BY AYYAZ MALIK
It’s something this generation wouldn’t be used to, it would be unheard of an alien concept. But believe it or not Manchester United are in a place where children of the ’90s would have never seen them get to before.
Cross-City rivals Manchester City in that era of utter Manchester United dominance were arguably in the doldrums of English football. Now I am not saying the tables have turned, but I am going to tell a cautionary tale, that it might not be too far off.
Man City since Spaniard has taken over has seen The Citizens win two of the last three Premier League titles and in recent times before Pep was appointed, a semi-final place in the Champions League.
Man United in comparison have reached the Champions League quarter-final once in the past six seasons. Yes, it can be argued that a League Cup, FA Cup and Europa League have been won, but with the greatest respect, this is Manchester United, arguably the greatest club in English history (yes I am aware Liverpool will want to challenge that statement).
Talking of Liverpool, there’s been a general feeling from Manchester United fans that the dark gloomy days are here and could be staying for the long haul. This seems similar to Liverpool, who were very much clinging on to past glories, United fans are starting to appear the same.
Four permanent managers in six seasons is never a good start and fundamentally this is where the fault lies (Lack of instability). Currently at the helm is of course Manchester United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and he does have a legendary status within the club, but the former striker is enduring a very tough assignment at present.
In the ’90s and the 2000s, mockery from United fans was aplenty. O how they mocked Liverpool; “This is our year’, they sniggered in glee as their Man United team would reign supreme and have close to utter dominance of England’s premier competition (The Premier League).
Liverpool would look and see their arch-rivals (after the 1990/1991 season), win title after title and slowly but surely from having won the domestic league title just seven times, fast forward to the season of 2013 (Sir Alex’s last) and Manchester United had not only knocked their old foes off their perch, they moved the perch up a step or two, by becoming 20 time English domestic league champions .
The Merseyside club Liverpool since last winning the league title in 1991, have not won the title in some 27 years since and have to go through a tumultuous journey to overcome critics, to get back somewhere near the summit.
Managerial changes and philosophy changes ensued at Anfield, and the aim of getting the glory days back to Merseyside were going further into the sunset, but fast forward just four years ago.
This was the time that a German manager Jurgen Klopp, who had won the domestic title with unfancied Borussia Dortmund to a league and cup double in the 2011/2012 football season was named managed of Liverpool.
The Reds had managed to lure the former Mainz coach despite interest, from their rivals down the East Lancs (United).
Now, there is a reason why this narrative has been mentioned. That reason is that Manchester United and Liverpool, both will play out the same narrative, a tale where a manager is appointed, tries to play youth players where he can, but needs time to execute his master plan .
manager Solskjaer to his credit is trying to implement a philosophy and plan, a plan which is arguably of United’s values, promote the youth. Players like Daniel James, Arron Wan-Bissaka and even Marcus Rashford getting ample game time.
That’s argued, that’s more through obligation rather than choice, due to the fact that experienced players like Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Valencia have left for example. Whatever your opinion of letting players of this calibre leave, the call will always be to replace them with players of the same ilk.
The Red Devils, need to do something similar to Liverpool (stick with a manager, and his philosophy and have patience). Players, like Milner, Henderson, Van Dijk (all leaders in their own right).
Manchester United need to look for players of this mould, Messers Pogba, Mata and Matic, for example, need to step up and be leaders, they’re desperately needed at the club. New signings will be needed for the next three summers, last summer’s transfer window, although not setting the world alight, to still wasn’t too bad because of the players they got in (Wan-Bissaka, James and Harry Maguire).
The Liverpool board, gave their manager Klopp time, the question is will Manchester United do the same? If they don’t then, just look no further than their arch-rivals’ past. Dark and gloomy times could lie ahead at Old Trafford. Paul Merson thinks £700 million is needed as well maybe five, seven players, whether they do, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be the judge of that.
It’s hard to say if United will struggle to be competitive like Liverpool were. It’s obvious The Red Devils are in transition and the manager will need time and patience from the gentleman upstairs, to overcome this period, but if they make mistakes in recruitment or general strategy of running the football club, like the Anfield club all those years ago, then they can’t say they haven’t been warned of the consequences of this.