12) Unprecedented situation
In the last 27 years, when times were ‘bad’, the team would be forced to look inward and respond, with Sir Alex Ferguson beyond reproach. He radiated a confidence, menace and legacy that both inspired his players, while cowing the opposition. His presence was a psychological yard, born of Fergie Time, watch tapping, gum chewing, ref ogling, fan inspiring, bounce-back-ability – all of which has disappeared, replaced by an ashen man, face contorted in permanent grimace, yet narrating cheerfully over his own existence as if comforted by the paralyzing glow of fait accompli.
13) The Glazers
“As I have frequently pointed out, the interest bill from all this debt has totaled circa £350 million since the takeover and the total cost (including fees, derivative losses and debt repayments) is almost £600 million. Paying interest has taken far more of the club’s cash than has been spent on transfers.”
There’s a lot to say about the Glazers’ ownership of the club, but little that hasn’t been said more lucidly by Anders Red.
14) Players lacking character or quality
When Robbie Savage produces a list of 12 players that Manchester United need to sell and you agree with 90% of them… well, you know the rest.
15) David Moyes
Where do you begin to put things right? Problem is, it might be any one of these problems. It might be a combination of these problems. It might be that one of these problems disproportionately affects the other problems – but which? Or is it something nobody outside the club can see? You can drive yourself mad just working out where the key issues are, and where to start – and therein lies the scale of the task.
No one person could create, or solve, all of these issues alone – but you can bet Moyes takes them to bed, dreams about them and wakes up to more. Bluntly, that’s what managers do – take responsibility for everything, fairly or not. It’s clearly too big a job for one man but that man needs to select his generals carefully and know exactly what to delegate, all the while masking his myriad problems with cheerful refrain.
However, there’s one thing guaranteed to make almost all of these problems go away: winning football matches. Win them ugly. Win them lucky. Scrape a few 1-0 wins. Luck out on a winning formation through injury. It doesn’t matter. Victory is the panacea for all ills. For all the Pro Zone stats, sports science and cod-psychology, you need to score more goals than the other team (#insight).
But as any Football Manager player will tell you, let alone a Premier League custodian, it’s not easy. You often feel like you’re drowning in a database of levers and buttons, all doing something but not necessarily affecting the bit that matters. And when you do get it right, the best strategy tends to be leaving things alone. Keep the plates spinning at all costs. Even in a winning team, any number of things might, technically, be going wrong – it’s just that they’re no longer an issue. Moyes’ challenge is trying to make the things that are more obviously wrong go away and hope the rest falls into place before something else goes wrong.
An inordinate amount of nonsense has been written about the scale and causes of United’s demise, not least in the last few paragraphs, but it’s worth considering that if Van Persie and Rooney had stayed fit, these 3500 words might not exist at all.