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Blame Alex Ferguson and Ed Woodward for Man United’s decline

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At the start of this season Manchester United had vast, romantic notions of returning to their “rightful” place as Premier League royalty. But the season has unfolded more along the lines of a Shakespearean tragedy than one of romance with Louis van Gaal as the noble, but flawed, protagonist.

But it hasn’t turned out that way that the Red Devils faithful had hoped.

Thus far, mediocrity (on the heels of another tepid performance at Old Trafford, this time against Sheffield United), not glory is what Manchester United have achieved this year. Van Gaal’s year has been stuck in a perpetual state of injury woes, poor organization and a general underperformance that has left the club outside of the top four of the table, looking in — not to mention an early and embarrassing exit from the UEFA Champions League.

To make matters worse, Jose Mourinho made it clear almost with 24 hours of being sacked by Chelsea that he didn’t need a sabbatical to clear his head and actually wouldn’t mind taking over the reins at Manchester United as soon as possible. Even more distressing to van Gaal is that there is now speculation that the philosopher himself, Pep Guardiola, wouldn’t be opposed to donning the Red Devils’ colors if the circumstances were right.

But to place the blame of Manchester United’s disappointing year(s) on van Gaal would be a poor reading of history and let the two great culprits – Sir Alex Ferguson and Ed Woodward off the hook.

Sir Alex Ferguson, England’s greatest manager, always found ways to win and to do so in a dramatic, perfectly timed fashion. From somehow willing Steve Bruce to volley not one but two quality headers into the back of the next in the waning moments of the 1993 victory over Sheffield Wednesday to claim the Premier League title, to reaching the mountain top in 1999 with a 2-1 win over Bayern Munich and a UEFA Champions League title, Ferguson always found a way to win. As the win over Sheffield Wednesday showed, the man also had an uncanny sense of timing. And nowhere was that amazing sense of timing more important that Ferguson’s decision to leave Manchester United when he did.

In analyzing Manchester United’s run to the 2012-13 Premier League title, its clear that a major overhaul of the roster would need to happen in the near future. The team finished top of the league riding on the backs of a world-class, but rapidly aging squad. Robin van Persie was magisterial that year, knocking in a league-leading 26 goals and turning in a year that was one of the world’s absolute best. However, this is the same van Persie who had spent a good chunk of his career up until that point on the trainer’s table, and was rapidly approaching age 30. It was clear that a decline in his performance would come as soon as the following season.

Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs proved that you can defeat Father Time (at least temporarily) by turning back the clock and having some of their best years ever that season. Other United stalwarts such as Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra were already on the wrong side of the bell curve of their careers. Additionally, players like Shinji Kagawa and Ashley Young, who were supposed to carry the United torch when their elders went out to pasture, demonstrated over the course of the season that they weren’t going to be able to pick up the slack from the likes of the aging Giggs and Scholes. Any objective look at the end of United’s 2012-13 season clearly showed that without multiple and major upgrades, the team was highly unlikely to repeat their 2012-13 successes.

Shortly after Ferguson announced his retirement at the end of the 2012-2013 season, Ed Woodward swiftly hired Ferguson’s heir apparent, David Moyes. Moyes was given a healthy budget and was expected to seamlessly continue Ferguson’s champion-like ways. But the problems were evident almost immediately and Moyes, through a combination of his own missteps as well as the sheer size of the task in front of him, was (predictably) unable to remake United’s aging roster in a single summer transfer window. Additionally, Moyes tried to implement his own sense of tactics that differed greatly from Ferguson’s. Moyes’ different tactics meant that he needed a different collection of players that could implement those tactics.

Instead of giving Moyes the time he needed, Woodward kicked him to the curb in 11 months after what became an utterly predictable and disappointing year for Manchester United.

Now Woodward is on the verge of doing the same thing with van Gaal. The Dutchman came in with very different tactics than Moyes, which means he needed to buy very different players that fit his system. Additionally, 11 months was not enough time for Moyes to restock the depleted roster left by Ferguson.

