Manchester Disunited

Is it a bottomless freefall, or is there light at the end of this long tunnel?

Manchester Disunited
Will we ever see a turnaround?

A short view to the past...

Once upon a time, Manchester United was a footballing powerhouse. Under the benevolent dictatorial reign of Sir Alex Ferguson, the club won titles for fun, scored goals at will, and even reached the promised land of a treble in the 98/99 season. Manchester United was at the forefront of the commercial revolution of the Premier League in the 90s and racked up record titles, profits, and fans. The club felt too big to fail and guaranteed success for decades to come even when the venerable SAF would eventually retire.

However, in the early 2000s, seeds of doubt were sown. It all potentially started with a racehorse. Dispute over a fabled racehorse's ownership structure between the owners and SAF turned ugly, and it is believed that that incident caused the then owners want to divest from the club. This subsequently emboldened a certain American family to train their eyes on the club and ignited their desire to own it.

Ah, the Glazers. How ye ruined the club.

The club has seen zero investment since they took over. Of course, with SAF being the sheer force of nature that he is, the club continued to collect titles and trophies for fun till he retired in 2013. There was even another Champions League victory in 2008! However, the final years of SAF started to give us some warnings. The consequences for the absolute lack of investment would show themselves soon enough.

All it took was SAF's retirement.

And then, it completely unraveled.

A decade of mismanagement

The past decade can be thought of as an instructive lesson on how not to run a sporting enterprise. Yes, the club is making boatloads of money, but how much longer can that revenue generation be sustained without proper investment and instead just implementing shoddy band-aid solutions?

The transfer strategy is scattershot. The once world-class scouting system is in disarray. The youth setup is nowhere near what it used to be. The stadium is an embarrassment. The wage bill is out of control for a side that barely even finishes in Champions League-qualifying positions.

Leaky Trafford

All of this boils down to a lack of investment in the club and the interest of the owners to just bleed the club dry while financing their leveraged buyout from eighteen years ago.

A lot of this is also the result of the hare-brained manager appointment strategy that the club employs. No tactical continuity. Or player recruitment. Or manager support with a director of football. Hiring old players as staff in positions of power for sentimental reasons.

If you look at modern, successful football clubs – they run like a well-oiled machine. In contrast, Manchester United runs like ... Manchester United? Sorry, I don't know what to say because the club is run that terribly. The United Way™️ is now a meme and nothing more.

The only change the fans get every few years is a new manager. While I try not to use memes in serious discourse, this aptly sums up the absolute shambles of a club that is Manchester United.

The circle of life for a Manchester United fan

It happened with David Moyes. It happened with Louis van Gaal. It happened with Jose Mourinho. It happened with Ole Gunnar Solskjær. It happened with Ralf Rangnick. And it is happening in real-time with Erik ten Hag.

This is what happens when you have incompetent people running a club at every level. Players take advantage of this too! And rightly so. In 2014, Edward Woodward, the then chief executive of the club said,

"We can do things in the transfer market that other clubs can only dream of. Watch this space."

Who says that? Even the richest clubs in the world like Real Madrid publicly whine about high transfer fees and wage demands. It is PR 101. Did this club never even hire a competent PR person? Color me unsurprised. And fans wonder why the wage bill is out of control and no club wants your outcasts who are on £ 300k a week despite not even being bang average (or even making the bench!). It also befuddles the rational mind how many nonsensical contract extensions have been doled out in the past decade.

Is it even a surprise that these overpaid players throw their toys out of the pram at the first sign of trouble and demand a new manager? Sure, some of them had to go. However, when you have a proper structure in place, such a series of managers with vastly different philosophies would never have even been hired. How does the club go from van Gaal to Mourinho to Solskjær to ten Hag? Make it make sense.

A lot of the points I talked about in this article almost eight years ago still hold true! I was still a student when I wrote that! Frankly, it is embarrassing.

There was a glimmer of hope more than a year ago when it was announced that the Glazers may sell the club. And finally, after 13 long months, it was announced that Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS will buy a 25% stake in the club with fans hoping that it will be 100% in the future. More importantly, INEOS also gets sporting control.

INEOS United?

New beginnings?

Thanks to the Glazers, the past decade has been one of depression and hopelessness. In fact, the group chat with a couple of my friends who are also supporters of the club was called #DeadInsideGang for a long time.

As Ralf Rangnick famously and accurately said, the club needs open heart surgery. In no particular order, the club needs to:

  • Completely overhaul scouting and transfer policy.
  • Have a defined wage structure and contract renewal policy.
  • Reimagine training, recovery, and medical philosophies.
  • Renovate Old Trafford or build New Trafford. Start by fixing the leaky roof at least!
  • Hire new staff in every department with a consistent ideology.
  • And apparently, even rethink the kitchen so that raw chicken is not served. How dysfunctional did the club get?

The club needs an unholy amount of sustained long-term investment in every department across the length and breadth of the club and one can only hope that INEOS has the stomach for that. While I was critical about Sir Jim purchasing the club, I have since realized two things: a) Anyone is better than the Glazer family, and b) It seems that INEOS has learned its mistakes with Nice who are currently doing very well this season in Ligue 1 (2nd in the table at the time of writing) so fingers crossed! It is certainly heartening to already see some of the new executives (given their track record)​ expected to start handling business once the PL finishes its review process.

For now, however, the bitter truth is that Manchester United is a mid-table club at best. But finally, us fans of Manchester United may after all have some glimmer of a light at the end of a long and icy tunnel. And when that happens, you will be sure to hear about it from me. So, subscribe! It is free!

Watch this space! 👉​