The Transition Period Was Never Going To Be Easy For Manchester United

Transition periods are a part of everything: life, relationships, work, etc. Sometimes they can go smoothly, but more often than not they can be tricky. Anyone who has been through a difficult transition period will tell you the best way to navigate through it is to be patient, let go of the past, deal with the present, and move forward.

Sports are not immune to transition periods. Players and managers may struggle during these times but they ultimately have control over their fate; the same can’t be said for sports fans. Ultimately, fans can only stand on the outside and observe things as they unfold. They can’t control player performances or the decisions of the front office and manager. That’s just the hard facts of being a sports fan.

But fans do have control over their emotions and can be a positive influence on their team. They can be constructively critical during bad times while also being supportive. Instead of being another negative influence when their team isn’t performing, fans can provide a lift to a team during difficult times.

At this time, do Manchester United supporters have a right to be angry or frustrated? The answer is “yes”. They are witnessing their club’s fall from greatness. Struggling is something which some United fans haven’t had to endure over their lifetimes. They have grown up accustomed to seeing United finish in the top four and competing in the league until the dying days of May.

But there are other supporters who have been through the bad times. Fans who experienced the crushing heartache of the 1958 Munich air disaster and the tragic loss of the Busby Babes. They were with United as Sir Matt Busby rebuilt the squad to win the FA Cup (1963), the English First Division (1965 and 1967), and eventually the European Cup (1968).

These older supporters have seen United relegated (1974) and had to stand by while Liverpool ran riot over the English First Division and Europe through the 70’s and 80’s. They supported the club during a 26-YEAR PERIOD when United failed to win a league title. Their patience and loyalty was ultimately rewarded during the 1992-93 season when Manchester United won the Premier League title; a feat they would repeat twelve more times.

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Those words were spoken by Nelson Mandela, the late political activist and former President of South Africa in reference to his battle against apartheid but they have been a source of inspiration for many people during different times in their life.

Prior to this season, Manchester United Football Club lost the greatest manager in the history of British football…full stop. Sir Alex Ferguson’s list of achievements is staggering. Over his 26-year career, the Scottish-born manager won thirteen league titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, two Champions League titles, a European Cup Winners Cup, a FIFA Club World Cup, a UEFA Super Cup, an Inter-Continental Cup and ten Community Shields (….take a breath). Over the course of twenty-six years, Ferguson transformed his dream of rebuilding Manchester United into a reality.

Football experts will agree that one of Ferguson’s biggest accomplishments took place over his final two seasons as Manchester United’s manager. He took a squad which was glaringly weak in the midfield and somehow organized them into title contenders. United would only lose out on the title during the dying seconds of the last day of the 2011-12 season. Ferguson then gathered himself and reorganized the same squad (with the addition of Robin Van Persie) the following season while winning the 2012-13 Premier League title by a comfortable margin over Manchester City.

United fans will tell you that there were many times over the past few years that the players were underperforming during a match only to have fortune shine on them; whether it was a moment of genius, a refereeing decision, their opponents capitulating, or just the will of a collective Manchester United to push the team over the line to victory. These moments are a credit to the players and their ability to move forward. But they are really an indication of how important the leadership of Sir Alex Ferguson was to the club. He was able to get the absolute best out of individuals who might not even have known they had that ability within themselves. Sir Alex Ferguson is the definition of a “one-off”. There will never be another like him.

So Manchester United was left with the responsibility of replacing a legend of the sport. How do you replace ‘greatness’? How does a team replace a Bill Shankly, a Vince Lombardi, or a John Wooden? How do you realistically improve on near-perfection?

You don’t. There is going to be some kind of transition period and Manchester United are going through that right now.

For now, United supporters need to let go of the past, deal with the present, and move forward. David Moyes is going to be the manager of Manchester United. He was handpicked by Sir Alex Ferguson to be the next manager of the club. That says A LOT about David Moyes. He is not going anywhere.

This current United squad is not deep and the club’s front office (once again) didn’t address the team’s needs in midfield and defense during the transfer window. So the team you see week-in and week-out is not going to change. There is enough quality within the team to be successful in the league, but it is going to take near-perfect concentration and execution in every match from here on out.

Unfortunately this season, the few key players United has have missed games due to injuries and/or suspension. The one time United was near 100% was against Arsenal and they put on one of their best performances in over a year. But that win was once again followed by injuries to Michael Carrick, Phil Jones, and Robin Van Persie. That’s just how things have fallen for the club this year. United has not been lucky.

