By Adam Joseph
Normally 3-3 draws are raved about. They don’t come around often, so when they do they are widely praised as brilliant displays of football. However the 3-3 showing from Manchester United and Newcastle United was not that at all, certainly for the red side of Manchester anyway.
Fans of the Toon Army might rave about the game, such is the plight of their current fortune. They performed well, and Paul Dummett’s late equaliser will be remembered for years to come by their supporters. It was deflected but nevertheless spectacular.
For the Red Devils, it was perhaps one of the most frustrating displays of football they had witnessed. Despite a stunning team goal capped off with a classy Jesse Lingard finish alongside a brilliant first time effort from Wayne Rooney (who was United’s best player on the day), United defended terribly.
The saddest part of the equaliser was that it didn’t surprise, the fact United were in a winning position was more so. Fans lacked so much optimism before kick off many were predicting a draw or worse for their club, even though Newcastle had been held scoreless in their last four fixtures.
That itself is a damning indictment of the performance. A team who had not scored in their last four games put three goals past David De Gea and the defence that is supposed to protect him. Ashley Young was the best of the back four, and he is not even a defender.
But frankly, neither is Daley Blind. His incisive forward passes have been crucial to a very bland United set up this season but to ask a natural defensive midfielder and occasional full back to become a central defender because of a lack of alternatives is embarrassing. Maybe at a smaller club with lesser resources, but when you’re spending the money United are it’s unacceptable.
That’s not an indictment of Blind either, who could make a claim as one of the club’s best performers this season. No it is an attack on the manager who coaches him, and the executive in charge of football matters who has failed consistently to put a winning squad together.
It starts with Ed Woodward, whom some seem to think is free of blame in all of these struggles. Do they forget who signs those cheques for the players who are signed? Who drives the transfer policy of the largest footballing and commercial operation in the world?
It is true that Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill have been retained in some capacity with the board since their departures as manager and chief executive respectively. But they are not entrusted with the final say on every decision made at United. That lies with Woodward.
It was Woodward who appointed David Moyes as Ferguson’s successor and it was him who failed to acquire targets like Toni Kroos, Ezequiel Garay, Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas that same summer whilst ending the window with an overpriced Marouane Fellaini as the only first team signing? This was all because he was chasing the likes of Gareth Bale, whose heart was clearly set on Madrid.
Whilst he has been brilliant for the club commercially, where United are stronger than they have ever been his lack of football knowledge and preference for superstars over what’s best for the squad has seen him fail to sign key defensive and attacking targets. Not many would argue with the departures Van Gaal has culled from the team, but the failure to replace them has come back to bite him big time.
Woodward has had five (and now six this winter) windows to find a central defender. Perhaps you miss out on one in a single window, but even that is somewhat unacceptable. But now that it’s a few years? It is beyond a joke.
The failure to implement the players given to him however lies with Van Gaal. His football is boring, and it boggles the mind as to how he cannot score goals without leaking goals like a sieve or defend brilliantly without the ability to score as a result.
There’s no doubting the squad lacks balance, it has been said time and again for too long. But the fault with that falls at the feet of the men in charge of the club’s personnel and with adding to it. Van Gaal’s persistence with a small squad has backfired hugely, as has Woodward’s preference for commercially appealing players.
With United’s current plight, can the world’s best players really be expected to come? The aura of Old Trafford is all well and good, but the stars of the sport aren’t going to come play for fans who are used to being put to sleep by the negative football presented to them.
The Newcastle result was an improvement in ways, but at the end of the day results are what wins in football. Possession can be useful if you use it to create, not just to dominate the ball. Clean sheets are terrific, but mean little if you cannot use that solidity to score up the other end. Goals are great, but what’s the point if you can’t keep them out.
Meanwhile across town Manchester City are relishing from years of recent successful decision making and recruitment and it will likely see them hire the man whose the best fit for both clubs as the future manager, the in demand Pep Guardiola.
United’s problems are long and damning, and trace back through years of bad decision making by men who should not be charged with making them. Like they were with Moyes, crucial action will not be taken until it’s far too late and another trophyless season is lost.
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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