Manchester United are nearing the middle of a crisis.
With the board and the manager on differing wavelengths and on different pages of the same book, things have all the makings of going terribly wrong. With the summer transfer window about two weeks away from slamming shut, the club has failed to get the players it needs and Jose Mourinho is cutting a very toned down version of himself in every press-conference he gives- a reflection of the mood around the club.
Perhaps it was meant to be this way for United with Mourinho- a man whose ideologies hardly fit the demands of a board that wants everything to be done in a traditional way when the manager is poles apart in his thinking for what he wants to do. And it is coming out in the open. We have two parties from differing ideologies trying to make sure that the club goes in the direction they want.
And while this friction will lead to wreckage for the club and will bring it ever closer to disaster, it will cost Mourinho his job sooner or later. And once that happens, the club will be back where it was in May, 2013 when Sir Alex Ferguson retired from the highly coveted post. In fact, Sir Alex’s presence or the lack of it wasn’t as important as that of another man who departed along with him- David Alan Gill.
The issue lies in the way the club is run. As much so with those who run it. And also with the mentality of those who run it. The way it is being run currently is a sad sight for a club that boasts of being the richest in the world for three consecutive seasons. And because of the way the club is run, bringing in a new manager won’t do much in the long-term.
Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton hail from times when football was completely different to how it is today. While their achievements were absolutely incredible, their involvement in the club’s has reached a point where instead of taking the club forward, it is keeping it still. While maintaining the tradition of the club and retaining its culture is perfect, but there has to be a degree of adaptation involved while running the club.
Remember that both Sir Bobby and Sir Alex were very skeptical about having Mourinho as the manager back in 2013 because of his ways and internal strife that currently exists about everything that exists roots from an understanding of the game that dates back to the times gone by. With Jose Mourinho looking to sign players like Ivan Perisic and Willian, who are no doubt short-term signings, that seems like the only way United will have a chance of winning the title next season. The board is wanting Jose to go for younger players and think of the long-term. And this disagreement comes months after Jose was handed all the backing in the world when he was handed a new contract.
The problem lies deeper than a mere clash of ideologies. The club’s chief executive Ed Woodward is a man who has no background in football and goes to bed carrying a calculator in his hand. The board of directors too, bar Sir Alex and Sir Bobby, have zero footballing background. And if people from differing walks of life are the directors of a mighty club like United, strife like this is bound to happen. And United are clearly struggling between a business ideology and the ideology that pertains to the club’s culture. And that is creating chaos, especially with a manager who will be sacked if he doesn’t win the title this season and is seeking short-term signings to do the same.
At this point, it would be good to look at a club like Roma. The giallorossi are owned by James Pallotta, an American business who has no background of football whatsoever, but below him is the great Monchi, who is the best sporting director in the world right now. His experience makes him someone who has a very intuitive footballing brain on top of a hands that carry a calculator. He makes up for Pallotta’s low knowledge of football and gives the club an impeccable direction that doesn’t just improve the things on the pitch, but also knows how to run the club as a business.
Closer home, the example of Tottenham would be typical. The club owner – Joe Lewis, is a billionaire and lives in the Bahamas. Below him works the chairman- the infamously famous Daniel Levy, who has a footballing background after having worked at Rangers previously before having joined Spurs back in 2001. The rest of the board consists of business minded people and no wonder why Levy is one of the shrewdest men in football currently.
Manchester United are no near a club close to either Roma or Spurs. They’re like a bunch of individuals who have nothing in common but struggle to fall to something common. The presence of both Sir Alex and Sir Bobby overcomplicates things, even if Ed Woodward is a good chief executive.
And one should be pleased to see the Neville brothers, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs accumulating vital experience of running Salford City FC. And they’re doing it very well. They have terrific football backgrounds and share a vision and form a board that is very sure of the direction they’re heading towards. At United, its a mix and match that is creating massive issues and is hindering the progress of this club. There is hardly a common vision. What Sir Alex want will not be what the other business-minded individual want.
Because of that, Ed Woodward and Jose Mourinho are made the scapegoats when things go wrong when the actual problems lie in the structure of the hierarchy. And things have to change. That change should start from the top. It should necessarily involve lowering the powers that Sir Alex and Sir Bobby have, but the board should either have all members being business-minded individuals or football people.
Mourinho will be gone soon and this stint will probably tarnish his name more than the successful stints helped him prove his worth. But the United issue will drag on even after Mourinho leaves. The sooner it gets corrected, the clearer the direction will become. The more time they take, the number of times the club falls back to enduring torrid transitions will increase.