Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

Manchester United and its worst season in 30 years

Since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, thunderclouds have continually plagued the skies above Old Trafford. In 2014, the Stretford End faithful launched an assault on David Moyes’ damned premiership from the stratosphere. Within weeks, the Glaswegian had been dismissed. Ryan Giggs, Louis van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho have since been toppled, paving the way for Ole Gunnar Solskjær to ascend the Old Trafford throne.

A Champions League hero from a bygone era, Solskjær hit the ground the running upon his Premier League return, winning 14 of his first 19 matches in charge. The sun, so it seemed, was blazing across the red half of Manchester but United have bitterly reverted to type since appointing Solskjær on a permanent basis.

Eight games into the Premier League season, Manchester United are firmly in the bottom half of the table, having made their worst start to a campaign for 30 years. It seems a long time since Solskjær’s Parisian night of euphoria, especially in the week following his side’s dismal, scoreless draw against AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League. 

This isn’t a Football Manager save gone wrong: Manchester United have just been that bad

It was Manchester United’s Champions League scalp at the Parc des Princes that convinced Ed Woodward to halt his search for an experienced set of hands, and yet it was immediately after United’s rousing victory against a Neymar-less PSG that things have turned sour at Old Trafford.

The 12th placed Red Devils face the daunting visit of title-chasing Liverpool following the international break, amid a pantomime concoction of relegation fears, internal disbelief, and media-based mudslinging. Alan Shearer has labelled Solskjær’s team the worst he has seen in a generation, which is pertinent in the wake of United’s Tyneside humiliation at the hands of Steve Bruce. 

Unbelievably, this isn’t a Football Manager save gone wrong: Manchester United have just been that bad. In the wake of United’s defeat at St James’ Park, David de Gea addressed the press as bewilderment swept through his vocabulary. “They were the better team”. “We need to keep fighting.” “We cannot score even one goal in two games.” These are the words of a player flirting with a relegation battle, not a Manchester United goalkeeper.

Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, United have recruited abysmally

United’s descent to the doldrums has been arduous. Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, United have recruited abysmally, and seem intent upon entering a death spiral. It speaks to the heart of the issue that Marouane Fellaini – a player mocked ceaselessly upon his arrival in Manchester – would probably improve this United side. Ander Herrera’s bosman transfer to PSG encapsulates the state of mismanagement that is eating the club from inside-out. 

Ed Woodward has been simply myopic at the reigns. Unable to envisage beyond the end of his nose, Woodward has presided over the downfall of a dynasty that once struck fear into the hearts of football fans from all four corners of the globe. Today, Old Trafford stands as a monument to past glorious. The Theatre of Dreams has been captured by a dystopian nightmare and, with the aid of hindsight, it is now blindly clear where it all went wrong for United.

New York City, 31st August, 2012: the day Manchester United PLC was floated on the stock exchange. Since that day, Manchester United have been utterly rudderless, their fortunes tied to the whims of international stockholders in pursuit of a tidy buck. The result? Manchester United now resembles a patchwork of pain, torn and pulled in opposite directions by managers past and present.

David de Gea looks like a man haunted by fax messages of years gone by

In the world of Manchester United, a clear trend persists. Louis van Gaal, axed in the wake of FA Cup glory, wasn’t marketable enough; so, his head rolled. His successor, Jose Mourinho brought stardust to Manchester, but he too was curtailed by boardroom myopia. Reliant upon flashes of the spectacular from an aged Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho’s reign unravelled as quickly as it had begun. Paul Pogba, too, was signed to please the powers that be. Solskjær? Appointed because the board had no choice, with the club on such a fine run of form, it was financially prudent to give Solskjær the keys to the castle.

Marcus Rashford trudges around the field of play as though he has the weight of the world hoisted upon his shoulders. David de Gea looks like a man haunted by fax messages of years gone by. Solskjær has aged a decade in ten months, quite a feat for the baby-faced assassin. In 1990, it was unimaginable that a club of Liverpool’s might could spend three decades in the shade. With history in mind, Manchester United’s wait to return to the adults’ table could yet drag on.

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