By Adam Joseph
To say Manchester United are in trouble is an understatement and frankly an almost tired phrase at this point. Another horrible performance needs no more mentioning than to say this – United were never winning that game. They were barely had a chance of scoring let alone taking home any points. The season is slipping away.
Rumours abound and nobody outside the club knows for sure what will happen as far as the managerial situation goes. For now, Louis Van Gaal lives to fight another day, and Ed Woodward appears to have backed his man for the Chelsea fixture tonight. Whether that is now a chance too many however, none will know for another 24 hours.
Nonetheless, Woodward’s future should be called into question too. In his time at the helm of the world’s biggest footballing and commercial entity, he has hired and fired David Moyes, may do the same with Van Gaal and has arguably failed in all five transfer windows he’s overseen. Time and again he has chosen the commercial route to signing players, rather than focusing on these who fit on the field and value. His leadership is taking Old Trafford down a Liverpool-type path. It’s a dangerous road.
Meanwhile, the players have shamed themselves yet again with another drab and ultimately uninspiring performance. They were lifeless, and the 90 minutes at the Brittania Stadium on Saturday was arguably the lowest point for the club yet in the Van Gaal era.
Public displays and comments of unity are all well and good, but ultimately they serve as a slap in the face and an insult to the intelligence of the common fan. On field performance is a far better indicator of support for their Dutch leader than any pre or post match comments could ever convey.
There’s no doubting that Van Gaal has overseen a severe rebuilding at Old Trafford and it must be said that he deserves credit for that. United fans should be thanking him for coming in to an almost impossible task after the disastrous Moyes era.
The Scotsman destroyed the last parts of a title winning squad and Van Gaal inherited the burning ruins. He completely revamped the team and got them back on track on and off the field. But now the tide has turned and progress has stalled. Fans are tired of drab, boring football that is no longer producing the desired results.
Those results were fine when the team was winning and either on top of the table or a mere two points behind. Now that the club is on its longest losing streak (four matches) since 1961 and is winless in seven fixtures (potentially eight tomorrow), the club faces a pivotal moment in its history.
It can stand by its manager with a public declaration on his future. The silence thus far though has been deafening. To not make a statement either way on Van Gaal’s future is a perhaps damning indictment on his future, but it could also indicate they know no better than the fans do. There in itself lies half the problem.
The issues within the club can be traced to poor leadership from the top of the club. Ownership has made it clear under their tenure that commercial success is paramount, and that seems to have pored over to Woodward’s leadership of the club. Commercial interests have overtaken footballing interests and it’s now officially taking its toll. Van Gaal himself has criticised this not long after taking charge last year.
What the non-football men at the club fail to grasp is that footballing interests have a big impact on commercial ones. Sponsorships will be taken care of if the team is performing. If the on field performance resembles a sinking ship, how long do sponsors continue to hang round and pour money into the club when they can jump onto other clubs who are rising on the field? That will also reflect in the club’s ability to attract the biggest names to Old Trafford.
Unfortunately as painful as it is to say, Manchester United is embarrassing itself at present. It’s a horrible look for the club itself and it’s fans. So does the club take the risk of another potential defeat to the struggling champions tomorrow? It seems that way.
If that is the case and United lose to the Blues, then the blues themselves will truly hit home for the red side of Manchester. The Red Devils will be well adrift of even fourth place with a mountain to climb to get back into the Champions League picture let alone the title race. They can take consolation in that the parity of the league is making their rivals trip over themselves in the race for European football.
However if the Blues do get the three points they will only be seven points behind United with another 19 games to go. The gap between them seemed insurmountable not too long ago. Standing sixth in the table now, a loss could potentially see United 10th by tomorrow night. This cannot be understated.
It is a crucial moment in Manchester United’s present and future, whether it’s a win or a loss against the Blues. What is clear though, that leadership from all aspects of the club is what it will take to lead them out of this mess. Fans keep believing and stating that it can’t get any worse, the scary part of all this though? Is that it can.
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.
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