Unless you are living under a rock I am sure you would be well aware that Man Utd’s season has got off to a stuttering start. Three consecutive defeats have really left a sour taste and everything associated with Man Utd seems to be steeped in negativity at the moment. The online hate and mockery is at an all time high with no constructive criticism to be seen anywhere. In this post I would look at the season so far and try to provide constructive opinion on what I think are the major factors for this poor start to the season.
After Effects of a Gruelling Last season
Man Utd played 62 games last season, playing the final of both domestic cups and going deep in the Europa League which also included the extra round of 32 games against Barcelona. A lot of people look at Man City’s start to the season and immediately play down the fatigue factor, but the thing they don’t want to acknowledge is that Man City’s squad is the best footballing squad ever assembled, with careful consideration for each and every role within the team. On the contrary this Man Utd side is at best a mish mash of different managers and playing ideologies.
A better comparison will be last season’s Liverpool and their less than impressive start to 22-23 season. Like us they too played over 60 games the season before and felt the gruelling effects. If you look at our key players from last season – Bruno, Rashford and Casemiro, all look mentally fatigued and hence are less able to carry out tactical instructions in the early part of the season. From the outside it may look like a lame excuse but top level football is very excruciating and even a 1% drop in intensity levels can prove extremely decisive. Hopefully as the season goes on some of these players will be able to reproduce their form from last season but if we’re being totally honest these moments of brilliance will likely be few and far in between with consistency being a major issue this season.
Rotten Luck with Injuries & Off field Indiscipline
Ten Hag is a very smart manager and would have surely anticipated a drop off in the form some of his key players in the early part of this season. The signings of Mount, Amrabat and the integration of Kobie Mainoo in the senior squad all look like attempts to inject new energy in the midfield and navigate the early part of the campaign with less dependency on some of the hard hitters from last season. However as luck would have it all three are currently injured and have hardly played any role in the opening games. Add to that long term injuries to Luke Shaw and Wan Bissaka and one can see how Tan Hag is forced to tackle difficult problems very early in the season.
To further compound matters Sancho has practically ended his Man Utd career after falling off with the manager, while allegations of domestic abuse against Antony means he is also unavailable for the foreseeable future. There’s a lack of genuine quality at United’s right hand side and Pellistri’s debut in the Champions League against Bayern in Munich could not have highlighted this any further. Mason Mount getting back to full fitness will definitely bring about some comfort in this regard whereas Mainoo and Amrabat being available will change the midfield dynamics. Through a combination of rotten luck with injuries and severe indiscipline off the pitch Man Utd have found themselves seven first team players short in key positions in their opening few games. Few key players are on the mend and should be available soon, once Ten Hag is able to field his first choice eleven only then will we be able to fully assess where Man Utd truly are this season.
The Ghost of Glazer
The kind of damage The Glazer family is doing (has already done) to Man Utd can be best understood by the fact that level headed fans of United’s great rivals have started feeling genuinely sorry for Manchester United. The summer transfer window which should’ve been one of consolidation after last season’s success was once again dominated by Glazernomics. The lack of a proper recruitment structure is evident every time Man Utd conducts a transfer dealing, their inability to move unwanted players on is now beyond incompetence and should actually be used as a case study on how not to negotiate football transfers. Years of mismanagement and short termism has meant that United now have around 6-7 senior players on high wages that the manager does not consider part of his plans going forward, however Man Utd are unable to move them on due to the insanely high wage contracts these players are on. The FFP narrative during the summer was of United’s own doing and the situation will simply not improve till these owners are in charge.
I have seen a lot of people complain about Ten Hag only signing players he has worked with before and how that is part of the reason why Man Utd are struggling. Man Utd are probably the only big club in the world with no real football structure at the top. The Football Director in charge is an absolute joke and the way Man Utd negotiates to sign players is the stuff of footballing comedy to say the least. Needless to say that Ten Hag has little trust in the scouting department and wants to sign players already aware of his demands and methods to navigate through the early part of his management stint at United. I am sure he wants to make radical changes at the club but the owners and top management have tied his hands, moreover as the recent run of bad results have shown Ten Hag still doesn’t have enough credit in the bank with Man Utd fans, who have been witness to quite a few false dawns since Sir Alex has retired.
The best case scenario is that the Glazer family accepts one of the two offers on the table so that the club can well and truly reset, however nothing at the moment suggests that it is likely to happen anytime soon. Until that happens it is almost impossible for Man Utd to be consistently competitive at the top end of the table. It is a reality that every Man Utd fan knows and understands but the same fan can also be very easily swayed by the media and pundits to create unwanted pressure on the team and the manager. We must at all costs avoid falling into the trap and keep supporting the boys as they try to stop the slump and resurrect United’s season.
In the end we must also be realistic in our expectations from the team by understanding and acknowledging that progress is never linear and that there will be phases like the one we are experiencing right now. Third place and a trophy last season was absolutely brilliant but one should also account for the fact that few of the big teams like Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool did not play to their potential or were simply not consistent enough. The underlying numbers from last season put Man Utd sixth in the table and that is what one should consider when evaluating progress this season.
As much as we all want to challenge for the Premier League and Champions League the team is realistically not ready to mount such a challenge. Top 4 and hopefully a domestic cup would qualify as a very successful season and should form a good base to grow belief and start challenging for top honours in the next couple of years. In Ten Hag we finally have a manager who if given time and backing can take us back to the promised land, as fans all he wants from us is to be patient, sensible and be willing to accept that the road to success has some setbacks and it’s in times of despair that the support needs to be at its strongest. So keep supporting the boys and Up the Fucking Reds !
Written by Akash Khare
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