squad. Robin Van Persie always spoke glowingly of Rene Meulensteen and his ability to break down United’s upcoming opponents. David DeGea was hugely impressed by the efforts of United goalkeeping coach, Eric Steele. Steele learned how to speak Spanish so he would be able to relate to De Gea.
The departure of these coaches will have taken a toll on a squad that was already showing signs of weakness.
Moyes and his new staff are inexperienced at squad rotations prior to UEFA Champions League matches. His first attempt at a rotation (West Bromwich) has ended in failure. His decisions will be compounded should United slip up against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.
United are also not showing signs of a Moyes or Ferguson coached team. They are being outworked in losses. Manchester City and West Bromwich visibly played harder and smarter than United in recent matches. At times it appeared that United players were standing still while their opponents ran by them.
Are United player’s reading the headlines? Do they assume that the ghosts of Manchester United will crawl out of Old Trafford and lead them to victory? Or are they going to knuckle down and start grinding out wins like title-winning teams do?
Ed Woodward was promoted to executive vice-chairman at Manchester United and assumed the role of the departed David Gill. His hiring was a bit of a question mark since he hadn’t had any previous success with player transfers.
His first transfer window has been described as “disastrous” by most football experts. He spent the better part of his first transfer window chasing Cesc Fàbregas of Barcelona. A pursuit that no one outside of Manchester United understood since Fàbregas had openly expressed his desire to stay with the Spanish giants. Woodward’s lone signing was pulled off during the dying hours of the window when he was finally able to wrestle Marouane Fellaini away from Everton.
So United have failed to address key concerns in their squad. They have had significant changes in their on-the-field and off-the-field management. And their opponents are showing a greater hunger and focus during matches.
Those are the facts. This is the state of the current Manchester United team. They just aren’t good enough to beat West Bromwich at home.
United have seven points after six Premier League matches. Fortunately there are 32 more matches left in the season. “There is still plenty of time left in the season” (You will hear this a lot in the coming days).
There is no Alex Ferguson, David Beckham, Mark Hughes, Denis Law, Steve Bruce, Eric Cantona or Roy Keane to come off the team bus and inspire a win. The current United team is David Moyes, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Antonio Valencia, Nani, Michael Carrick, Patrice Evra, and Rio Ferdinand. There is quality in this squad. But they had better not be relying on past successes because the times have changed.
This manager and these players had better start forging their own history, before they create something forgettable.