By Adam Joseph
Manchester United’s failures this season are significant and there is no getting around it. For the most part they’ve been boring and sometimes they’ve been borderline horrendous. Looking around them though, a question to ponder. Could it be worse?
There were no giant expectations heading into this season. Champions League was the base requirement. It wasn’t supposed to ever be this difficult. Sure, there might be teams nipping at their heels at times. But fourth place as a minimum was never supposed to be in danger.
Didn’t exactly turn out that way. Goals have been at a premium and David De Gea’s weekly brilliance has kept opposing attacks at bay. Chris Smalling has come into his own, whilst the youthful exuberance of Anthony Martial, Marcus Ashford and more have been a bright spot in a dark time for the club.
It gives hope for the future. New signings and current squad members give hope for the future. The likes of Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Matteo Darmian and Memphis will only get better. There’s lots of work to do, but upsides can be found within the disaster of Louis Van Gaal’s reign.
The eventual and inevitable appointment of Jose Mourinho brings short term hope. He will rebuild the team in his image and despite concerns, and the Portuguese can take care of a club that is teetering on the brink of joining the likes of Liverpool in the English footballing abyss.
This is where perspective must be taken on the current United situation this season. Liverpool despite the hiring of the innovate and brilliant mind of Jurgen Klopp, are still wandering in the middle tier of the Premier League.
Despite huge wins this season in crucial fixtures over Manchester City and Chelsea, they still languish in ninth below Stoke City, Southampton and West Ham. Their winning percentage with the German (41 percent) is not much better than Brendan Rodgers’ was this season (38 percent).
They will likely finish around seventh or eighth at best, and a crucial summer awaits as it remains to be seen if Klopp can build a squad worthy of his gegenpressing style now that he no longer works with the man who built his great Borussia Dortmund sides, Director of Football Michael Zorc.
Meanwhile Chelsea sit a place below them, managerless (for now, with Antonio Conte on the way) and equally uncertain on the pitch. Roman Abramovich’s sack happy culture has finally come back to bite him, and he must open the chequebook to rebuild an ailing squad.
John Terry requires a long term replacement, an all action midfielder is long overdue since Frank Lampard dominated the Stamford Bridge midfield and Eden Hazard is no guarantee to be at the club next season. His sale may finance their rebuild, but their future immediately back amongst the elite is by no means certain.
It is not just below United that there is uncertainty though. Arsenal face big decisions this summer with money needing to be spent alongside Arsene Wenger’s future being sorted. With limited options their hands might be tied, and a worthy replacement is a lot easier than it sounds.
Meanwhile across Manchester City Pep Guardiola’s arrival seems to have destabilised things at the Etihad. Despite positive results at Bournemouth and in the Champions League, the Citizens have seemed incredibly vulnerable since February’s Pep announcement.
There is a lot of work to do that rebuild that squad, let alone adjust to a new manager and training style. Whilst Leicester City and Tottenham are on the rise, they’ll face additional challenges with Champions League football to consider next season. There are no certainties.
Now this does not hide from the fact there are pivotal decisions to be made at Old Trafford, nor does this shield the very real issues the club has on and off the pitch. Ed Woodward is a laughing stock, whilst the squad still lacks the quality to push on all fronts. They also clearly lack faith in their manager and his philosophy.
Could be worse though, couldn’t it?
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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