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Manchester United: A Club Divided On and Off The Pitch

Man United are a mess of a football club.

The Manchester United which we know now, is a fractured and divided club. This wasn’t always the case, to many Manchester United led by Sir Alex Ferguson ruined their childhood. The demise has been rapid, but Man United have been masters of their downfall. So where did it all begin?

Rewind to 2013: Robin Van Persie’s hat-trick sealed Manchester United’s 20th Premier League title, a high point in English football. This victory was bittersweet, as it heralded Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. In his farewell speech at Old Trafford, he implored fans to stand by his successor. Yet, the years after his retirement have seen the club struggling to recapture Ferguson’s winning formula. The friction among fans is palpable, stemming from ownership battles to mixed allegiances among players, fans and managers. This ongoing mess has entrenched a cycle of unfulfilled expectations.

Your job now is to stand by our new manager.

Sir Alex Ferguson on his final game as Man United manager
Sir Alex Ferguson Final Game Farewell Manches 2943423

In his last game at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson asked the fans to be patient with the new manager. He did not know at that time fans would have to wait 11 years, and still counting, to replicate the kind of success they had under the greatest manager of all time. The issues at the Red Devils are well documented, and with the success of the early century eluding the club for a long time, the fanbase has become more divided than ever over a lot of issues. With issues ranging from ownership, to favourite players, to managers, and during all that, one constant issue remained: the false dawn.

The Carousel of Managers

After Sir Alex Ferguson, Man United hired David Moyes, hoping that he would replicate the success that his compatriot had for 26 years. He was labelled the chosen one, but after one season he was frozen out of United’s future. Louis Van Gaal, a manager with a different approach to football, took over after Moyes’ 10-month tenure. The Dutch coach came after a successful World Cup campaign with the Netherlands. He was highly regarded and was well known for his success everywhere he coached, Van Gaal was presented as the saviour of a sinking ship.

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The result was one of the most boring Man United teams of all time. United had become a chore to watch, for fans and even neutrals, it wasn’t the United way. He was ignominiously sacked after winning the FA Cup final from dancing buffoon Alan Pardew, with a winning goal from another dancing buffoon Jesse Lingard being the difference.

Following the Dutch coach through the door, one of the most successful football coaches of the 21st century: was Jose Mourinho. Jose’s time was successful at points but the long-lasting memory of his time at the club was toxicity. He may have ended up being right about some things, and some players, but that is beside the point.

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The issue that United failed to acknowledge with all of these new hires and sackings was that, with each new manager, was a new manager with a different tactical view from his predecessor. The result was a mildly successful first season, then a 2nd place finish in the second season which the Portuguese manager calls to this day one of his biggest achievements in football.

“Finishing second with United may have been my greatest achievement.”

Jose Mourinho on managing Man United

Yet, it ended like it always ends with Mourinho; a toxic locker room and attacking players in the media which forced the club to turn to the soft touch of club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Ole had a start to his interim period not even he dreamt of. A magical night in Paris earned Ole a full-time job with United legend Rio Ferdinand chiming in and saying:

“Let him sign the contract. Ole’s at the wheel man, he’s doing his thing, Man United are back.”

Rio Ferdinand on BT Sports.

Ole brought back the feeling of the good old days for Manchester United fans. After two mostly good seasons, he pushed on to make a title charge. In his final season at United the club sanctioned signing of Jadon Sancho, and Raphael Varane, and the return of one of football’s greatest players, Cristiano Ronaldo.

The fans dared to dream of getting the Premier League title back.

EtH Ronaldo

Not before long, their dreams came crashing down. After humiliating losses to their biggest rivals that cost Ole his job. Then there was Carrick for a spell, and then Rangnick. Rangnick came to the club renowned by football people as the Godfather of the Gegenpress, but had not coached for some years before that. At the time, some players didn’t even know who he was. His spell was an unmitigated disaster, and that is putting it kindly. The players revolted, the players bullied members of staff and Rangnick’s style was abandoned because once again, the players refused to do it.

After all that came Erik Ten Hag. Another Dutch coach with pedigree. A defined style and system who had worked under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola at Bayern and learned from Johan Cryff’s Total Football methodology at Ajax. He pipped Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino to the post and was hired by United’s first director of football John Murtough, who promised to raise standards and return to glory days. When asked about City and Liverpool’s success in the decade, Erik Ten Hag firmly answered: Eras come to an end.

