Has Manchester United fallen from grace?
The great Manchester United, a club which has won a record; 13 titles in the Premier League era that hasn’t been equalled by any other team to date, achieved under the managerial reign of the imperious Alex Ferguson, who arguably is, the best manager in the history of professional sports. In the title run-in, his teams were always competing if not winning the Barclays Premier League (BPL) crown.
When he announced his retirement in 2013, the football world was left in shock and knew one of the greatest football minds would be bidding farewell to the club he transformed into a winning machine.
Fast-forward to 2016 and things are quite different; the current head coach Louis Van Gaal now heading into his second season in charge has spent close to £250 million on new players. Yet fans are being left astounded by the recent abysmal form of the team who have been spoilt by the glory days under Alex Ferguson.
Will the fortune of the club improve and which factors have led to the current debacle they are facing?
The playing style:
The passing game implemented with stress on keeping possession for long periods of the game hasn’t been able to provide the desired results with 55 per cent possession and a pass accuracy of 83 per cent average throughout this season which is the best in the league.
Notwithstanding there is still no real fluency to their gameplay. Alex Ferguson’s teams philosophy was built on pace with lethal counter attacking moves and power through a highly physical game which has been completely replaced; for more sleek and slow build up play.
The sale of star players:
Robin van Persie was the catalyst for the club winning the title in 2013 with his lethal finishing which resulted in a remarkable goal tally which reached 30 for the season. The new manager decided to sell the star striker in the summer after an injury ridden season which in hindsight was a glaring error as the team have been struggling to collectively get on the score sheet this season with 28 goals till now which is only the 12th best in the league. The situation has only been compounded by selling a proven goal scorer of the calibre of RVP who could surely have helped in that department.
Angel Di Maria is another player who with his skill, pace and trickery in the final third was a rare breed in the English Premier League. In his time at Real Madrid, he established himself as a regular starter and a great provider of goals for his team mates. The decision to sell him to Paris Saint-Germain which was based more on personal reasons is also one which is being rued in retrospect as the team are ranked only 17th in chances created.
Louis van Gaal’s methods:
The Dutchman’s meticulous attention to detail manifested in his little book, where he jots notes continuously coupled with his apparent inertia when he sits in the dugout during games, is depleting the fragile confidence of the players. His rigid tactics have prompted senior players to conduct meetings with the manager regarding their reservations behind the scenes at the club.
Best course of action:
Disgruntled fans who want to see a spark in the players and a manager who brings a winning mentality to the club are losing patience with the current setup: which is amplified by the fact that Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are free agents this summer can only persuade senior management to look elsewhere if results don’t improve drastically.
What is assured is that the sixth biggest sports brand in the world will have an abundance of cash reserves and will invest heavily again this summer to attract the best players in the world – but what is not certain is if those kind of players still want to play for Manchester United now.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.