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22nd Sep 2020

Manchester United’s transfer excuses are simply not good enough

Manchester United can't keep blaming the coronavirus pandemic when all the clubs around them are busy doing incredibly shrewd business.

Nooruddean Choudry

To paraphrase Chris Rock, United are one hell of a ‘low-expectation-having’ football club.

The last time Manchester United qualified for the Champions League, they ‘strengthened’ their squad with the nominal acquisitions of Lee Grant, Diogo Dalot and Fred. The footballing equivalent of your mum returning from Tescos with own-brand cola and ‘Choccy Puffs’.

This time round they’ve added Donny van de Beek and only Donny van de Beek, who must wish he’d stayed put in Amsterdam. “Please take good care of our Donny, and help him dream,” implored Edwin van der Sar of his former club. Little did he know they’d have broken his spirits within a matter of days.

United were atrocious against Crystal Palace in their season opener. Of course there were some mitigating circumstances like precious little pre-season, but what infuriated the fans more than anything else is that the result was as predictable as United’s ponderous attack.

A lack of summer activity meant they picked up exactly where they left off last term – with a porous defence, no real leadership, impotent wide-play, and a ludicrously crowded central area. As much as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves his fair share of criticism, he at least identified the urgent need for quality recruits in key positions over the summer and has thus far been badly let down by the club.

Pogba swap

For their part, Palace were energetic, dynamic and well-organised – and knew exactly how to stop their feckless hosts. It’s pretty simple – all United’s best players do their best work down the middle and on the counter-attack, so you don’t give them space, you crowd the central area near your goal, and allow them possession on the flanks where they cause you no bother.

It’s a template for thwarting Solskjaer’s side that will continue to work unless and until they address their problems with new signings. Unfortunately for the fans, Ed Woodward, Matt Judge et al seem utterly incapable of doing anything with the speed and gumption required. So much so that you have to wonder whether they have any interest in improving the squad beyond Champions League qualification.

Of course they point to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on club finances. But that excuse doesn’t hold much water when you look at other clubs judiciously strengthening their playing staff whilst United proverbially sit there playing with themselves.

Even if you take the likes of Manchester City, Everton and Chelsea out of the equation due to their wealthy benefactors, numerous other clubs at United’s level and below are embarrassing the Old Trafford outfit with exceptionally shrewd business.

What a contrast there is between Michael Edwards at Liverpool and the Woodward/Judge axis. Edwards manages to buy and sell with a ruthless, proactive efficiency whilst his United counterparts waste time and achieve nothing.

Not that the club hierarchy seem to care much about the on-field ramifications of their inaction. Instead they angrily chastise the supporters for creating a negative mood around the club whilst complaining about ‘financial realities’ that the great unwashed presumably don’t appreciate. It takes some brass neck to go down that particular road when it is paved with tens of millions of pounds in dividend payments to the Glazers, and hundreds of millions of pounds in debt management. They talk less about those financial realities.

In truth the fanbase have been incredibly patient (and some would say far too apathetic) about their club’s disgracefully parasitic owners. Perhaps relative quiet on that front has been confused with indifference.

There is a palpable arrogance to how the club is run. They bristle at any criticism and act like anyone questioning their actions (or rather inaction) is ignorant or deluded. So much so that the fans start believing the idea that there is actually some kind of plan bubbling under the surface and are ultimately dismayed when the square root of fuck all transpires. It’s a weird kind of back page gaslighting.

Of course the notional carrot of Jadon Sancho is regularly briefed to journalists to momentarily pacify detractors, but even if the club were somehow able to get their shit together enough to secure that marquee acquisition, it would not be enough. Much more is required including a top-tier central defender and an attacking full-back at least. One suspects it will be a case of far too little, much too late for a club with no ambition.

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