Saturday, 30 August 2014
The Saturday List #67 - The ten fatal mistakes that have doomed Manchester United
In truth though, the situation is not something that happened overnight. The crisis has been building up for several years. Here are the fatal mistakes that United have made.
1. Underinvestment in the squad under Sir Alex Ferguson. Fergie worked a miracle winning the league two years ago, but he did it with a threadbare squad. Bringing in Van Persie was the catalyst that allowed the feat to be pulled off, but it was clear to everyone that United had an ageing defence and midfield. With Scholes, Giggs, Evra, Ferdinand and Vidic getting long in the tooth, all should have been replaced by then, or at least have credible replacements lined up. Take that out of the League winning team and you don't have a team.
2. Bad succession planning in the business. It was clear that Fergie would go at some point. To lose the Chief Exec at the same time was catastrophic. All businesses need a degree of continuity in their team. United lost the plot, by allowing themselves to get into this situation.
3. Flawed process for appointing a new manager. United are one of the worlds top brands. They could have their pick of managers. It seems the process was that they simply let Fergie pick a name out of the hat. Worse than that, they picked a manager with no trophies and no Champoins league experience.
4. Bad signings. We listed the five key players who were past their sell by date. They replaced none of them, instead indulving Moyes by signing Fellani, a player they didn't need and who doesn't fit in. It was clear what United needed, they left it too late and picked the wrong players.
5. Inept clearout of backroom staff. The first act of Moyes was a clearout of backroom staff such as Mike Phelan. As such he had no one around who could offer any insight into how to get the best out of the players, why things may not be working.
6. Ineptitude in conducting transfer business. The debacle of the attempt to sign Leighton Baines and Fellani showed the world that United were there for the taking. This has resulted in them paying top dollar for all subsequent signings such as Di Maria and Mata signings.
7. Panic buys in the transfer window. When it was clear that it was going wrong under Moyes, United made the classic mistake of a big name panic buy, bring Juan Mata to the club. Whilst it is true that you can't have enough great players, Mata addressed none of Uniteds problems and unsettled the existing attackers.
8. Showing a lack of class in sacking Moyes. United sacked Moyes the day after they technically couldn't qualify for the Champions League. This was done to save the compensation bill. This type of behaviour saves money in the short term, but in the long term sets down a marker which shows the club are more interested in bean counting than running a football club. Ryan Giggs was brought in as a temporary manager to get the club through to the end of the season. Whilst this may have given him a bit of experience and may assist him in his ongoing role at the club, the whole sorry episode tarnished United.
9. Lack of planning for managerial appointment. Whilst Louis Van Gaal is an excellent manager, with a great track record, given the mess United are in, I believe he was the wrong appointment. The reason is simple. United needed a root and branch rebuilding. the timing of the sacking of Moyes showed that they had clearly been planning the change. They chose someone who couldn't come in until almost the end of the Pre Season. With Van Gaal being totally wrapped up in the World Cup, the pre season was wasted. Had they brough a new manager in when Moyes was sacked, they could have gone into the pre season with somone who'd actually seen the players in action. Transfer targets would be identified and the players could be prepared. As it is, Van Gaal turned up and half the squad were missing. I believe his current predicament is caused by the fact that when the real business started, he hadn't got a clue what his squad could actually do. As such, by the time the transfer window reopens and he actually knows what he needs, United may again be out of the chase for a Champions league place.
10. Chosen the wrong man again? It is too early to say, but for me the signs are not good. In the first point, I listed the players United need to replace. You could argue that Di Maria may be a suitable replacement for Ryan Giggs. That still leaves the other four to replace. Not only that, but Van Gaal has tried to implement a 3-4-3 system with players who clearly are not up to it. Watching the first three games, it was clear to me that the players look terrified. Johnny Evans looked particularly uncomfortable against the mighty MK Dons. Van Gaal has a rep as a stern disciplinarian, to me it looked as if the United defence were scared stiff of making mistakes, so were nervous and jumpy. In the opening PL games, on numerous occasions defenders would receive the ball in space and simply look for a quick sideways pass. Under Fergie in their pomp, they would drive forward and create space elsewhere. Another disturbing feature of Van Gaal is the way he publicly attacked Luke Shaw. Shaw is a young player with a lot of expectation. His manager has put the boot in. How will this help build him up. I cannot imagine Ferguson making such a statement ever. I also think that Van Gaals statements about United not being fit for purpose don't help his cause. Other teams are losing their fear of facing United and these sort of statements don't help. It also undermines his existing players. How must they feel?
Of course, I'm a City fan so I find it hilarious, but that is really by the by. I don't think a single thing I've said hasn't been mentioned by friends who are on the dark side of the football divide.