Here we are again. Alongside the erratic form that has become the team’s hallmark in recent years, its ability to nosedive into a crisis every couple of months has become a constant. On the one hand, in recent weeks we’ve cruised to victory against Newcastle and Norwich and progressed in the FA Cup. More tellingly, we’ve been soundly beaten by Liverpool, City and Arsenal before the latest nadir of losing to Burnley at home. That win at the Etihad seems a long, long time ago now.
In the not too distant past, defeat to 3 rivals in a calendar month would have triggered a major inquest. These days it barely registers. It speaks volumes as to how far expectations have sunk that defeats are greeted with a weak smile from the manager and a shrug of the shoulders from everyone else. There’s no point blaming Solskjaer for the state we’re in, but his post-match interviews are now unwatchable.
Ole’s dogged determination to sprinkle sequins on dogshit seems to be working though. I’ve never known a time during my football watching life where in the aftermath of a trip to Anfield, some people you speak to seem almost enthused by a 0-2 defeat. “At least we had a go 2nd half.” Yeah, at least we had a go.
It appears we’ve made a similarly forlorn attempt at bringing in much-needed reinforcements during the transfer window. I don’t know what it is about this club, but whatever the internal process is for getting deals done seems to make an already tricky process even more convoluted. As per usual, strategy and long-term planning are unfathomably inconsistent. Back in August the club were briefing the usual suspects how they were irritated by the Fernandes rumours and simply weren’t interested. 6 months later, after his price has skyrocketed, United are suddenly all over him.
This leaves you with the impression that the club’s recently overhauled system of player recruitment still isn’t fit for purpose. A global network of 52 scouts, football development staff, a chief negotiator… yet successive windows come and go with the same end result. For all Woodward’s bluster in explaining his bold new vision during the recent UWS interview, it still feels like United are highly dysfunctional in this area. We deliberate too long, there are regular about-turns on priority targets and there’s little evidence of a long-term vision barring the painfully simplistic ‘try to buy young and cheap’.
For the last 6 months we’ve heard Ole acknowledge the fact we need strengthening several times, yet another transfer window has passed without any noticeable improvement to the squad’s overall quality. The club keep making noises that a re-build is in progress, but I don’t sense any urgency or desire to make the key acquisitions we’re crying out for.
It was obvious last season that our main problem was the midfield yet we spent all summer pursuing another central defender. The January window arrives and negotiations for Fernandes commence. If they broke down because Sporting hiked the price unreasonably, why didn’t United simply move onto the next choice target? Instead we retreat, sit on our hands and wait for the charade to begin again in June.
At some point, the penny might drop that much of United’s activity during these transfer windows amounts to little more than posturing. The proposed re-build doesn’t have to take years. Clubs aren’t limited to 1-2 signings during each transfer window. If there was a genuine determination to improve the team, there’s little doubt the process could be accelerated. Just because Sanchez was a disaster, it doesn’t mean every future piece of business completed in January would be similarly cursed. You can only assume that contrary to what the club likes to project, funds aren’t being made available for players that we desperately need.
I guess it all comes down to priorities. Whilst the playing squad is crying out for reinforcement, the club have instead taken on Neil Ashton (ex-The Sun) in a PR role. Rather than keeping this on the down-low, Ashton announced he was set to work for United on live television as he signed off from chairing Sky’s Sunday Supplement. It’s absolutely laughable. Within days, nonsense puff pieces starting appearing all over the shop. ‘Ed’s doing a good job ‘cos the share price is booming’, ‘United to beef-up scouting efforts’ etc, etc. None of this guff will placate the perma-sceptical fanbase so presumably it’s a vain attempt at reassuring potential sponsors all is well. Priorities.
You know things are getting really bad when stalwarts like Ashley Young are jumping ship, rejecting a 12 month extension for the chance to join up with Lukaku and Sanchez at Inter. I could join in with the misty-eyed, hypocrites praising his commitment and professionalism at this point but that’s no fun, is it? I never liked him and I’d be a liar if I started pretending otherwise. That stupid thing he does raising both hands before every shit corner annoyed me as much as Valencia standing still with the ball at his feet when facing an opposition full-back. He stayed 7 years too long and I feel genuinely enthused by the fact he’s gone.
In case you hadn’t noticed, the level of toxicity surrounding the club is growing by the week. Audible dissent has been heard at OT for the first time since the Green & Gold days and the always tetchy social media crowd continue to fling vitriol around with wild abandon. This is not exactly a new development of course, they’re always on the verge of a fresh meltdown, but each poor result increases the bile a few more notches.
The latest bone of contention was talk of organising a mass walkout during today’s Wolves game, somewhat crassly planned for the 58th minute. Having seriously considered the idea for a few moments, I reached the conclusion that it just wouldn’t work. Even if 15,000 leave the ground, that’s 60,000 still sat there singing ‘You are my Solskjaer’ in implicit approval of what they’re watching. End result is we’d be doing Ashton’s job for him.
Finally, in case you missed it, Red Issue’s former Ed came out of semi-retirement last month and unleashed, via twitter, a scathing expose of the parasitic fancam clowns who have attached themselves to the club in recent times. It was quite something and a timely reminder of how they’re still sadly missed in United fanzine circles. You were left marvelling, as ever, at both the forensic research carried out and the sheer level of invective they specialise in. We can all try, but nobody calls out bullshit better.
Copyright Red News – February 2020