United are still within striking distance of the top four and a Champions League spot for next season. This is due in large part to the parity of the current Premier League table. The Red Devils also advanced to the quarter-finals of the League Cup and are currently top of their Champions League group heading into their final European match against Shakhtar Donetsk. United is already through to the knockout stages of the competition and only need a draw on Wednesday to finish on top of Group A.

So far this season, poor performances in the league have not resulted in United stealing a point or grabbing a last second victory from their opposition. That’s how it is sometimes in sports. Things don’t always break your way.

United is currently coming off of two gut-wrenching home losses to Everton and Newcastle; the club and its supporters have been knocked down from their lofty title-winning heights. But this isn’t something new to Manchester United. The club’s history is dotted with periods such as this one.

Could United miss out on the top four altogether this season? Yes. It has happened before.

Will Manchester United endure another 26-year period without a league title? Probably not. But no team is immune to long stretches of bad luck or misfortune. United supporters have experienced this in the past. This current transition period will be another chapter in the club’s history. How they respond to this new challenge will define the club’s legacy moving forward.

How will United and their supporters look back on this point in their history? Only time will tell.

34 thoughts on “The Transition Period Was Never Going To Be Easy For Manchester United”

  1. The problem is, in this day and age, football players want to play in the Champion’s League. If Utd don’t make it, then great players won’t join the club. Then begins the steady decline of a club. In a time when fame and money are huge motivational factors, Utd cannot slip into the mid-level positions they are currently in and expect to buy or keep the best footballers in the world.

    1. As horrible as this might sound, if United fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League, it might force the Glazers to actually spend money; similar money to that of Man City and Chelsea.

      I know stories were leaked that United put in a late bid for Bale, but last April when SAF said: “We’re competitive in the market – we’re not Chelsea or Manchester City in terms of money but we’re competitive” it showed that there was a hesitancy for United to spend big in the market.

      Unfortunately, the way things have gone with billionaire and Arab owners, the transfer market has gone crazy and United are not the bully of the block anymore.

      The Glazers will have to spend some of that global money they’ve been bringing in over the past few years, should United fail to make the CL.

    2. Good points all. Also, many a player signed for Utd merely because of Ferguson. Moyes won’t have the same clout – at least until he starts winning.

  2. The fact is that United can still rectify the situation. Yes, if Arsenal win tomorrow they are 15 points of 1st and 8 points of 4th but over the next two months they have a relatively easy run of games all but two games against sides below them in the table. Meanwhile, all of the top sides still have games against each other. There is ample opportunity to make up ground.

    Yes, the way they are playing going on a long run of wins seems unlikely but if they can somehow claw out a couple of results until carrick and van persie are fully fit, there is no reason that Moyes cannot make it right.

    However, we cannot be reliant on a 32 year old midfielder and 30 year old striker to be fit for us to compete. Reinforcements are necessary and I believe they are coming. If Moyes cannot get it right on the field and in the transfer window over the next two months fans will lose patience but there is still reason to believe we can rectify the season.

    1. I can say with 110% confidence that the teams above us will drop points over the next month but I can’t say with any confidence we will take advantage by winning our own games.

      Ideally we will be within 10 points by New Year’s Day which keeps us in touching distance of the leaders.

  3. I agree with some of what you’re saying, but I still think David Moyes has to be severely questioned after this loss to Newcastle.

    Two things really concern me. One is that the players don’t look like they want to compete for him. You just look on the field and don’t see a bunch of guys who care if their manager is in hot water. Put this together with RVP’s rumored problems with Moyes, De Gea’s failure to make any big saves this season after his favorite GK coach was fired by Moyes, the complain today from Rio that Moyes holds his team selection for too long…..I mean, I know SOME of that has to be rumor and innuendo, but it doesn’t sound good. Oh…and now there is this weird story that Kagawa had to have his stomach pumped because he ate too much??? WTF??

    Then we see his substitutions today….very bad. United was suffering some ineffective wide play all game. Lots of crosses when one guy is in the box. So, his solution is to insert another wide player? It was a like-for-like substitution.

    I hate to be reactionary and I’d previously said that Moyes deserves the January transfer window and the rest of the season, but after today I’m really not sure I feel that way anymore. I’m just not sure HE is worth all of this. Maybe we’d be better off firing him and letting some new guy have the luxury of the January window.

