The Glazers took over Manchester United Football Club in 2005. It was a leveraged buyout which meant that they bought the club on debt that would be paid off by the bought entity itself. This meant that Manchester United’s revenues would be used to finance its own takeover! Naturally the fans weren’t happy but their legendary manager had got into a bizarre dispute over a race horse with the previous owners. The takeover was completed but the protests didn’t stop. It took half a decade for the green and gold scarves to more or less disappear from the stands at Old Trafford.
Today, in June 2019, #GlazersOut is the number one trend worldwide. The club is in absolute dire straits and to make matters worse, their most bitter rivals, Manchester City and Liverpool are playing the best football in the world and winning trophies left right center. The contrast couldn’t have been more stark and in the age of social media, it is impossible to ignore. Fans who have watched United since the 70s and 80s, back when the club was known for challenging for cup titles and just put up a stiff fight, claim the current batch of players, bar few, are overpaid millionaires with no loyalty to the badge. Most say this is the worst United side in four decades. Even the one which got relegated in 1974 was bad quality wise but never shied away from a fight.
I started following United in the early 2000s when Chelsea and Arsenal were the top dogs in the Premier League. I’ve seen a relatively successful period of MUFC and I am glad for it. But never have I ever seen a United team so devoid of any passion towards the game or the fans for that matter. It has become well and truly a business entity more than anything else. Since Fergie retired in 2013, we have been a joke of a club that manages to ruin every player that played on the sacred Old Trafford patch. So how did it happen? When did the greatest football in the world become a running joke, rivaled only by the equally hapless and mismanaged old foe Arsenal?
When we sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid in 2009, we were losing the second best player in the world. His meteoric rise was unprecedented but his exit surprised only the ignorant. CR7 never hid his dream to play for Real Madrid and become their legend. With the secret pact between the two clubs signed in 2008, Cristiano was free to leave in 2009 and both player and club had time to make preparations. But what followed was a total farce as Manchester United replaced the deadliest attacker of his generation with Obertan, Antonio Valencia and a crocked Michael Owen. I am sorry what!? Who was in charge of these things? What the hell was happening? Well, it was Ed Woodward that was happening.
Every group of rich people need henchmen and Ed Woodward is the Don of Finance. A former Investment Banker, this man helped the Glazers buy MUFC. Although undeniably sensational at financial wizardry, his football knowledge borders on the autistic. Manchester United were run by David Gill and Sir Alex Ferguson for over a decade until the Glazers and Ed started interfering with the daily procession. In 2013, when both SAF and Gill left, Ed became CEO and thus began the undoing of our great club. What shocks me the most about the last six years is not that we’ve bad owners who have riddled us with debt, but that we have a shocking CEO running a football club like a sports gymkhana.
I honestly believe that more than the Glazers, it is Ed who is the problem. The Glazers have sanctioned £700+ Million in the last six years. What is important is how was that money spent. From Angel Di Maria to Alexis Sanchez, there is a cancer within the club that is affecting everyone that steps into it. The bad news is that it won’t go immediately. The good news is that it has now been identified and the detox will take at least a couple of years. But can Manchester United afford to take their own sweet time to get back on track while their arch rivals are going from strength to strength both on and off the field? Manchester City are no longer a ‘project’ and Liverpool no longer ‘bottlers’. Neither can Tottenham be discarded anymore as perennial ‘also rans’. How long before the Lily Whites dethrone Arsenal and a flailing Chelsea as London’s top club with major trophies?
United need to get back on track fast and compete in the Champions League every year. That’s the only way to attract the world’s best young talent like Sancho and De Light en route to winning major trophies. The Premier League should be our first priority in the next three seasons and the only way to do so is by having three consecutive 9/10 transfer windows where not only do we reinforce key areas in the squad but also shift out deadwood like Jones, Smalling, Rojo, Lingard and Darmian that are long plaguing the club. On-field performances are heavily affected by the dressing room morale (ask any Chelsea fan) and deadwood is contagious. They rot even the good players and bring down the collective team spirit.
Which brings me to the last part of my concerns. The Glazers look at the club purely as business and consider the players more as brand ambassadors than footballers that were born and bred to win every game. At least that was the Man United player archetype. We can get back to that only after realising that “sauce”, “drip” and “clout” don’t mean wack and sometimes a team needs understated yet determined personalities like Eriksen, Milner and David Silva to win you tournaments. Your social media profile must be reflective of your on field performances and not the other way round. The player currently typifying everything wrong with the club today is Paul Pogba. I haven’t made my disgust towards him a secret. One look at my Twitter timeline and you’ll realise I hate Pogba more than I fear climate change. Mourinho was wrong about a lot of things but one estimate with which he was spot on was that Pogba was a ‘virus‘ that destabilized the dressing room.
This club, due to the objectives of the Glazers to milk MUFC the brand, concentrates more on a player’s off-field potential than on-field exploits. This shambolic approach was bound to cause the club to implode and it did last season which was the worst one in four decades. Even replacing one legendary manager after another didn’t arrest United’s slump. What this club needs is not big names in the dugout and on the field but committed names. I am not subscribed to the “United DNA” school of thought which proclaims that our club is entitled to success and it’s bound to happen sooner than later if our players just fit a certain mould. No amount of stardust can transform the sinking ship that is Man United until we embark on a methodical overhaul of not just personnel but also our philosophy. We must concentrate on having a structured backroom staff that scouts the best talent worldwide while employing a transfer strategy that doesn’t begin and end with playing fiddle with super agents like Mendes and Raiola.
Another area we need to change our outlook as a club and as a fanbase is the fixation with legendary managers. Manchester United have had only two spells of outstanding success and they came under the stewardship of two all time great managers in Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson. Times have changed and football is faster than it once was. It is global, more competitive and the smaller clubs, especially in the Premier League can’t be bullied. Television rights have empowered clubs like Crystal Palace and Southampton to hold on to their star performers for more than one season before offloading them to the bigger fish on their own terms. We need an approach where the club’s decision making is modernized via Technical Directors, Director’s of Football and CEOs. Currently, our deluded CEO meddles in everything and inevitably cocks up even the simplest of tasks.
Most importantly, we need to get off the “The Manager can’t do no wrong” train. If a Manchester United manager under performs, he must be shipped out. Arsene Wenger’s painful elongated stay at Arsenal should a warning to every big club as to what happens when nostalgia and emotions take precedent over logic. Chelsea unknowingly stumbled upon this secret of running a modern day elite football club due to the eccentric Roman Abramovich. Of course, Florentino Perez perfected it for decades at Real Madrid but not everyone can do what the Los Blancos do at ease. United need to keep the club above everyone. The players, the manager, the CEO and of course the owners.
I know times are hard but this great club will bounce back. I know it will because that’s the only thing we know how to do. Never give up. Always a comeback. No matter the stage, no matter the odds. We are Manchester United and we will rise and Old Trafford will once again be the home of the champions. Fast, electric football played by the most exciting players on the planet. It’s not far away. Yes, we are divided as a fan base but we have one common love that can’t be matched by anyone else. Glory Glory Manchester United!