“And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain…” Sheesh, I wish. It’s still only February though, so we’ve got another 12 weeks of this absolute horror show to witness. The latest debacle in the ever lengthening list of debacles is (checks Google for spelling) FC Midtjylland. Anyone else heard of this bunch? No, me neither. Anyway they battered us. Of course they did – I mean, why wouldn’t they?
A few months back I decided to purge my life of a Sky Sports/BT subscription and invest in one of those little Android streaming box gizmos instead. It’s a pretty nifty bit of kit to be fair, as long as you prepare yourself for the fact that it only works 80% of the time and accept that some games are like watching the action in a strobe-lit blizzard… c/w 30 second pauses and a US commentary team. Given the current state of United, this can actually work out quite well. You end up missing at least 15 minutes of the game by messing about looking for a working link, and the regular pauses in play are often indistinguishable from watching the game at normal speed.
Anyway, last night was one of those occasions where I struggled to find a reliable stream, but the bits of the game I did see almost defied belief. To put it in perspective, the opposition were in the middle of their winter break and hadn’t played for 2 months – and had enjoyed only 1 win in 10 games before that. The Danish league, with no disrespect intended, probably files somewhere alongside Scotland in the ranks of Europe’s finest. United meanwhile, are slap bang in the middle of a campaign playing in what’s alleged to be the most competitive league in the world. Regardless of form or injuries then, this was as close to a ‘David v Goliath’ fixture as you’re ever going to find in European football.
Even allowing for a deflected, breakaway goal or an inexplicable defensive lapse, you would still have expected the obvious differences in fitness and match sharpness to be the Danes’ undoing. Point being that even if the ‘inferior’ opposition managed to land a few early body blows, fatigue would eventually set in allowing the gulf in class to become apparent. After all, despite a lengthy injury list, United still managed to put out a starting team containing 8 internationals. It should have been more than enough to despatch a team of minnows beaten 9-1 on aggregate by Napoli a few months back.
If only. Instead, it was another of those occasions where United completely failed to assert any kind of dominance on proceedings. For a team that sets out to play a low-risk, possession football, it’s absolutely remarkable how bad we are at doing the simple things like passing 6 yards and controlling the ball. If we could hold onto it for more than 10 seconds, the determination to rack up 10,000 passes per game might start to make some sense – but we are consistently useless at doing the basics. All this, combined with the clear lack of desire, spirit, belief… everything you need to be even moderately successful… well, it just isn’t there anymore. Whatever we had, we’ve lost it completely.
The weirdest thing in all this, is that no matter how badly things continue to unravel, it’s looking increasingly likely that Van Gaal won’t be sacked before the end of the season. Now whilst I don’t think he’s in possession of photos of certain board members in compromising positions, that possibility can’t be ruled out either. Seriously though, for all the criticism Woodward and his cohorts have faced over the last few months, surely it’s now clear that this hasn’t worked out as envisaged? I know Ed’s formative football years were spent leading the youth firm of Chelmsford City during breaks from boarding school, but there’s also a semi-competent business mind lurking beneath those pinched features of his.
So why hasn’t Van Gaal been binned yet? Is there a full-on civil war taking place in the OT corridors of power as has been alluded to elsewhere? It’s a juicy story, yes – but the idea doesn’t quite add up. Are a section of the board really so Machiavellian that they’d attempt to dissuade the Glazer’s from making overtures towards Mendes re: Mourinho? Either based on a personal grudge or some deranged attempt to preserve Fergie’s legacy and keep the Co92 axis in place. 3 years ago the Glazers may well have listened if he and Sir Bobby were indeed making such noises, but after 3 seasons of Mogadon-tasting decline, it’s clear that any attempts at continuity – appointing a proto-Fergie in the shape of Moyes or priming Giggs as a long-term successor under the ageing Van Gaal – have flopped spectacularly.
Although Fergie and Gill still have a voice, and no doubt the ear of the Glazers, it’s still Ed and Dickie Arnold who are running the show day to day. Truth is, I find it hard to believe that the next manager of United hasn’t already been lined up and all parties have simply taken a vow of silence for the time being – namely in some well-meaning attempt to spare Van Gaal the indignity of the sack before a cosy ‘mutual agreement’ is reached at the end of the season. For all Woodward’s mistakes, and there have been numerous, I’m still soft enough to assume he’s quietly been making calls over the last couple of months, and not simply sat on his hands expecting to see his faith in Van Gaal rewarded eventually.
Now hang on a minute, this is more like it. As I’m writing, there’s news emerging that Mourinho to United could actually be a done dealio. Moratti’s sister has just rolled out of some dinner with Jose and worded the Italian press that he’s on his way to OT next season. Now she could be wumming them, just as he could be wumming her – but the noises are getting louder from pretty much every source in existence barring the club itself.
If it did transpire we were turning Portuguese next season, then I’ve no idea whatsoever if the appointment would prove to be successful or not. Mourinho’s last two gigs have ended on a sour note for a manager who’d previously thrived on forming close alliances his senior players. He is difficult (paranoid, monstrous ego, arrogant, capable of being a complete bellend) in much the same way that Ferguson was difficult and Van Gaal is difficult. However, in evaluating the current state of United, it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that we’re in desperate need of something, more precisely someone, to extricate us from this mire we find ourselves in.
C’mon Ed, don’t let us down here. It’s time…
Copyright Red News – February 2016