Manchester United Fail Because They’re Run Like A Business, Not A Football Club
It’s fair to say that things haven’t gone to plan at the start of this season for Manchester United. Erik ten Hag’s tenure has gotten off to the worst possible start, as the Red Devils have fallen to opening back-to-back defeats for the first time in thirty years.
We expected Manchester United to struggle this season, but not to this extent. So, who is to blame? How have the thirteen-time Premier League champions gone from feared to laughing stock?
The managers aren’t blameless
We’ll start with the managers, as they’re the ones whose heads are on the chopping blocks when things go wrong. Manchester United had Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm for a whopping 27 years, winning more than a trophy per season over that span.
Nothing lasts forever though, and in 2013, Fergie retired from management. The transition was always going to be difficult and Sir Alex’s hand-picked successor David Moyes wasn’t up to the challenge. After winning the Premier League title in 2013, Moyes’ Red Devils sunk to seventh, their worst finish of the PL era.
Moyes was rightfully sacked and in came Louis van Gaal. Van Gaal has always been a controversial figure, but he did manage to win the FA Cup in his final season in charge.
Jose Mourinho would win domestic and European cups at Old Trafford, even finishing second one season. His runner-up placing in the Premier League would be something the Portuguese would label as one of his biggest achievements as a manager. Some would argue he’s correct.
Something that all of these managers have in common is that they’ve had success before and after their appointments as Manchester United manager.
Moyes dragged both Everton and West Ham on relative shoe-string budgets into European competitions. Van Gaal got third in the 2014 World Cup with the Netherlands and has led them to FIFA’s premier tournament again this year.
Mourinho is one of the most successful managers in football history and won Roma their first European silverware in sixty years last season. Solskjær won back-to-back league titles with Molde in Norway.
So, if it’s not the manager, who is it?
What about the players?
Shocking signings aren’t anything new for the red team from Manchester. Even the great Ferguson had some stinkers, but the recruitment over the past decade has missed much more often than hit.
Looking at the starting line-up against Brentford, there are some serial offenders getting game time. Jadon Sancho has never performed well in a red shirt and captain Harry Maguire has been extremely inconsistent.
Even players like Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford look like shadows of their former selves.
So, are these bad players? Far from it.
Look at Paul Pogba, for example. He’s a World Cup winner with France and won trophies galore for Juventus. Pogba’s £80m price tag was generally accepted to be a good investment by Man United, but that opinion has completely reversed now.
Maguire has continued to perform well for England and was a standout defender for the likes of Sheffield United and Leicester City before signing. Sancho was one of the hottest properties in Europe at Borussia Dortmund, likewise Rashford and Luke Shaw in their early days.
David de Gea was arguably the best goalkeeper in the world at one point, but is now making rookie errors in net.
We can go on and on about this, but the point is, is that players, like the managers, have had success before moving to Manchester. So, who’s left to blame?
There’s been one constant in all of this
There is an argument that Manchester United have eventually become victims of their own success. For a long time after the Glazer’s bought Man U, it didn’t seem like that, as success continued to come until Ferguson’s retirement.
Some will say that the owners have financially backed the managers in charge, but that’s only partly true. As outlined in Gary Neville’s passionate rant last weekend, the Glazer’s are actually taking money out of the club, not pumping it back in.
Old Trafford, once the envy of clubs around the world, is now a shadow of its former self, being nowhere near the standard of the Etihad, Emirates, nor the Tottenham Hotspur stadium.
From a business perspective, Manchester United aren’t performing badly, still being one of the richest clubs in the world in terms of overall worth. Man U rank third in that list at around $4.6 billion, only behind Real Madrid and Barcelona.
However, both Liverpool (4th, $4.45b) and Manchester City (6th, $4.25b) are catching up fast. Man United have fallen behind in terms of revenue though, with Man City top with €644.9m and Liverpool only €8m behind in seventh worldwide.
A lack of Champions League football and trophies will slowly turn more and more fans away from financially supporting United. The die-hards in England won’t change allegiances, but fans overseas will only take so much before switching off.
As long as Manchester United are making money though, the Glazer’s will milk that cash cow for all it’s worth. After all, money makes the world go round, even if it comes to the detriment of the fans who love their football club.