The week at Manchester United has been one for depressing realities. For all of the blind optimism in the world, at present, United are just not the club they used to be.
The most obvious point of contention has been the quality of the football. Louis and chums have had a good month, but it has been too little too late. On this point I am proud of our supporters for making their feelings about this known. Nobody else can be under any doubts about what is expected now.
Nonetheless, all indications suggest that Jose Mourinho will be wheeled in on a chariot of flames at the end of the season as United try and tackle Manchester City’s inauguration of Pep Guardiola.
The same Pep Guardiola who Sir Alex Ferguson coveted as his successor and the same Jose Mourinho who United overlooked to replace the Scot three years ago. Whilst Mourinho remains an impressive coach, United still look like they are grabbing the last manager on the dance floor.
In a world where the team on the pitch play unrecognisable football and court previously unwanted staff, the financial results are looking healthier than ever. United are set to become the first English football institution to bank half a billion pounds in a year and that is an impressive figure.
How this preposterous fiscal might has not translated itself into sporting excellence is clear. Half a billion pounds has been siphoned out of the club to financial agents and institutions to service the club’s debt.
This enormous revenue comes solely from the supporters. It is they who buy the tickets, the shirts and the TV subscriptions that provide the club with income. In return we are seeing worse football than Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City and watching our neighbours pinch the personnel we want.
But the financial results are good.
Change is, of course, a fact of life. None of the above complaints are anything new and they need to be weighed next to the positives Manchester United have experience over the eleven years since the club was taken over by the Glazer family.
In his final years as manager, Sir Alex was able to deliver a period of unprecedented success and built one of his most exciting teams. The Glazers were wise enough to let him get on with it, but the process of extracting as much money from the support as possible was well underway.
United have been praised for freezing ticket prices for several years, but considering how the quality of the product has diminished they would have been mad not too. Supporters are left feeling like they have paid for dinner but go home hungry at the moment.
No wonder the financial results are good.
Nobody on the terraces or watching at home fist pumps when the next profit and loss account is released. The sad reality is that Manchester United have as much chance of winning the Formula 1 as the Premier League this year.
With Pep turning up next door and a seemingly scattergun approach to managerial appointments and player recruitment in place, United fans are bracing themselves for a tough couple of years.
There remains hope the club will rediscover itself, but it is not burning as brightly as it could be. They are unrecognisable at present.
Mark is the author of Fergie’s Last Stand, just £3 this January
Follow him on www.twitter.com/markjpayne