Woodward and the rest of the Red Devils’ faithful are seriously mistaken if they think Mourinho, Guardiola or anyone else will come marching in like Henry V and save the day and bring a torrent of trophies to Old Trafford’s trophy cabinet. Mourinho inherited the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and a Real Madrid roster that was stacked and ready to compete for the Champions League cup on day one. Chelsea needed direction and focus more than a bevy of new players. Guardiola inherited a Barcelona team that was ripe to go on a run for the ages. Bayern Munich may not have had quite the roster that Barcelona did, but they were still arguably the best team on paper when Guardiola took over. The common theme here is that both revered managers inherited squads that needed tweaks and revisions, not wholesale rebuilding. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the Manchester United squad left to van Gaal.

What is needed to make Old Trafford awash in the glorious sounds of “Glory Glory Man United” again is not a hero, but more time. Give van Gaal at least until the end of next season, if not longer, to see if he can win a trophy for the Red Devils and finish in a UEFA Champions League qualification spot.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. ben

    January 11, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    Ed Woodward certainly nees sacking, but lets look at LVG Transfers.
    he said the squad was unbalanced when he arrived.
    He bought.
    Di Maria LB/LeftWing [[ LVG – RightWing ]]
    Roco LB/CB [[ LVG – CB ]]
    Luke Shaw LB [[ LVG – Unfit first season then LB ]]
    Daley Blind LB/RB [[ LVG – Holding Midfielder / CB ]]
    Falco Striker [[ LVG – Striker ]]
    Mogan Sneiderlin Central Midfielder [[ LVG – DM ]]
    Bastian Swhwensteiger Central Midfield [[ LVG – DM ]]
    Matteo Darmian RB [[ LVG – RB ]]
    Memphis Depay LW [[ LVG – LW]]

    So we had a lobsided squad and he purchased 4 Leftbacks first year, then Midfeilders and yet more left sided players.

    So now we have nothing or then right side of the pitch to the extent Ashley young is a RB and Mata RW. Zero Strikers purchased because falco was sent back.

    Now lets look at who he let go – these ageing players your talking about.
    Rio Ferdinand Nemanja Vidic Petrice Evra what about
    Danny Welbeck Stkr Shiniji Kagawa LW/RW Wilfred Zaha RW [21] Anderson CM [25] Di Maria LB/LW [27] Chicharito Stkr [27] Johny Evans CB [27] Nani LW/RW [28] Robin Van Persie Stkr [31] Rafeal RB [25] Henriquez Stkr [21] Reece James LB [21] Tom Cleverly CM [25] Ben Amos GK [25] Anders Linguard GK [31] Janazi LW [Loaned – 20 ] James Wilson Strkr [Loaned – 19]

    Because the squad is so much better now under LVG with 2 strikers and leftbacks playing all over the field. or best right winger Ashley young playing as a RB.

    nooooo course this has nothing to to do with LVG. The man isn’t the most incompetent fool of all all time who plays the most boring football of all time.

    I can see how all those young players was a case of Fergie leaving an aging squad.

  2. rkujay

    January 10, 2016 at 7:10 am

    If true, as has been reported, that Sir Alex recommended the Clueless One…Moyes, after being rejected by Pep, then we got what we asked for. However, Ed Woodhead is even more clueless. This clown needs to go. As for LVG, he is holding on to past accomplishments. Playing a single striker on top has not worked. Does he need a plane to do a fly over and carry a banner saying 4-4-2? He may have put a band aid on the back four, but why are we waiting for the inevitable late goal TO LOSE? We seriously need a striker of some note. Play Rooney in the 10 and please buy a central defender. A CAM who can make a pass would be nice as well.

    What are they doing to my club?

  3. Squeegy

    January 10, 2016 at 4:25 am

    Quite a bit to disagree about in this article, and some speculative uses of hindsight.

