Have you ever asked yourself this question? What exactly are these two words, when both put together, mean so much to us? ‘Manchester’ is a City, whereas ‘United’ is an emotion which gives meaning and colour to this city. United! Can we call our club United’ at this time? Not really. The club is in a total disarray, that too, just after two games of the season.
I have been supporting ‘our’ club for close to two decades, and this is the most toxic I have even seen us, the loyal fanbase. Social media fights between our supporters on toxic media channels like WhatsApp and Twitter are commonplace now. There are so many supporters who are calling for Mourinho’s head already and replace him with Zinedine Zidane, as if Zizou has a magic wand which will cure the club for all its troubles. I don’t understand this thinking. How can a true United fan, in his or her right frame of mind want the club to do badly? All this, just to get a new manager on the hot seat? This way, are you even supporting the club? Are you supporting that raw emotion called ‘Manchester United’? Say, in theory, even if we do get Zinedine Zidane, will his magic work at Manchester United? Maybe yes, maybe no. He is Zidane, not Harry Potter. Even Harry Potter took 7 books and 8 movies to defeat the bald dark lord. Mourinho may bide his time to defeat the other bald dark lord residing in the blue end of the city.
Gone are the days when finishing third or even second was considered a disaster. But that’s what the genius of Sir Alex Ferguson did to us. Funnily enough, it spoilt us with too much glory. Probably much more than we deserved.
The greatest manager of all time was spared by the social media hullabaloo. In fact during his time, the club did not have any social media presence whatsoever. Those times were different. But, with the times, our club has changed. Today, the club is run on a business model. Social media following is considered an asset which Ed Woodward gladly presents to our major shareholders every quarter. There are targets for the manager and for the board alike. Just like you and me have at our jobs. When they successfully meet those targets, their jobs stay safe. Effectively, it is an arrangement based more on revenue and league position and not much on passion. And may I say, it is a hugely-successful money-making enterprise.
Strangely, people seem to forget, Guardiola and Mourinho have won the exact number of trophies in English football. For the optimist, I can say that Mourinho has bettered Pep by winning something at a continental level with our Europa league triumph in 2017. But, optimism is a scarce commodity, especially amongst our fan base.
One defeat and BAM! Our optimism goes down like Titanic. Whatever is happening with the club is a complicated issue. Think of it as a never-ending power struggle between the manager and the board. The board would not have minded spending, but for a player with a right age. We spent big on Pogba, Lukaku, Fred, Lindelof, Bailly, Matic and the list goes on. Heck, Alexis Sanchez is the best-paid player in the league! Does someone actually think that Ed would have hesitated sanctioning a blockbuster 100 million pound move for someone like Raphael Varane, if he was available? No! But the board was right in staying true to our club’s traditions by not sanctioning more purchases of players like Sanchez and Matic with no sell-on value. Mourinho has bought two young center halves in each of the summers he has been at the club. But they have not developed as expected. But are they an upgrade on Phil Jones and Chris Smalling? Objectively thinking, I have my doubts. Of course, if Jose’s signings don’t do well, a finger will be firmly pointed at Mourinho. Mkhitaryan was a Mourinho buy and is already out of the club. Just like in any business, a budget is given to a manager. If it is not spent wisely, questions will be raised.
Let’s shift our attention to one proposed target, Ivan Perisic who is a left winger. Just like Sanchez, Martial or Rashford. Why would the board sanction a move for a 30-year old who will keep them out of the side? What about 60 million pounds for 29-year old Alderweireld? He could not even get in to the Tottenham first team in the tail-end of last season. Its nothing to do with passion. Its purely an economic decision and honestly, I respect the board for that. If Harry Maguire was as world class as the English media made him, he won’t be plying his trade at Leicester City.
But that does not mean Mourinho is at fault. Like the board sticking to their guns, Mourinho is sticking to his. He will forever be known as a ‘today’ manager. He is not someone who believes in long-term solutions. Just quick-fixes have worked well all his career. He was never going to be a long-term solution anyway. Just someone who will steady the ship through troubled waters. He himself will agree to this. And what kind of a job has he done till now? Let’s see.
We won a couple of trophies in his first season. More importantly, in his second season, he finally returned United to the top-4 in his second. In financial terms, that is a happy board.
But as anyone worth his salt in human resources would tell you, achieving targets at the expense of unhappy employees is a bad bargain in the longer run. In any industry, a bad financial year gets the managers sacked, not the CEO. The same principle applies even to United.
A director of football may help the proceedings. But that is another ego for Ed to be content with. (Plus, another name on the salary-sheet) But till the time that happens, isn’t it our duty to be as our name? United. Back the manager and the team and believe. Look at our away support. It never stopped singing Mourinho’s name even after a defeat. Sir Alex Ferguson’s address after his final game in-charge was to support our manager. Let’s do that till the board makes its decision. After all, as fans, all we can do is retweet and whine. We have no control whatsoever on the happenings at the club; in the boardroom or on the pitch. The Glazers won’t stop taking money out of ‘their’ investment. Jose Mourinho will not stop playing ‘his’ way. Let’s just get on with it. The same thing happened after the Arsenal’s invincible’s season. Everyone was pointing fingers at United saying we are over. But with the spirit of the Busby Babes lingering over us, Manchester United will never die.
This is like a marriage. There will be ups and downs, there will be good days, and there will be bad. But as they say, true love always finds a way. What is Manchester United, if it isn’t true love?