When David Moyes replaced the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson (SAF) as Manchester United manager in 2013, the contrast between their appearances was unmistakable. While SAF looked impressive, Moyes was less so by those standards. SAF’s trademark was his confident strides and a jaw that was constantly churning because of the gums he chewed endlessly. Moyes wasn’t as confident, perhaps the weight of expectations bogging him down. Even though Moyes’ contract with United was to have run until 2019, he was sacked just 10 months into his term as the team performance dipped. From a high, United dropped to a low. It was against this backdrop that Louis van Gaal (LvG) was appointed Moyes’ successor in 2014.
As a die-hard United fan, I was pretty happy to see LvG at the helm. Sir Matt Busby and SAF had imposing frames and therefore, I assumed LvG would join the pantheon of great Manchester United managers. He was warmly welcomed, everybody right from the players to the board had nothing but extremely high regards for him, and he himself was pretty excited to do a tough job. To be honest, Manchester United fans including yours truly were expecting him to emulate SAF. But almost two seasons later, it seems that he has been as much at sea managing United as was Moyes. Statistics and some common sense indicate Moyes did a better job in 10 months’ time than LvG has been doing for the past couple of years. A string of seven consecutive wins twice during LvG’s first season in charge was sandwiched between some inexplicable losses, United finished fourth in the Premier League and his second season was looking optimistic. Today, with three months to go before the second season ends, Manchester United are in a quandary. They are not winning in England; they are, sadly, not winning in Europe either.
What ails thee, Manchester United? I perceive that neither Moyes nor LvG quiet clearly understood the United playbook. The acquisition of players left a lot to be desired as there was always the question of where to fit them. Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Memphis Depay represented buys that were not really worth the money spent as they remained largely underutilized. As a result, the real United playbook was compromised for something that doesn’t even remotely suit the team. United teams are known for their resilient defense, quick counterattacks and collaborating forwards. But the United of today is a crackpot contraption of an uninspiring defense, a lethargic midfield and an unproductive strike force. One can only imagine that if players of the caliber of Angel De Maria or Memphis Depay have to cool their heels in the dugout waiting for an opportunity that may never happen, something is inherently wrong.
While Moyes didn’t tinker much with the traditional United style, LvG has brought radical changes in the way United plays, so much that it is sometimes unrecognizable. A key change has been a shift towards possessive football. Logic follows that possession begets goals and goals lead to wins. However, with United the possessive style has led to quite the opposite results. Neither are they able to win nor are they able to score goals. One could argue that injuries have blighted this side but United are a professional football club. They certainly should be able to rise above such excuses. This season has been characterized by a great amount of inconsistency that me and Vinay, my good friend and fellow Red Devils fan, are clueless as to where United will finish this season. At one point of time, it looked like we were turning the corner, as a win against Derby followed by a fighting draw against Chelsea revealed. The next moment, the team dived to unfathomable depths, turning out some sloppy displays against relegation-bound Sunderland in the Premier League last week and an unheralded Midtjylland in the Europa League last night.
Yesterday’s defeat was a tipping point. The fans are frustrated; naturally so. There have been talks of Jose Mourinho being given the reins of United but for some reason a release of the news to the eager fans has not been forthcoming. It is as if there is a veil of secrecy surrounding the whole thing. Ed Woodward, the United head honcho should make a quick announcement transitioning the manager’s role to Mourinho from LvG immediately. I have nothing against LvG. In fact, I admire him for his hard work and strategy that he brings to the table. But it just hasn’t worked for him as well as United. That is precisely the reason why fans like me want a change in favor of Mourinho. United need to quickly get back to winning ways that will not just win trophies, but millions of fans as well.
An interesting stat was publicized last night as first choice goalkeeper David De Gea and young defender Cameron Borthwick-Jackson joined the injured/ill list. Today, United have 11 players on that list and a brilliant starting line-up could be made just from those players. For me and the fans, that is a silver lining. Once these players return fit, we have the capability to put together a world-class team along with the side that played last night. That shows depth – we just need a man with a vision and a lot of guts to steer this depth towards achievements. We want United to be the team that everyone fears playing. We want to win the treble another time. We want to achieve the quadruple (the Premier League, FA Cup, Community Shield and UEFA Champions League). We want to be back on the perch and walk the path of greatness again.