Something has been troubling as of late. Manchester United, the once great force of England, Europe and the world has had a trophy drought and a undergone a lot of soul searching in the mean time.
We all know the unmitigated disaster of Moyes who was clearly seen as Fergie Jnr and the outdated but well respected Van Gaal had us as a laughing stock with the ‘philopsphy’ guidebook which brings Brendan Rodger’s ‘Character’ verse to mind.
So, fast forward 18 months down the line into Van Gaal’s reign and we find ourselves beaten 2-1 at home to Norwich. The issue wasn’t just that the boys lost, it was that we knew the manager wasn’t good enough and most worrying the lads just didn’t look up to it anymore. I saw a lot of worried faces in Old Trafford after the match, with a few demanding urgent changes – Namely Van Gaal.
The United hierarchy knew this. But the problem is, United are a hierarchy currently split in two. On one side we have the United greats in Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alex Ferguson. Two of the very best the world has ever seen with Manchester United running through their veins. On the other side, we have the Manchester United Corporation, made up of the Glazers, Chief Executive Ed Woodward and the sponsors. The Glazers, whilst ignoring the fans, have steadily moved United to the financial juggernaut it is today completely exploiting every asset United has at its’ disposal to finance the debt and Ed Woodward is the smiley, ‘yes’ boy to steer that ship. And then there’s the sponsors.. Ah the sponsors. Adidas, Chevrolet, Aon to name some of the bigger chaps. Now, these big companies want us to spend money to keep us on top simply so the sponsorships gain more profit, simple. However, going back to the time after the Norwich match, wheels set in motion that would appear to be ‘Point of No Return’.
United had tried the Moyes and Van Gaal route much to the blessing of the Sir Bobby tribe and had failed. Big time. Their voice slowly quietens in the board rooms due to this. This is exactly where Mourinho saw his chance and United for that matter. Mourinho is a world class modern football manager and no matter your own personal thoughts on the guy, he’s produced success wherever he has gone – attracting and managing the best of the best in world football.
The problem that was foretold by Sir Bobby and co was heard of, but the deep, dark roots behind it now are starting to show and the season hasn’t even started yet. Mourinho, world class as he is, brings an entourage. He brings all sorts of people with him – Mafioso style. What truly worried Sir Bobby, Fergie et al was the gang of people Jose brings. He brought the big players, but at what cost? We now have the ghastly, Spanish waiter look-a-like in Mino Raiola. He brings confidence to the players – Yes he does, making their egos soar in the meantime past anything we can comprehend.
We can near enough guarantee success – 3 years until he gets bored or things don’t go his way? In bringing Raiola, we now have a man who Sir Alex said ‘I distrusted him from the moment I met him’ and that the two of them were like ‘oil and water’. This man now has a massive say in United affairs, namely the players and Jose with Sir Alex still in the background who must be fuming this has happened. How has a man who pissed off Ferguson, the coaches and the board that much, to the point that we lost our brightest, best prospect in years in simple stubbornness to tell Mino in no uncertain terms ‘Not a chance son, now off you pop with your client’ – Now hold such a massive say at Manchester United?
This is a man who is the agent for Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba. His three very best clients, the cream of the crop. However, we remember some things about our new favourite agent. This is the man who also manages Balotelli, Robinho, Lukaku and Matuidi. All of whom are at a different club every 2-3 years, often at high prices and of course a big fat commission cheque for Mr. Raiola. The guy clearly knows his stuff and owns the rights to some of the best in the world but again comes with a load of baggage. United once told him to get lost. Not anymore. We are now indebted to this man and keeping him happy at all costs simply because he brought his 3 best players to the club (I know Pogba is still to sign but going off reports, it looks like it’s done).
What worries me for the future is not that we won’t be successful, it’s the fans reaction to these changes. Don’t get me wrong, 50% of United fans are only interested in the trophies we bring in and the names we have. The people who follow United will have seen our image change from a club of integrity, pride and passion to a rich powerhouse with no soul.
Why do more and more fans choose to watch the reserves play? Or the under 19s? Maybe it’s because it reminds them of Manchester United of old – Full of youth and promise, playing for the shirt and with pride – Not just about how much money you can make by an extortionate Appearance Fee nowadays. There are some talented lads down there you know, get down and watch them sometime.
If Jose is to truly ever be accepted by the United faithful he MUST build the team around the players that give United fans the most joy when we see them succeed. Fergie had countless types of these players over the years. Players you knew were never as gifted as their International counterparts but none the less gave their all for the badge and the club. Players like John O’Shea, Phil Neville, Wes Brown, Darren Fletcher were never the best in the world in their positions, but because they came through the youth system as hard working United lads, we adored them. We still sing about them to this day to show the respect we still hold for them.
Jose must look to the likes of Rashford, Tuanzebe, Borthwick-Jackson and Lingaard and always keep them happy. These lads are your bread and butter. The local lads, the lads who fought through all the age ranks to be in this position they are now all for the sake of playing for Manchester United.
Yes we are on a dark path, with agents and sponsors, but some would argue we needed to do that to stay at the top. But the top comes at a price and we are facing it now and will do for a long time yet. Let’s just hope Jose truly understands what path he takes us on and will stay true to the ‘United Way’.
Guest blog written by Josh Doodson. You can follow Josh on Twitter @joshdood88