    One thing it sort of mentions though is something I fully agree with.

    If you’re Utd and you’re coming to the end of Fergie’s career you essentially want the transition to be as swift and painless as possible. You want the next guy to essentially pick up the reins and carry on with minimal disruption. You haven’t just sacked a failing coach and need a radical overhaul of players, staff and ideology. You need to opposite in fact. You need someone who will evolve, not revolve.
    There are some similarities between Moyes and Ferguson but there are also some major stylistic differences. This then is not helped by the club allowing him to let pretty much all of the back room staff go and bring in his own men. Now, all managers bring in their own men. They often come as a set. But why didn’t Utd simply dictate the terms. “You can bring in Round and Woods but we have staff here who are ingrained in the Utd way, have dealt with these multi-title winning, international players and are at the peak of their profession; you need to ensure their knowledge and expertise is utilised.”
    That was the first big mistake from the club. As said, despite winning the league the team was on the cusp of being well past their best and needed some signings to rejuvenate it. Now, unless Ferguson wasn’t interested in what was to come and was only focused on the short term so as to go out in a blaze of glory then targets must have been identified and probably also sounded out. But these then vanished in the mist as both Ferguson and Gill exited stage left and the new guys come in. Confusion unsurprisingly reigns. Midfield had always been a priority and summer started with moves for Fabregas and Thiago. Both refused and the club made a farcical move for Herrera who is at least of a similar ilk. Then they go and sign Fellaini. If someone can explain to me what the question is that has Fabregas and Fellaini as possible answers I’d love to know.
    The oddest thing about it is that it was clear Ferguson was staying on at the club in some presidential role. What’s the point of keeping him there if not to ensure some continuity, that the things that made him a success were retained within the club and passed on to his successor?

    The same mixed messages have continued since. The club has followed the Liverpool/England model of knee-jerking and looking for opposite traits in a new manager. Moyes: too soft, not respected by the players, not enough kudos across Europe to attract top players. Get LVG: hard line dictator, takes no shit, known and respected globally (apart from a few Brazilians). The next ridiculous mistake is having LVG on a 3 year fixed term and both sides making it clear that even if successful he won’t stay beyond it. Long term planning is firmly made a low priority as the manager seeks his own chance to go out on a high.

    The key point that Utd need to get right is a medium to long term model. They need to know where they want to go and how they want to get there.

    The top 3 in the betting for next manager are Jose, Pep and Giggs. As with the Fabregas/Fellaini argument above I’d love to know how you can consider a toss up between Pep and Jose. If you admire and desire what Pep brings – beautiful, silky football, commitment to youth, acting with a touch of class and decorum – then Jose wouldn’t even be in your top 10 of next best. If you’re considering the two most high profile managers around then how do you also consider an untried coach? So if you identify Jose as the type of manager you want, how do you consider either of the other 2 if you don’t get him? The message, the long term plan has to be key not just going for the biggest name currently available (personally I’d ignore all 3 and go for Pocchetino but that’s by the by).

    Now, you’re looking at another radical overhaul. Whoever the new manager is, he’ll have as big a job to rejuvenate the squad as Moyes had. Now though, Utd are firmly behind both City and Chelsea in attractiveness and Arsenal could pass them too if they win the league. The job is much bigger now.

  4. Ona

    January 10, 2016 at 3:11 am

    When Edward took over the reigns and Sir Alex was still incharge, his 1st statement was that there will not be new investments to the Team. Shortly Sir Alex announce his retirement. I suspect he was not willing to go thruogh with such nonsense.So who is the real culprit. You guys have short memory.

  5. Jeremaine Prieto

    January 10, 2016 at 2:06 am

    How true. It saddens me to read manchester united ‘fans’ who want to sack van gaal and say boring when man u players are doing their best to win games, different style from what we’re accustomed to but we’re still in the thick of the fight. All positives, GGMU!!!

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