Many fans of my age and old enough to remember what it was like to climb to the summit of English football. Many had been to the summit before with Sir Matt Busby and then had to endure 26 years of something Hollywood’s best comedy writers would struggle to write. So, right now when I see the lack of patience with Louis van Gaal, I understand why. Some fans were never on the journey but they know the history, so even though they’re unhappy they are understanding.
Then there is a minority of fans who expect instant success and can’t except excuses, like the spoilt teenager born into a life of luxury and not understanding the hard work it took to provide that life, expecting a Ferrari for their first car. We joke this is the FIFA generation, a world where all players are fit and you don’t get a pop up message saying “Di Maria is unavailable, the lads house has just been burgled.”
A world that we all wish was a reality when it came to the team but that isn’t how football works…
When Sir Alex Ferguson took over from Ron Atkinson, life was like now in a way apart from social media and any expectation. He came in as a successful manager and we were ALL impressed he beat Real Madrid with Aberdeen. You could hardly imagine a manager doing that now.
Fergie commanded a lot of respect and it was that success that gave him the freedom to make decisions like selling fans’ favorites like Norman Whiteside, Paul McGrath and others. His football compared to Big Ron’s was to put it mildly, boring. So when some fans wanted Ferguson gone, believe me they had an argument, but those in the know knew what he was doing behind the scenes and it was those calming voices from our fan base that gave us comfort.
When we won the FA Cup, the majority of fans who supported Fergie felt vindicated, beating Barcelona we felt we were on our way and then tasting league glory but eventually losing out to Leeds gave us confidence and we were ALL on the same page again. There was a feeling that we could reach the summit and we did, eventually living there for two decades until the great man retired and this is where my comparisons with Liverpool come in.
In 1991 Liverpool fans congregated outside Anfield in tears, some in denial. This was a joke and to many it wasn’t funny. But the rumors were true, Kenny Dalglish, the mercurial player and hugely successful manager had quit the club whilst sitting pretty on top of the league.
Many Liverpool fans were unsure for the future but deep down believed the club built by Shankly would continue traditions and as usual, win everything in front of them.
The club itself had the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality which had served them well, from Shankly, to Paisley and then Dalglish. They were the dominant force in English football and their decision to give Graham Souness, a fans favorite, the job seemed logical at the time after his successful stint at Glasgow Rangers.
Liverpool fans were familiar with him thought he would do a good job, although to this day they are still stumbling to achieve anything close to what they did under Kenny…
So when David Moyes was given the Manchester United job, fans who didn’t witness Liverpool’s demise thought Moyes was the right choice, a safe pair of hands and a fellow Glaswegian. But those who were around in 1991 had alarm bells ringing, knowing he hadn’t earned an interview, let alone the job.
The six-year contract, the age of the squad, the decimation of the back room staff and the introduction of Phil Neville as a coach along with the bloke with the clip board were concerns to say the least, but the fact that Moyes seemed backed by the Great One, Sir Alex Ferguson, was equally horrifying. Despite all of that we still supported the team.
However, it transpired that Moyes wasn’t that safe pair of hands and didn’t have the full support of Ferguson. When it was announced Moyes was to go, few fans deep down thought it was the wrong decision. Most fans knew that for the club to avoid becoming another Liverpool it had to end this madness and bring in someone with real credentials.
We needed a revolution, from bottom to top and the fans understood this and because of Louis van Gaal’s pedigree, a manager who I consider the best manager out there for building foundations, we gave him our full support.
We finished 4th last season, despite:
1) Entire Defence leaving the club (Imagine where Chelsea would have finished if they went through that?)
2) 65 injuries.
3) Culling 30 players in twelve months, an entire squad of players unseen before!
4) Players like Di Maria & Falcao not turning up, RVP’s World Cup hangover.
5) No back up for Michael Carrick.
6) Players learning a complete new style of continental football.
7) Youth Players coming in when the pressure was really on.
Honestly, I cannot say I enjoy the style of football but to compete in Europe you need to keep possession. All the top teams play this way and are superior at the moment at least.
But I’m thankful we brought in Louis van Gaal, the Glazers and Ed Woodward gave their heads a wobble and instead of the plaster we had administered with Moyes, we went for surgery and in the end last season it all worked out because when we hear the first notes of the Champions League anthem, we should take a moment to ponder what van Gaal has done to achieve that.
Last note, people question the “strange” decisions of Louis van Gaal… I look at this way, Geniuses can be eccentric, just look at Sir Alex Ferguson…