A mess created by hiring managers to compensate for the failures of their predecessors

At the heart of this mess was Ed Woodward, the man who transformed United into a commercial giant. But during his time, he failed to translate this commercial success onto the pitch. Woodward’s strategy of hiring managers to compensate for the failures of the sacked ones did not work, and his vow that Manchester United can do things in the transfer market only other clubs can dream of has made United a laughing stock in the transfer market. The idea of a United tax is not an idea, it is a reality.

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Moyes was supposedly not a good tactician, let’s hire Louis Van Gaal, one of the most innovative coaches of his generation. Success was elusive with LVG, fine let’s go for Mourinho, one of the most successful coaches of his generation. All the while without looking at Mourinho’s requirements or his well-known issues with dressing rooms.

With the club in a state of mess, hiring one of the most demanding football coaches failed and Man United reverted to Ole – the club legend – with his soft touch and being the player’s friends. Ole was attacked for not having a clear tactical idea and being soft with the players. Let’s go for one of the coaches who has tactical principles and a disciplinarian, Erik Ten Hag. A manager who can keep the standards and set the rules.

The failed strategy in hiring managers resulted in a bloated squad built to fit six different managers who have different philosophies and wasted more than £1billion only for the team to look worse than the one Sir Alex Ferguson left. There are still signings from Van Gaal, Mourinho, Ole

Every new player and new manager initiated revisionism in the Man United fanbase and showed the divide between the hierarchy only caring for commercial success and fans seeking success on the pitch that eluded them since 2013.

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The dream of a fresh start

Then finally came the hope of a fresh start in 2022, when the Glazers family announced they were seeking strategic alternatives including the sale of Manchester United. Fans started to dream of getting rid of the family that drowned the club in debt, failed to deliver success on the pitch, engaged in the Super League project and never communicated with fans.

But instead of uniting the fanbase, the issue has caused a further divide in the Man United fanbase as some wanted the Qatari Consortium, with Sheikh Jassim, coming with the promise of unlimited wealth and the hopes of signing the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Aurelien Tchaouemeni, and another section wanted INEOS and Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

Allegations of racism were been thrown on social media between both camps and even after the announcement of the acquisition of 25% and football operations by Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS, the fanbase is still not, United.

The Issue of Erik Ten Hag

Erik ten Hag Manchester United 2023 24 5

Another man dividing this fanbase is Erik Ten Hag. On one hand, he has the highest winning percentage since Sir Alex Ferguson and had a mostly successful first season. Now in his second season, with his team decimated by injuries, the team is not progressing with a clear tactical plan and ideas like Klopp’s Liverpool team at the start of his tenure, Emery’s Villa team, Howe’s Newcastle team, or Ange’s Tottenham team.

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Some fans preach patience saying that Sir Alex Ferguson needed 6 years to win his first league title, and others think a fresh perspective is needed. Right now their team plays like one of the worst teams in the whole country not just the Premier League.

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Are These Players Fit Enough to Wear The Manchester United Shirt?

Then comes the issue of scapegoating players; every loss must be somebody’s mistake. Part of the fanbase jumps to defend their favorite players and another part jumps to attack the one they think the team would be better without them. Marcus Rashford has been told to “focus on football” by some people who think that children starving isn’t important.

Another issue is that most of these players have been signed without a clear tactical plan on how they should fit or a plan for their development. This is because Man United has cheated the rebuild for a long time, and the Glazers have mastered the art of silencing the fanbase with PR signings and the hope of false dawns. Think Cristiano Ronaldo, think Paul Pogba, think Harry Maguire, big-money signings.

The Glazers have managed to make their money and they are going to make much more when they finally sell their cash cow asset. But they did not just manage to make a lot of money, they divided the fanbase nearly on every issue. All of that while they are sitting in Florida, watching their beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers win the Super Bowl, not caring even to communicate with the Fans of Manchester United.

Only one issue unites the Man United fanbase: Wanting The Glazers out.

The only way the Man United fanbase will get what it wants is by standing by INEOS during its rebuild of the club, hoping they can finally rid us of the Glazer’s nightmare. Only when the Glazers are out of this club, fans can start to dream that the club will return to where it once was: the summit of world football.

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