It’s amazing to watch United these days, amazing by virtue of not having to watch them and accurately report on the game. You have to wonder whether journalists have actually been watching United in the last few matches as the match reports all look the same: United have 274% possession, United don’t have a shot in anger for 170 minutes, United fail to score in the first half of a home match for 19 years. You could write an accurate match report by just looking at the stats and doing something else with your afternoon instead
Even the television media’s most ardent defenders of United this season – as in the ex-United players and unofficial club ambassadors and the “Class of ‘92” who everybody needs to stop being in awe of – have given up trying to defend the slow death march that signifies Van Gaal’s brave new direction for the club. Paul Scholes nabbed a few headlines with a rather blunt analysis of United’s display against Sheffield United at the weekend in the cup. I usually dismiss out of hand anything Scholes says as there is always an agenda behind it involving his old muckers from United’s almost mythic “Class of ’92.”
An agenda that likely involves manoeuvring Giggs into the manager role at the club in some sort of medieval style coup de tat but with less excitement.
I used to think Giggs was the man. Not anymore. He’s been a party to a failed manager in awe of the club and a failing manager in awe of himself. When or more accurately, if, United see sense and kick Van Gaal out of the door a clearout of the backroom is needed, followed by another in the boardroom which should include Ferguson and Charlton who seem to be having an undue and damaging influence at the club.
Back to the football though, which I can’t help but take a detour from because writing about it means I have to think about it and relive it which is a thoroughly depressing experience. Frankly I’d rather relive nights out I had in various suspect establishments across Bury, Bolton and Rochdale during my teenage years. Nevertheless Scholes was correct to highlight the obvious unhappiness of the players. They have an air of emotion about them which is a combination of bored and utterly bloody terrified! Bored of the football and terrified to try something else in case they get bounced out of the club just like other players who are maybe willing to stand up and tell Van Gaal what he needs to hear. He’s wrong. He’s living off the past. He’s so arrogant and stubborn he resembles a penis with a quiff.
What’s more, you know things are reaching a tipping point when your own fans drift from booing their own team to openly mocking them as United fans started doing partway through the second half of the opener to their FA Cup campaign. That’s no mean feat from the United players and management to make us all forget that we need to be pillaring our opponents, Sheffield United for standing behind an unrepentant sex offender. It was utterly cringeworthy to even hear about, nevermind see. It should be considered far more embarrassing for players to be openly mocked than booed. Hostility can be overcome and turned around. Being seen as a laughing stock is not so. It creates the image that the club are not serious about challenging again.
However, don’t expect anything to change anytime soon. Van Gaal continues on his mission to antagonise the faithful by insulting their intelligence and then just plain insulting them; followed by insulting the journalists; followed by insulting the tea lady for having the temerity to dunk the teabag straight in the hot water as opposed to waving it above the mug for 2 hours without dropping it in the intended target of the hot water in the mug.
Van Gaal expects the tea lady to control the teabag for long periods rather than conceding possession of it to the hot water. Because nobody knows better about anything that ever existed than Louis Van Gaal. Van Gaal needs a reminder that as a manager of a football club you’re primary job is to engage the fans and players and you do that by making sure they enjoy themselves. It’s called entertainment and after 18 months and nearly quarter of a billion pounds spent on recruitment asking for entertainment is more than reasonable.
This depressing, deathly dirge is no laughing matter though. The paralysis that surrounds the club is extremely damaging. The board unwilling to sack the manager even though he won’t get better. The manager unwilling the change his methods. The players unwilling to take a stand and drag the club out of the mire of mediocrity and the fans unwilling to take action, such as not spending their hard earned money to force the board’s hand. It all adds up to United becoming a joke rather than a juggernaut.
The fact that United are becoming a punchline for even their own fans is a sign of a club dropping into mediocrity. It’s hard to attract the world’s best players when they don’t take you seriously. Irrespective of how much money United offer players they don’t want their reputation tarnished by being part of a laughable operation. So often, everyone round here mocked Liverpool for being a mediocre team, with hysterical fans living off past glories. Now United are heading down that long, dark, dystopian road at a fair old pace.