Manchester United is the biggest football club on the planet. We have the most fans and the most diverse fan base, scattered across the world. I’m born in Australia, live in New York, have supported United all my life, and literally travelled the world to watch United play at Old Trafford and away.
Question my bona fides at your peril: In May 20019 I flew from Sydney to Rome (24hrs of flying and transit) for one night to see Barcelona win the Champions League Final. I’ve also sat in Anfield away, and with my mate Serge Fagelman (@SergeMUFC) at Old Trafford. And yes, I recently flew from New York to Detroit to see Liverpool beat United in the pre-season ICC friendly in July that José Mourinho rightly described as a “waste of money.” His empathy for us suffering fans is very astute. For the lifelong fans who at least remember the bad times as much as the good, not the on-demand generation who only know United by watching YouTube clips and idolizing the self-proclaimed vloggers who literally know nothing about football.
I fully respect the success of the vloggers and YouTubers for what they’ve accomplished and achieved. Turning a side hustle and a bit of fun into a living is no mean feat and I congratulate those who are making a living from it. Clearly, there’s a huge global marketplace for 24/7 Manchester United content that has many hungry fans wanting to know anything and everything about the club.
But for the most part, there’s an unhealthy tendency for this constant stream of hysteria and nonsense that is fuelling the stupidity and idiocy among our fan base. The utter absurdity of this self-righteous “real fan opinion” is so meaningless that it’s laughable. For starters, if you need to keep stating you’re a “real fan” perhaps you’re not? And opinion, as they say, “facts don’t care about your feelings” and neither do your opinions matter.
For example, I might have an opinion that I’m the fastest man alive, but the facts show that a certain United fan from Jamaica named Usain Bolt, actually is. My opinion, therefore, without any basis of fact, merit or reasoning, is basically worth less than a pile of dog shit. And some of these same vloggers with their YouTube channels literally have the most unaccountable opinions and views that are insanely stupid because these self-proclaimed pundits know about as much about business, the mechanics of the football business and the inner workings of Manchester United, as your local clairvoyant does about your life. They say whatever stream of consciousness comes to mind that day, whip up a social media frenzy, the clicks and likes and retweets come on the videos, and the cash registers clink and the United social media audit captures the sentiment of the fans. Heads they win, tails you lose, no matter how absurd the commentary. Fake News 1: Yanited 0.
Which leads me to José Mourinho. Someone who actually knows something about football. Perhaps more than all of us reading this, combined. Let’s start with the current predicament off the field at Manchester United. His CEO is a genius, Ed Woodward. His ability to commercialise the United brand is something we should legitimately all be grateful for. United are run like a successful business, because like it or not, we are a business. Unlike the sugar daddy funded clubs, let’s see how long they last lavishing the spending when the oil price drops or the owner wants a new plaything? United will be a sustainable and profitable enterprise who will ride out the business cycles and be there, year after year, with the cash to play at the big end of town. If I might borrow a phrase from José, that will underwrite our “football heritage” for the next 100 years.
From a football point of view, we can do better than Ed at the helm. Run the business, not the football. Honestly, what José has been left with in terms of a squad, is, to put it mildly, a joke. The fact that he took us to a very respectable 2nd place in the league, with a defence of Jones and Smalling and Rojo, wingers of Young and Valencia, and a midfield of Matic and Fellaini and Pogba, the guy is a genius. Are you telling me teacher’s pet Pep would’ve been able to play his tikka takka and won the league with that same mob last year? I didn’t think so, either. When José said it was his best achievement as a manager, it’s hard to fault him.
The utter nonsense that Mourinho parks the bus is completely unfair and given the talent at his disposal, it’s hard to argue with the pragmatism and his exceptional performances. In fact, his out-performance with a bang average squad in his first two seasons has worked against him. Why give him more money to rebuild and rejuvenate when he keeps weaving magic with the also-rans? Fair question for Ed and the bean counters. José is right to give them a taste of their own medicine and show their folly for neglecting the squad and investment.
There too, is another reason José is a victim of the errors of the past especially the free-spending ways of the clueless dinosaur Louis van Gaal. I might add I was at Wembley when we beat Palace in 2016 and the only thing that made me happier than lifting the FA Cup was the news that he was no longer going to ruin our club. Walking down Wembley Way with thousands of Reds, we were all singing José Mourinho’s name with excitement and happiness, before he even was announced. But, no one can argue the Glazers weren’t generous with the free-spending under van Gaal who spent £258.5million on 13 players. History might judge United overpaid for some dubious quality and that talent that has been too expensive to move on. Don’t anyone tell me Rojo is even near good enough, Darmian up to the standard required and Martial, it’s time get your head right or frankly, get lost. Herrera gets what United is all about and gives his heart and soul, but is he on par with Kevin de Bruyne? And before that, Moyes overpaid for Fellaini and Mata, illustrating my point further. I’m not even going to discuss Fellaini, and I love Mata and his blogs and his off-field pursuits, but all I care about is what happens on the field. He’s not a right winger, and he’s just not quick enough for the Premier League. Note that I haven’t even mentioned the legacy players Sir Alex bought and are still here like Jones, Smalling, Young, Valencia? You get my point. And so does José. Sir Alex, thank Heavens for signing David de Gea, and maybe you were also right about that young bloke from France with the sketchy agent.
