Five years ago, David Moyes famously said in a press conference that Manchester United must improve in a number of key areas, including “passing, creating chances and defending.”
Anybody who watched Man United’s latest display, a 2-2 draw with 18th placed Southampton, would feel inclined to pass on this prognosis to Jose Mourinho, whose toxicity both on and off the pitch is stripping supporters of all the joy which comes with following your team.
But that observation from Moyes has broader connotations for this club. Five years on, this United team, under Mourinho, is demonstrating the all same traits which were on display back in the dark ages of the 2013/14 campaign. They are, fundamentally, bereft of confidence, unaware of how best to use possession, lack attacking potency, and, increasingly, look as if they no longer know how to win games. The same was also the case under Louis van Gaal.
In other words, we have entered Groundhog Day, or perhaps a form of The Matrix, only any pill you take means watching Antonio Valencia at right back on an endless loop until you die.
Three managers have taken charge since Sir Alex Ferguson, bringing with them different personalities and playing styles and transfers, yet what happens on the pitch is exactly the same each time. The problem is therefore more endemic, deeply rooted in the club’s structure. The fault is not in the execution but rather the design itself.
How has this happened? Who is to blame? Can anything be done? I have, personally, offered my own thoughts on this issue several times (you can read an example here), so why not get it from someone like Henry Winter, who was recently chosen as the sole British journalist to cast their vote at the 2018 Balon d’Or awards. His insight into the club’s issues is spot on.