This has been a horrible week and a difficult month to be a Manchester United supporter. United’s league games have followed the familiar pattern of being tedious and impotent and ultimately frustrating. The CEO seems to think he can buy the local hacks a few pints to deal with our woes and then came Germany
United’s players looked to be trying against Wolfsburg but were painfully short of inspiration. Whilst there are multiple points of merit in the current squad and season, the overall experience is flat and disappointing. One has to wonder, how happy are those players?
Exasperating, annoying, embarrassing – these are the kinds of words we associate with watching Manchester United nowadays. Nobody approaches the game of football because they love the magic of numbers, they come to be entertained. That is the last thing United are doing at the moment.
Yet Louis van Gaal continues to point to his possession metrics as a point of pride. This week I ran a poll on twitter that garnered a few hundred votes and resulted with 40% wanting LVG out. Forty one per cent said to give him until the end of the season.
Andy Mitten has also alluded to the fact that some interesting opinions will emerge about Van Gaal’s football when players are out of contract. I understand that but don’t think it is anything unusual. Players are always challenging managers. This is a good thing but it shouldn’t play out to its logical conclusion.
If players made all the tactical decisions, John Terry would be player-manager of both Chelsea and England right now and David Beckham would have played his entire career in the centre of midfield. Fabien Barthez would have been a striker. Having a stubborn manager can be useful sometimes.
Red News and United We Stand have ran similar polls this week and got similar results. The always-excellent United Rant made the point that social media and match-going fans are different entities in many ways.
Nonetheless, it is clear that not all supporters are happy with the manager or the football his team are offering up. There is a growing sentiment being expressed that if Pep Guardiola or Carlo Ancellotti turned up next summer then United would suddenly storm through Europe.
That is not the case.
This week I have been reading Roy Keane’s stupendous second autobiography, co-written by Roddy Doyle. Keane divides opinion, obviously, but he doesn’t mince his words. There are many anecdotes in the book about how big players stand up in tough games and drag their colleagues through.
This seems to be perhaps United’s biggest flaw at the moment. Not quite so much the quality of the manager, although he is certainly not perfect, but the character of the players. More than a few of them out there are hiding behind the criticism of Louis instead of analysing their own performances.
Juan Mata may well be my favourite player in the current squad but he has gone right off the boil lately. He is one the side’s experienced trophy winners and could be doing more to inspire. Martial, Memphis and Lingard deserve some room because of their youth.
Carrick has been forward thinking but rusty when he has been on the field and Schweini, god bless him, looks like the years are finally taking their toll. It seems facile to find the system at fault for all this, but there are eleven players out there who are less than the sum of their parts at the moment.
Whilst I am all for giving people a chance to grow into themselves, the fact that Rooney and Van Gaal are in the eye of the storm all the time gives others a chance to go unnoticed. People like Memphis need to realise they are playing for Manchester United and there is a sense of duty that comes with that.
In Roy’s book he is constantly talking about what kinds of results are acceptable and what ones are not. A draw against Chelsea under Mourinho was acceptable to him but not all the time. He knew that if you wanted to win titles you had to go for the win in every game.
In the Last month, United have lost to Wolfsburg, against whom an aged, crocked Michael Owen managed a hat-trick, and clocked up draws against Leicester, West Ham and PSV.
“Average” was the word Paul Scholes used and he is right. The Scholes point bothers me though. He has been offered a job at United since LVG has been in charge and would rather be a TV pundit. Wouldn’t he offer more in a tracksuit at Carrington?
Other starry-eyed fans want the Class of 92 to take over and catapult us into the fourth dimension of being. Well, I am afraid that is just horseshit. Between the lot of them they have five games of managerial experience and a hell of a lot to learn.
Whilst I venerate all of those men for what they have done for the club, their great skill in the past two years has been marketing and self-promotion. They played in teams with Keane, Peter Schmeical and Eric Cantona. Those men were as much a part of their success as anything else. There is little mention of that in the BBC documentaries though.
It is fair to say that Van Gaal has under-delivered this season. But so have the players. And it aint over yet. Despite the fact United’s injury list is gruesome at the moment, they simply have to put a run of games together.
My suspicion is that the club’s best interests are served by keeping LVG in place for now. The men in the shirts need to start doing their jobs though.
Football matches are won by the players on the field. Happy with LVG’s plan or not, they all need to pull their socks up.
Mark is the author of ‘Fergie’s Last Stand’, just £3 this Christmas.
Follow him on www.twitter.com/markjpayne