Does anyone seriously disagree that we don’t need another centre back (or two), right fullback, box-to-box midfielder, right winger and second striker? José was right to identify Perišić and Milinković-Savić before any of the gurus in the vloggersphere could Google them and pretend they were scouting experts, and he was also right to want Maguire before the World Cup. Ed and the vloggers were wrong.
So given what he has to work within the boardroom and in the dressing room, do you wonder why he sets the team up the way he does? Plays the way we play? On top of that, he has Pogba and his entourage who want the big bucks without the graft, and I couldn’t care less what he does or has done in a blue jersey in Moscow, all that matters to me is what he does in a red jersey in Manchester! Deliver on the pitch and stop playing games off it. Or go. Fergie was wise and your antics remind us why he was probably right in the first place. Martial and his entourage of kids came of age on YouTube and remember his famous goal we all love watching the vines, take your talent and stop sulking and start scoring. Or don’t. If it’s the latter, time to sell him and I hope to be proved wrong about his talent when a club like Borussia Dortmund signs him as they often do for young, unproven talent. Reality check for the Martial FC, if he really is that good why no offers from Madrid or Barcelona? Why did PSG not bite for one of their own? Why did Deschamps not see the wisdom you vloggers espoused about Martial’s talents and need to be in the squad for Russia? Reminder, let’s hold their ridiculous fact-less opinions to account: France won the World Cup without even remotely needing Martial. Reality checks needed. Once again, José is right, and the vloggers are wrong.
Which leads us to our current predicament. Do I think José will be fired or resign in disgust, my assessment is no on both fronts? Firstly, this is the job he’s craved his entire career. He’s done it the hard way as a coach rising from Vitoria Setubal to the pinnacle of Old Trafford and will probably go down in history as one of the most successful managers of all time. His record speaks for itself, he’s young enough to win more Champions Leagues, Leagues and Cup Finals, and he’s also shrewd enough to find the right circumstances to coach a national team and try to win the World Cup someday. So despite the frustration with the current crop of average talent, he’s smart enough to play the long game and knows Ed needs him to succeed. More importantly, José doesn’t waste his time with the hyperbolic mainstream press nor the kids with an iPhone in the Twitterati analysing his team selection with same intelligence that they critique Paul Pogba’s hairstyle. Unlike the vlogger brigade, José judges players based on their performance on the field, not on Instagram likes or Twitter retweets. Besides, which project is more appealing for José to jump ship? PSG perhaps in the future, but it’s a pub league and they have a new manager and no current vacancy. Madrid likewise with a new manager who’ll have the unenviable job of rebuilding the squad just like José did a year ago. China? No chance. José is going nowhere unless he’s sacked.
Moreover, why would Ed and the bean counters sack him after three games? From a business point of view, it’s a dumb decision. Whoever you bring in, will inherit the same bang average squad and will doubtless demand as a condition of accepting the job hundreds of millions of pounds for a complete squad overhaul that can’t happen until January at the very earliest, but June 2019 the most realistic. And the club would have to pay through the nose for basic squad players in this current transfer market, only after paying José millions in compensation. And for what purpose other than to appease the vloggers and fake news merchants baying for blood to get more clicks and likes? Doesn’t solve the problems. Beyond that, José is the face of Manchester United. Whether we finish first or tenth in the league, he’s the galactico off the pitch and the face of the club to media and fans. He’s a sponsorship dream who generates his own publicity and has a brilliant turn of phrase generating headlines and more eyeballs on the United brand and the products aligned to it. Can’t see Ed wanting to do that job because he’s got the very important job managing the business already. So long as the business keeps ticking along and setting commercial records, José is the captain of the ship. And if José is turfed out by the sub-par prima donna player power, then why would any decent manager want the job and takeover under the current circumstances? And, who is even available of the requisite quality to replace him? Zidane? Really? Benitez might soon become available at Newcastle… I couldn’t help myself on that one, but it illustrates my point. Would Spurs sell an unproven Pochettino with a six-year contract? I doubt it. Cold showers needed, José isn’t going anywhere.
It’s time to accept the current squad is simply not good enough and Ed needs to do what José says and buy whoever he believes we need. If that means getting in a Director of Football or whatever, then so be it. But we need to get behind our Manager and let him turn the ship around, the same way we did with Fergie.
Remember: José is right and the vloggers are wrong.
Jeremy K. Balkin is a lifelong Manchester United fan and multi-award winning author. Follow him on twitter @jbapex.