    I’d feel a little better about things if the team looked like it cared.

    Oh…..and the way Everton has kicked on just fine without him concerns me too.

    1. absolutely. The biggest concern is that Everton seem to have a new philosophy under Martinez that has been more effective than under Moyes. One thing I will say is that Martinez has signed players like Lukaku, Delafeou, and Barry on Loan and will not be able to keep them which makes you question whether he will be able to sustain Everton in the future.

      I think De Gea and Rooney are the only players who have performed to their capabilities. De Gea made a superb save at the end of the first half and had no chance on the goal.

      The biggest concern has been the response to going behind in these last two games. Under Ferguson, United would flow forward and it wouldn’t be a question of if but when. Now there is not even a question of if they will score, it was clear that there was no goal coming.

      I believe that if Moyes cannot get us into the top 4 he has to go. To take a team that won the title by 12 points and fail to keep them in the top 4 is more of a transition than is acceptable. If United had hired Klopp or Mourinho there is no chance that would have happened.

      My point is that if he can turn it around, which he has the opportunity to do in these next two months, it could rectify his job and the season and could be a defining moment for United going forward. Otherwise they need to start anew next summer.

      1. Moyes won’t go this season. He will be given to at least the end of his second season to show he can build a team into title contenders.

        1. I think we would have been given 2-3 seasons to turn them into legitimate title contenders, not legitimate top 4 contenders.

        2. I would tend to agree with you, but I’d like to see at least ONE positive sign or some general sense of improvement. First the schedule was too hard. Now that the schedule is easier, I”m not sure what the excuse is.

        3. You never know. Not qualifying for CL will be a huge blow financially and non-financially for the club.
          I can see the Glazers tolerating not winning anything but I don’t see them tolerating not qualifying for the CL. The stakes are too high.

    2. I, too, was perplexed with the Zaha and Anderson substitutions. Put in Young and he might at least dive and get a penalty, whereas Zaha hasn’t had a sniff on the team. Anderson? You could tell Fergie liked him but he is by no means a Utd quality player.
      The Fellaini signing has been a disaster and seeing him texting while the game was on said volumes. Oh yeah, to make matters worse, Rooney will be gone next summer.

    3. Moyes left Everton in good shape. The needs they had were then addressed during the transfer window.

      As great as Ferguson was he left an old United team with a midfield and defensive issues. David Gill left his position and the Glazers brought in Ed Woodward who had no experience with player transfers. Woodward made a complete shamble of the transfer window and screwed the club. While every other top club addressed their needs early in the window, Woodward waited until the final day to make a move and it was only to bring in Fellaini.

      Anything bad that could happen to Moyes has happened.

      And I just disagree about United looking like they don’t want to play for Moyes. It’s the same issues from the end of the Ferguson era which are catching up to United.

      Evra has been a major liability on defense. It’s nice that he can go forward, but his job is on defense. He loses focus way too easy. He’s been an issue for the past few seasons back there.

      And the midfield without Carrick is just God awful. For those United fans who never appreciated Carrick, now you see what he brought to the team. He was the perfect link between United’s back four and their attack. Cleverley, Anderson, Kagawa just can’t do what Carrick does.

  4. Two words –

    Paul Pogba

    Ferguson’s decision to let him go left the midfield bare for Moyes. Anyone they sign now is going to be second best to what Pogba would have been for United.

  5. I can’t believe UTD fans are blaming ferguson for Moyes not being able to get a tune of note out of the same group of players that WON the BPL last season…

    Moyes left Everton in good shape? Sure…that’s one way of looking at it….but perhaps ppl should be asking, did he hold then back? Of Martinez can get Everton playing good football & getting results in just 14 games then why couldn’t Moyes?

    Moyes leaves a club > club gets new manager, they play better football & get results all with minimal “transition” & loose a major player in Fellani.

    Moyes takes over BPL champions, the biggest club in England, known for attacking footbLl & the home ground being a fortress, no major loses, infact he took an Everton key player, and now these champs are no where near keeping pace with Farsenal, LFC, man city or CFC let alone challenging for a title.

    Seriously? SAF’s fault? Ridiculous.

    1. Maybe Sir Alex didn’t leave a side that was going to contend for the Champions League Trophy, but he left Moyes a side that should have no trouble getting into the competition.

