By Adam Joseph
One of the most heartless, lifeless and pathetic displays of football was witnessed on Saturday at Old Trafford. In now what feels like the constant, Manchester United were beaten by a counter attacking Norwich side that only mustered three shots on goal but converted two of them. They took their chances when it mattered. United didn’t, mainly because, yet again, they didn’t create nearly enough.
No matter how you slice it, seven shots in four games is abysmal for a relegation candidate, let alone a club harbouring title ambitions and beyond. The squad, their manager and the club as a whole have a lot of questions to answer to a fan base who teetering on the brink of riot status.
The game started brightly with the hosts coming out of the gates quite well, but as per the flow of play lately, it petered out into nothing soon enough. Before the break Cameron Jerome struck and it was obvious from that point that a comeback wasn’t likely.
After the Canaries put themselves two goals ahead with another well executed counter attack, Anthony Martial struck his first goal in the Premier League since September with a classy touch and finish. However a crucial chance was missed by Chris Smalling and besides that not much eventuated.
Yet again Juan Mata was essentially anonymous and for a second week in a row was arguably the team’s worst performer. Smalling struggled in his return from injury, as did Wayne Rooney who did himself no favours once more. He did put the ball in the back of the net, but himself and Marouane Fellaini were both offside.
Ryan Giggs made headlines by breaking protocol and moving to the technical area in the second half to will his team forward in search of goals. This will no doubt make headlines and be headlined as an “act of defiance” and the reality might be that it is. Louis Van Gaal’s allies are thinning by the day.
Rumours are flying (as they should) that the club are reconsidering his position as manager, with Jose Mourinho waiting in the wings after his sacking from Chelsea earlier in the week. Giggs may too be executing moves behind the scenes to secure himself for the role.
The issue of the Welshman becoming the next manager of the club is upto much debate. Fans perhaps more traditional pine for the former United number 11 to become the full time leader to drive the club back up the table. But frankly this notion is naïve and incredibly idealistic.
Manchester United if they do choose to part ways with Van Gaal cannot afford to take another gamble. In their third trophyless year, they’re sliding down the table both in England and in Europe. Fans can claim the Old Trafford allure all they like and to an extent it’s always going to be true, but the world’s best aren’t going to leave the giant that already employs them for a sinking ship.
Sadly that’s what United is at present. The club is now officially in crisis mode. Many in recent times have used denial but there’s no denying it right now. The Premier League is more open than ever and every top team is currently tripping over itself in the pursuit to take a stranglehold of the competition.
Meanwhile amongst all these struggles United are self-destructing and are slipping out of the top four below the likes of Tottenham. Crystal Palace might be a rising force, but they shouldn’t be level on points with United. It’s simply unacceptable. There’s an opportunity for the clubs at the top to separate themselves from the chasing pack.
So based on that how can a gamble on Giggs be justified? If he is given the role he will need time to settle into the role, mould his own squad and most likely his style of play. Just because he was Van Gaal’s assistant in no way means he will be a like for like manager (which people of course would prefer he isn’t) so it’s another couple of steps back in the rebuilding phase.
After the failures of David Moyes and potentially now Van Gaal, it makes zero sense to take a leap of faith on Giggs no matter what his standing is within the club and it’s fan base. Every new appointment comes with risks, but the likes of Pep Guardiola and even Jose Mourinho are no brainers compared to Giggs. Candidates are starting to run thin and the decision makers at Carrington have a lot to think about.
This is not meant out of disrespect to an undisputed club legend, it is merely reality and that carries far more weight than an ideals or naivety. Regardless the pressure is greater than it has ever been on Van Gaal, and the mixed reports vary between the Dutchman surviving the next few days or until the end of the season. Six games without a win and good displays are too far and few between. The natives are more restless than ever.
Adam Joseph is a freelance writer from Melbourne, Australia. Manchester United fan from back when they were the only team on Australian TV and it was love at first sight. Manchester United, Oklahoma City Thunder, New England Patriots and Carlton Blues fanatic. If it’s sport related, I’ll talk about it.
Follow him on twitter @