Opinion: Like a fish, Manchester United have rotted from the head down

Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, crashing into each other like a Vaudeville routine, while Diogo Jota plundered the second of five Liverpool goals on a grim Sunday afternoon, is the best metaphor for Manchester United over the last seven years: A tragic high farce.

The “calm annihilation,” as Gary Neville put it, Manchester City inflicted on United just before the international break, was an afterthought. The reason was simply because it was expected by so many of us. That is a shocking indicator of the alarming way the club has atrophied in recent years.

Since Sir Alex Ferguson took retirement in 2013, United have simply ceased to be a serious footballing institution, careering from one expensive catastrophe to the next. It began with Fake Lawyers and Fellaini and culminated in emotionally scarring defeats to our biggest rivals.

Ole Gunner Solskjaer looks more like Shelly Levene than ever in each post-match autopsy. His blank at the interviewer while he described Sunday 24th October as “the darkest day” in his career was more than a little unsettling.

As an anecdote it is probably the most Solskjaer thing ever; smiling dimly while being roundly mocked by opposition fans and in some ways, his own paymasters, who hide in Florida while Old Trafford crumbles, metaphorically and literally.

Such dark days as recently had been looming for some time, as far back as the day Solksjaer was handed a permanent contract. Last season’s inauspicious start before recovering during a season where rival clubs were miles off their usual standards, should have been a warning, not a salve.

United did not just start flying by the seat of their pants during half time in the 4-2 defeat to Leicester several weeks back. Despite what Neville the Elder exclaimed, his brain slowly melting into entropy, as he tried everything possible to avoid the obvious conclusion of his old mate being out of his depth. United have simply relied on the individual excellence of Luke Shaw and Bruno Fernandes to bail them out. Once the form of those two dipped, due to exhaustion, United look a confused Charles Montgomery Burns choosing between Ketchup and Catsup.

Even Solskjaer’s appointment to the position of manager, on a permanent basis, was, a warning. His record indicated no qualifications to such an enormous position, and the same goes for much of his senior coaching staff as well as Darren Fletcher and John Murtough in executive positions. He is a good company man however, who meekly nods his head and says “yes sir” to everything the Glazers and their emissaries from Bristol University say and offer compliments on their outfits.

United prepared for 18 months for the arrival of Jadon Sancho to fill a gap in their attack. Within a month, the club tossed those plans out of the window to sign goal scoring statue, Cristiano Ronaldo, for no other reason than a nostalgia trip. Football is an irrelevant sideshow to the footballing Disneyworld the Glazer family desire. For the purposes of increasing their annual dividends, it makes perfect sense in the short term, to bring the Manchester United Museum onto the pitch as an active player, even when it makes the team significantly worse.

The front man for the Manchester United theme park, is of course chief mascot Solksjaer. A cult icon reduced to repeating the same mutterings of “Its our DNA” and “We’re Manchester United, it’s what we do” as the players muster more shots on their own goal than the opposition’s.

Anyone who thinks such an assessment of the man is harsh should look at the facts:

A couple of league titles in a low standard domestic competition and a Premier League relegation in a senior coaching career spanning over a decade is bad.

Being the longest serving manager since the maligned Dave Sexton to not win a trophy is worse.

Overseeing more than one-fifth of the club’s league defeats in the last 29 years is atrocious.

This is the result of a man with no plan, surrounded by staff with even less of a plan, bankrolled by an ownership, who can best be described as a posh Mike Ashley. Turning one of the great footballing institutions into risible Heritage project to line their pockets. Solskjaer is not the cause of Manchester United’s ailing health on the field, but he is a symptom.

It is highly unlikely that the latest of increasingly regular humiliations will spell the end of the beleaguered Norwegian’s time in charge. Nevertheless, the notion that the team will sufficiently rouse themselves as they have in the previous two seasons, is fanciful at best.

The apathy from the boardroom has clearly spread through to the players and fans, the latter are regularly having their egos fluffed by a lame duck manager spewing meaningless marketing platitudes about “The United Way” and “Our DNA.” The former look bereft of confidence in their coaches, themselves, and each other. United will beat an awful Watford this weekend, but with Chelsea and a resurgent Arsenal to come, fans must brace themselves for more pain while the club continues to drift.

Nevertheless, without on field success, commercial partners will soon interest in being associated with an organisation of losers who publicly make fools of themselves. Maybe then, the disaster capitalist, robber barons in Tampa, rotting the club from the top down, will be forced to make a change. Preferably by leaving.

It is a genuine shame for Ole that his legacy is being so brutally tarnished but while the punters love seeing Mickey Mouse at Disneyworld, nobody would ever seriously suggest putting him in charge. United are a club that needs to acknowledge its past rather than live in it, until that happens, sanity will not return to Old Trafford.

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1 Comment

  1. Although overwritten – entropy, atrophy and atrophy all feature in this short polemic – the analysis isn’t wrong (and is widely shared). Best line: ‘Solskjaer is not the cause of Manchester United’s ailing health on the field, but he is a symptom.’

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