      Furthermore, people speak as if Man United have no depth. They have 4 international strikers, 4 expensive wingers (and Januzaj), 5 or 6 midfielders who have been a part of winning the League last season, 2 decent goalkeepers, 5 center backs, and 4 wing backs.

      Sir Alex left Moyes with plenty of personel from which he could choose who to keep and who to sell and replace with his own signings. Moyes simply has failed to figure that out so far and time is running out. You cannot blame Ferguson for that.

      1. The article didn’t blame Ferguson. It pointed out how great he was to have won with such a poor midfield. There isn’t a manager in the world who would win with United’s current make up. Only Fergie could have done it. The man was a pure genius. Or a one-off as the article pointed out. And this is coming from a Leeds fan.

        1. I don’t agree only one man could have done it…I think pep and Klopp and would have come in and got them playing far better than they are under Moyes…why would a club the size of. Man Utd settle for a manager that has achieved nothing? Won nothing?

          As I posted, even Martinez has Moyes previous team playing better than he did.

          I didn’t say this article was saying that it was saf’s fault, it was based off others posts, like you, amongst others posting here and on the radio…

          To blame SAF for leaving a poor squad is just wrong..and crazy…and then…More wrong….

          You can blame saf for anointing Moyes in a moment of crazy blind Scottish allegiance…

          There is no way Moyes deserves the UTD job…

  6. United were a disgrace yesterday. Players flopping all over trying to get penalties. Newcastle outplayed them, period. Players seemed not all there. As a matter of fact at one point cameras zeroed in and commentators remarked on Fellaini texting someone while sitting on the side lines. Commentator said, “He need to look up and pay attention to what’s going on.”. He’s paid all that money. Sorry, but a big joke.

  7. With essentially the same group of players that won the league in such a dominant fashion just a few months ago, David Moyes has contrived to:

    – lose at home to West Brom for the first time since 1978
    – lose at home to Everton for the first time since 1992
    – lose at home to Newcastle for the first time since 1972
    – lose consecutive homes games for the first time since 2002
    – engineer the club’s worst start to a season in 24 years

    Face it, Moyes is a midtable manager who is hopelessly out of his depth at a big time club like United. He should not be allowed to keep his job if United finishes this season outside the top four.

  8. “This is due in large part to the parody of the current Premier League table.”

    Did you mean “parity?” I guess a case could be made for this season’s EPL table being a parody (a humorous satirical imitation of a real event) or having parity (equality in status or character) :-)

    I kid. This piece makes a lot of points have come to my mind watching United struggle this season. Like you, I notice how much they struggle now when they go down a goal, something that was largely unheard of for the team the last few seasons.

    I will be curious to see how much patience the fans have to stick with Moyes during this transition period.

  9. The most bizarre thing Moyes did was to clean up Sir Alex’s staff immediately and bring his own. Why? There in lies the root of the problem. Moyes thinks United are automatically title winning side no matter what he does and how he manages. Sir Alex’s staffs knew the system and how it works at United. Moyes knows nothing. I’d say he just became too arrogant and and the power of managing United went to his head.

    Slow transition was not only necessary but extremely important in this situation. He is still saying he can fix United. I ask, what is this fixing nonsense? What is there to fix? He is tried too much tickling with the squad, putting players out of position, trying various things and it’s just not working. This is where Sir Alex’s staff could have helped him. Coupled with some of the absolute bizarre and ridiculous statements he has made and things he has done, he just wasn’t ready for prime time, it seems.

    I don’t see any kind of tactical management that is needed at this point. He is just fiddling too much and hoping it works.

    1. I agree with this. SAF already told him that “this club has a great staff”. Instead of realizing that things will take time, DM immediately cleared the backroom staff. Adding Giggs and Neville is OK, but these are rookies coaches. Why let Meulensteen go while RVP raved about him? Why let GK coach go while he developed DDG so much?

  10. One thing that looks different to me from previous years is the lack of fire on the field. The players have looked flat, especially the last two league games.

    It is ominous that United is doing worse with David Moyes, and Everton is doing better without him. And watching Arsenal-Everton yesterday I couldn’t help but think that Moyes should have brought Ross Barkley with him and not Fellaini, who now suddenly looks ponderous.

  11. There certainly seems to be something to the idea that Ferguson got more out of players than they knew they had. Exhibit A is Nani- he now looks completely lost on the field. You know what he’s going to do every time: stop with the ball, juke, get the ball on his right foot, launch it into row K. Repeat.

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