By Adam Joseph
When a relationship ends or is emotionally over, it’s a bizarre feeling. Anger, discord, numbness, the works. Everything is still felt, but not in the same way. There is this utter feeling of disconnect. Sound something familiar? Welcome to watching Manchester United in 2016.
On Saturday a demotivated Manchester United epitomised a big section their fanbase with a display that lacked inspiration, creation and ultimately goals. They held on at home to beat Aston Villa at home 1-0.
Now think on that for a second. Manchester United, England’s proudest club and it’s most successful in history which most recently won the title in 2013 struggled to beat a club destined for relegation. Villa, the team who has put in the worst performance of a Premier League perhaps in history almost salvaged a draw.
The Villains have been so bad this season they cancelled their Player of the Year awards because no player truly deserved the award. If not for the contributed brilliance of David De Gea, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Chris Smalling and even the bizarrely underrated Daley Blind, who knows where United would be. It’s scary to think about.
Rashford bagged yet another goal when his strike caught Brad Guzan flatfooted to give the Red Devils a rare first half lead at home, but beyond that they did not create much. Memphis was impressive in the second half but Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney were unable to finish chances he created.
Perhaps it is that the players know the end is nigh, perhaps they don’t care, or maybe it’s just they are as disillusioned as the common fan of the club. They lack inspiration, drive and they just can’t seem to grasp the instructions Louis Van Gaal gives to them.
The simple explanation might be that they don’t believe in what they are being told. Reports are ongoing of discontent in the dressing room, whether it’s with the direction of the club or a lack of belief in what their manager is preaching. Team meetings, instructions on game day, the players appear as fed up as the fans.
Pre and post match conferences from Van Gaal or his players have grown ever tiresome to the point where they feel scripted or read from a manual. It feels almost insulting to the intelligence of fans that it’s believe that they would buy such drivel.
In a game where Manchester United had two shots on target against Tottenham, Van Gaal preached that they had played well until the first goal was scored. What game was he watching that the rest of the world was not?
Even worse, Van Gaal proceeded to hang his latest saviour Rashford out to dry with a stunning tirade about a chance the prodigy missed before Spurs opened the scoring. This can only tighten the noose that hangs around the Dutchman’s neck.
It is only even more depressing that those who were part of the anti-Mourinho bandwagon are so desperate to see Van Gaal gone that they have embraced the idea of the man they have resented since before the Dutchman even managed United. It symbolises the depths that the club have fallen in his tenure alone.
On the field, questions remain. Beyond the club’s saviours yet another rebuild awaits. Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Luke Shaw, Martial and Rashford are at the heart of a bright, young core. But to rely on players of such a tender age at one of the world’s biggest clubs is ridiculous.
Ed Woodward (should he even keep his job, another debate entirely) cannot fail for a sixth straight transfer window. The squad he has put together simply doesn’t work. He has failed two straight manager appointments, and cannot bottle a third.
There are rays of hope, there is no doubt. Holding on to De Gea is a pivotal part of that, as well as their young stars. Mourinho brings renewed optimism, but it is terrible to think that the end of the season will bring sheer relief to a large part of the fanbase.
The goals (especially considering the lack of them) aren’t as enjoyable. A shot on target every 63 minutes is good for putting them to sleep, not entertaining them. And to be falling out of love with the club you support is terrible to say, but it feels fitting.
Low phases and ruts happen in relationships sometimes, hopefully this is one of those and not something greater. Because that in itself, is the scariest thought of all.
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 @