The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Despite a couple of disappointing results in the few weeks, it’s hard not to feel quite enthused about all things United at present. For the first time since the upturn in form at the beginning of Solskjaer’s tenure we’re seeing real progress on the pitch. The contrast with what we witnessed throughout the entirety of last season is stark, with the team looking motivated, players committed and the crowd in full support as opposed to disengaged. What we’ve seen since the resumption after the World Cup has exceeded pretty much all expectations; going to Old Trafford is something to look forward to again and no longer feels like a chore. 

Whilst the players deserve much of the credit, the architect of this has been the manager. The more I hear him speak, the more I like him. No histrionics, no emoting, no fuss – he’s just quietly cracking on with the biggest job in football under unparalleled scrutiny and crucially, getting the big decisions right. Showing faith in Rashford, ruthlessly cutting Maguire and catapulting Ronaldo into the footballing wilderness were each huge calls, but they have quickly paid dividends and results speak for themselves. Both Martinez and Casemiro (much to Graeme Souness’ chagrin no doubt) are proving to be fantastic signings. 

We’re still a way off being the finished article, but all evidence points to the fact that Ten Hag knows what needs to be done and has plans in place to achieve this. If the club wasn’t up for sale we might have been in position to pick up a better option than Wout Weghorst to supplement the attack in the short term. Unfortunately, loan signings from Burnley are indicative of the financial reality facing the club as it seeks new investors or ownership. It’s doubly frustrating as the likelihood is that 80-odd points will win the league this season and we aren’t far off that target. 2 or 3 more key additions and this team could have been genuine title contenders. 

The football world is always a much nicer place when Blues’ heads are falling off and after defeat in the recent derby, there were more fantastic scenes following the release of their lengthy rap sheet at the conclusion of the Premier League’s 4 year investigation into City’s financial affairs. Reactions to this were mixed from those of my acquaintance, some are unmoved and find it all very amusing whereas others are extremely twitchy, aware that the consequences of a guilty verdict could be far-reaching. Vincent Kompany may well roll his eyes and Guardiola can blame everyone else for their predicament, but the evidence available in the public domain looks to be damning. 

Whether or not Manchester City ever actually receive punishment remains a moot point. We live in a country where people with wealth and power routinely evade justice for circumventing financial laws and regulations. Football has functioned within its own peculiar bubble for years and club owners are well versed in acting with financial impunity without sanction. City’s statement claiming they were “surprised” by the charges isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds. As far as they’re concerned they’re just playing the lucky hand they’ve been dealt in a game that’s been rigged for decades. 

Irrespective of whether anything comes of these particular charges, whilst football club ownership rules remain anything but “fit and proper” the game is only likely to face similar issues in future. Arab states, Russian oligarchs and US-based venture capitalists should never have been allowed to take control of 100+ year old community assets. City’s alleged transgressions are just the latest consequence of the Premier League and the FA deliberately choosing to look the other way and give tacit approval to unscrupulous foreign investors. The current mess wouldn’t require cleaning up if they’d maintained a semblance of common sense and integrity instead of welcoming these suitors in the first place. 

You would assume that with results improving there might be a drop off in the toxic bile spewed out by certain MUFC-affiliated content providers on social media. You’d be wrong. Harmony and positivity doesn’t tend to drive clicks so instead it’s full speed ahead with the usual attention-seeking knobhead agenda. Having declared war against Harry Maguire last season they’re having to dream up new scapegoats now and the latest, incredibly, is Alejandro Garnacho. A couple of less than stellar performances and he’s deemed “shit” and written off completely. Now I’m aware I’m also guilty of the odd knee-jerk reaction but this is taking the piss when talking about an 18 year old kid who’s made a great impact so far this season. 

I’m aware I’d be better served by not getting wound up by these people and their grift. I’m not their target audience and I could choose to simply ignore them. However, their very existence is a stain on the club and it’s support. I don’t like these people speaking as United fans on a public platform because they aren’t representative of United fans and they know nothing of our history and culture beyond what they’re read on the internet or seen on television. It wouldn’t be so bad if they were left to fester on their own YouTube channel but they’re now permeating the mainstream with the likes of SSN providing an outlet that further legitimises their bullshit. You know what I mean, fam? 

The weirdest sub-section of United online fandom are undoubtedly the twitter users who faithfully kept the Mason Greenwood flying throughout the duration of his absence over the last 12 months. Barely a week went by without seeing his name trending, with huge numbers of predominately overseas-based reds parroting their support and demanding their “starboy” be welcomed back with open arms. News that the CPS has dropped all charges last month sent these lads into overdrive. Apparently with Greenwood back and under Ten Hag’s tutelage, United would soon be “cooking”, whatever that’s supposed to mean. 

The club obviously has a decision to make over the coming months. There’s a lot to consider but it’s difficult to see any conclusion to this sorry episode other than Greenwood leaving at the end of the season. United is a commercial behemoth in thrall to multiple commercial partners, and that’s before you start to consider the opinions of individual stakeholders and how they might feel about implicit support for a player initially charged with attempted rape, controlling and coercive behaviour and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. There’s a decision to be made here, certainly – but it’s very clear what needs to happen.

Copyright Red News – February 2023


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