The malaise at Manchester United continues to deepen following last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at Everton.
The Red Devils’ hopes of finalising a top-four finish this season now look remote and will complete a miserable campaign where they have again failed to win a trophy.
The discontent on the pitch is matched by events off-it too, with fans set to protest against the Glazer family’s ownership ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash with Norwich City.
With so much turbulence at the club, SCOTT PATTERSON, from the Republik of Mancunia blog, offers his perspective on the events unfolding at Old Trafford.
There have been plenty of periods during Manchester United’s history when supporters were unhappy with what their club had to offer them. Over 25 years passed without a title after Sir Matt Busby’s last league win, during which time the likes of Frank O’Farrell and Dave Sexton oversaw dreadful spells as manager, and even the early reign of Sir Alex Ferguson had supporters calling for the boss to be dismissed.
It wasn’t all rosy with Fergie either, even after securing plenty of silverware under his belt, although if United today repeated the third-placed finish of 2005 and FA Cup final defeat by Arsenal it may be seen as a relatively successful campaign given some of the dross we’ve seen under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and, most recently, Ralf Rangnick, in the post-Ferguson era.
What made that 2004-05 campaign so galling was seeing the ownership handed over to the Glazers. Unbelievably, they passed a fit and proper test and were allowed to plunge the club in to almost £1billion of debt as part of their takeover. It’s remarkable that the Premier League allowed such a thing to happen.
The doom and gloom at Manchester United is only mounting with things on-and-off the pitch
Fans are returning to the levels of anger when the Glazer family bought United in 2005
It’s remarkable the Glazer family (pictured brothers Joel and Avram) were able to buy United
While our brain can protect us from horrors at times, helping us to forget the lowest points, you’d be hard pressed to find any United fan who can remember ever being as despondent, angry and upset as they are with the current state of the club.
During the recent 1-1 home draw against Leicester, after yet another chance failed to find its way to the back of the net with time running out, I joined in with the grumbles of those stood around me. ‘It’s easier to watch this if you care less,’ a man near me said. ‘If they’re not arsed, why are you?’
It’s something I’ve been thinking about since, heightened by the abject display at Goodison Park, with this dreadful Everton side outworking, outfighting and outperforming Manchester United.
We’ve had bad players before, we’ve had bad coaches, we’ve had bad performances, we’ve had bad results, but I can’t recall a time when such huge swathes of the fanbase felt as disconnected from those that make up the squad.
The manager has often been the fall guy, with the odd underperforming player or two being made to feel the brunt of our frustrations, but now supporters would struggle to name even a handful of players they like and want to see remain at the club.
Even the most level-headed fans, who’ve travelled the world watching this team, voice their opinion that we should get rid of the lot of them. This club has been allowed to rot and now there’s not even a connection with the players to keep us going.
Against Everton, United were outworked, outfought and outperformed in a 1-0 defeat
This squad doesn’t match that of Manchester City, Liverpool or Chelsea in terms of ability, but in terms of the wage bill, it is comparable with all of them. United have a lot of players who are earning a hell of a lot of money to come nowhere close to bringing silverware back to the Old Trafford trophy cabinet.
The bare minimum has to be to at least try on the pitch. That is what every fan has the right to demand from the players whose wages they are contributing to.
At a club like United, where apparently only four clubs in the world generate higher revenue, the bare minimum should be world-class footballers, playing their hearts out every game, showing unrivalled determination and quality, under a world renowned manager, setting the standard for the league. They should be challenging for the title, competing for major honours and looking like a scary draw for any team in the Champions League to face. United are a million miles away from this though.
This isn’t about scapegoating individual players anymore, as it’s hard to name more than one or two players who seem genuinely concerned about the club’s current fate. Indifferent displays are the norm. While the crowd may still roar when chasing points as the injury-time board is displayed, the players continue with the feeble approach they delivered for the previous 90 minutes. It’s an absolute disgrace.
The anti-Glazer protests are set to start up again with full force on Saturday as United take on Norwich at Old Trafford. A supporters’ group, The 1958, have put up plans on social media for match-going fans to march from the Toll Gate pub to the stadium before kick-off and miss the first 17 minutes of the game, a minute for every year the Glazers have been at the club. While the march is anticipated to be well attended, up until now, walkouts and late arrivals have never garnered the same uptake.
Manchester United supporters are hoping to drive their American owners out of the club
A fan group called The 1958 have organised a march before the Norwich game on Saturday
Unlike the reaction to the ESL plans, which saw a hundred fans break in to the ground and force the Liverpool game to be rescheduled, the latest movement is intended to be lawful and peaceful. With so much anger bubbling under the surface, it’s incredible that the Glazers have done so little to placate the fans.
After initially breaking his vow of silence in communication with supporters after the protests last March, Joel Glazer acknowledged the mistakes made and claimed changes would be seen, but he’s gone quiet again since.
In December, the club announced that the Fans’ Advisory Board has been created, with the supposed aim of strengthening dialogue between the club and supporters, with seven fans appointed.
A month earlier, MUST released a statement revealing that discussions with the owners over the Fan Share Scheme that Joel Glazer committed to at the Fans’ Forum in June of last year. It said the discussions were now ‘well advanced’ with MUST committed to ensuring supporter shares must have the same voting rights as Glazer shares.
As it stands, no scheme is in place, with the club not reaching an agreement with the demands put in place by MUST, with the supporters’ group voicing their frustration over the delays a few weeks ago. Maybe further protests will speed the process along, or maybe the Glazers never had any real intention of relinquishing any power to the fans and will have to feel threatened by fan action again before being able to grasp the severity of this issue.
United fans have called on their Glazer owners to finally deliver a fan share scheme
This month marks 12 months since United were announced as one of 12 Super League clubs
Joel Glazer declared his commitment to building a better relationship with fans after it failed
A fan advisory board has been launched but MUST say no acceptable proposal has been made on a share scheme
While United fans were previously encouraged to believe it was their right to win the title, thanks to the genius of Ferguson, it’s obviously the case that winning the league is something that has to be earned. The players and manager have to work for it, believe they can do it, have a structure in place to achieve it. Those days are a distant memory.
Our fans don’t trust these players. They don’t trust the decision makers to make the right decision. They don’t trust the owners to do anything but line their own pockets. While Erik ten Hag is the more popular choice among the fanbase for the incoming manager, even the news that deal is more or less done has brought about an underwhelming reaction. There’s little to no belief that any manager can turn the situation at this club around, not with these players and owners.
It’s appalling what the club has become and while the Glazers are undoubtedly the root cause, the players no longer get to cowardly hide behind the ownership or the manager. Whoever they played for, supporters would not accept these shameful performances, let alone at a club like United where the bar has been set so high.
Listen to any interview with any United player from the last couple of decades and they sound like they are speaking from the same script when talking about the demands they put on each other. A banner with the faces of Eric Cantona, Roy Keane and Bryan Robson with ‘STANDARDS’ written underneath has been displayed at Old Trafford, in an attempt to remind the squad what we expect from them. As it stands, there is nothing even slightly comparable to the desire or professionalism we expect in the current dressing room.
Until the Glazers are gone, there is no fix, but the fans need to show a greater fight off the pitch and demand that players match them. There is no sense of pride or self-respect at Old Trafford anymore and it’s unforgivable that it has come to this. Time is running out. Change must come.
Red Devils fans revealed their ‘STANDARDS’ banner in January – but they still haven’t been met