The Ghosts of Title Winners Past

When I was asked to join the team here at Fan Babble Sports, I made a unspoken pact with myself that I would not write about the one team that I am most passionate about. That team in question is Manchester United. Being a Yorkshire Lad it is almost sacrilege to follow a team from the wrong side of the Pennines. But with recent form culminating in a 5-0 home thrashing at the hands of fierce rivals Liverpool, enough was enough and I am here to use my soapbox to vent.

As a kid my grandfather would relay to me stories of players and teams from his youth and when I would ask “Where are those teams now?” He would always tell me that in sport every team go through periods of success and periods where success is hard to come by. In football there are 100’s of teams battling it out for a very small number of silverware at season’s end and that has never being so evident as it is in the modern game. The World Cup has expanded, The European Champions League went from a round robin to a group stage based competition just to name two of the game’s glamourous trophies.

Photo provided from Getty Images

In the 8 years since the great Sir Alex Ferguson gave up the managerial reigns of the club at retired the club has free fallen down the ladder – 7th,4th,5th,6th,2nd,6th,3rd & 2nd. In 2013 when Sir Alex retired he left the club as Premier League Champions. Everyone thought and expected the success to continue. I on the other hand wasn’t overly confident.

David Moyes was the original replacement for Sir Alex and what a daunting task at hand. Straight away clearing out the entire backroom staff and implementing his own complement of employees. Now he is in his right mind to do this, but a team that ran away with the league you would think that you would maintain an element of the familiar. Since this decision to clear the last successful backroom the club have seen four more backroom clear outs. Five managers in 8 years. David Moyes, Ryan Giggs, Louis Van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have all installed their own coaching staff to help push through their own philosophies. How can you expect the current mold of the modern player to adapt and develop under so many changes in their own coaching and career development? As human’s we need and crave an environment that encourages continuity and familiarity to instill an atmosphere of progression.

Manchester United celebrate with the Premier League trophy after the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Blackpool at Old Trafford on May 22, 2011 in Manchester, England. Manchester United celebrate a record 19th league championship. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Then we move onto the transfers brought into the club. They have spent over 1 Billion British Pounds on players since Sir Alex’s departure. Those transfers have only netted the club five pieces of silverware – 2 x Community Shield, 1 x FA Cup, 1 x EFL Cup & 1 x UEFA Cup. Each piece of silverware costing the club 200 million pounds in transfer fees. Most of this money has gone to waste as most players brought in have either gone stale with zero game time or has been sold for a fraction of the original transfer fee due to a new manager coming in and not being able to fit that player into his plans. It has been as clear as day that the club has lacked direction and business savvy when diving into the transfer market.

As a club that was once known to find bargain players that fit into the current system we now see a club just buying players with a marketability factor. We see now the club concerned with breaking into new markets to sell jerseys, licensing deals, opening mega stores than success on the pitch. The Manchester United brand has become more than a football team. With money becoming the most important factor in global sports it’s not a surprise to see many teams going down this path, but it is the results on the pitch that will be the deciding factor whether the expansion of the team into a brand is successful. The out going Chief Executive for the club Ed Woodward is an accountant who has balanced our books and has been the catalyst for some of our massive sponsorship deals. But in saying that he has zero football knowledge. He know the value of the club and it’s brand and what revenue in merchandise a player can bring, but he doesn’t know if said player can fit into the manager’s ideas. The running of the club should have been shared with someone that could ensure on field success and then in turn help the club generate the income.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 24: Mohamed Salah of Liverpool scores their side’s third goal past David De Gea of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on October 24, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

If I wanted to build a stadium, I would seek the expertise of an engineer and architect. If I was sick I would seek medical advice from a doctor. If I want to build a success football side I would seek the expertise of people who have knowledge and skills to do just that, so why is the running of our club left in the hands of people that couldn’t score a goal in a game of football run by people with no legs?

My last point is for me the most important one and leads to the title of my blog. We have become Liverpool. Looking back on past glories without any direction for future success other than by saying we are Manchester United. My opinion here and it will go down like a lead balloon, but the club needs to release the hold that Sir Alex has over it. He has become the ghost of our past. We are all still shackled to him and everything he has done for the club. We will never truly move on to a bright future while he still has a big presence over the club. I never thought that I would ever be saying or feeling this. After the Busby Babes era finished, the club fell to such a point where they were relegated. Yes they jumped straight back up the following year but they spent the 70’s and 80’s looking back on what we were and living off a well earned reputation. Enter Sir Alex, revolutionised the club. Brought the on field success back to where it’s reputation was. He overhauled the entire club, from administration, medical, scouting, academy and training. He hired the best and bought only the right players and gave the ones coming through the ranks a chance to succeed. Some of his decisions didnt pay off but his achievements speak for themselves and we can all look back fondly and be proud.

The club is now at the point where they were after the Busby Babes faded. We are looking back and leaning on the reputation that was built by someone else to still carry us forward. We can’t afford to. The game keeps changing. Thank you Sir Alex but it’s time to allow someone to come in and honour your success by building their own without your presence smothering them and the club.

The fast flowing counter attacking style we all loved watching can no longer happen. The Premier League has adopted different tactical approaches now dominated by Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. The days of two swashbuckling wingers getting to the byline and curling a cross into two big bustling centre forwards is gone. We need to accept this and move on. Find a group of coaches that have no favour to any club and build something special. He/She picks the players to what they want and play the way they want, not picking players because they can sell jerseys. If they score bags of goals, save lots of goals and assist lots of goals then common sense tells me that people will want to be like them and buy their merchandise.

I do not hope for the club to be relegated in the near future, but it needs to hit the reset button. Say goodbye to all of those that are hanging on and not having a positive effect on our results. On field results are the only results that matter. That is why we are here, to watch and support a football team, not line the pockets of people who make more in a day than most of us will do in a lifetime. We can’t expect to our future to be successful when we are too busy living in the past to realise that the game has changed and past us by. It isn’t too late yet but they are quickly reaching the point of no return and something needs to change.

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