Things are not right at Manchester United – that is obvious. What’s not so obvious is what can be done about it. Throwing money at the problem is not the answer in itself, as lack of investment is certainly not the reason the once great club finds itself in the position it is in today. It is how the money is spent, and where, and that is something that has not been right since… well since Sir Alex Fergusson departed in 2013.
The fact that United have better odds to get relegated than to win the league tells you everything you need to know about the situation at Old Trafford. Spending, and spending big in January, is not going to fix the issue, except for possibly allaying relegation fears for the rest of the season. Even getting rid of Ole Gunnar Solskjær won’t in itself solve the club’s woes. Their problems come right from the top of the club, and feed down into every aspect of it. Any solution needs to be of the root and branch type, not merely a sticking plaster.
A Winning Strategy
Manchester United is a business. In fact, that side of the club is actually doing better than ever before. Whatever your thoughts on chief executive Ed Woodward, the way he has transformed the commercial side of things is to be commended. You would struggle to find many products or services that didn’t sport the official Manchester United logo.
This makes it even more unfathomable that the club, which is essentially a business, is run in so unbusinesslike a manner in every other aspect. Every successful business needs a strategy. Something that is inherent in the club’s philosophy and drives every single decision. That has patently been lacking of late. Every manager has come in and started again. That is four turnarounds since 2013. That would never happen in any other walk of life. Imagine if Apple did that, for instance. They would have haemorrhaged market share in much the same way that Manchester United have done points and silverware.
That strategy comes from a director of football. Talk of one being appointed has been ongoing for several months, even years. Rio Ferdinand was apparently in discussions with Woodward for the role, as was Darren Fletcher. That in itself should be cause for concern for United’s millions of fans. Getting a “United” man in, someone who has history with the club, knows it inside and out may be a good idea on the surface, but these kinds of decisions should be made with the head, not with the heart.
One acid test is would any other similar sized club employ that person for that role. If the answer is no, then alarm bells should ring. When Solskjaer took over at Old Trafford, how many other EPL clubs would have offered him a manager’s job? The same can be said for Ferdinand and Fletcher. They just do not have the experience or indeed the contacts that is needed for this very specialised position.
The Right Kind of Players
Until the DoF is sorted, it is pointless changing the manager, as they would need to be someone who can work under that structure and with that individual.
The next job – once it has been decided if the affable Norwegian is the right man for the job and if not, who is – is that players need to be recruited who fit into the strategy laid out. This is crucial. Players should not be bought simply because they are deemed world class, or are likely to get internet forums buzzing or shift some replica shirts. They need to be the right players, the right individuals and personalities to slot into the squad and team and who will improve it.
The current problems surrounding Pogba are a perfect example. The initial recruitment, subsequent sale, second recruitment and current indecision and failure to offload represent several mistakes depending on your point of view. During the same period, Josh King, a player considered by many to not be up to scratch at Manchester United – and who played for their reserves under Solskjaer – has been a huge success at Bournemouth, and is arguably producing more than anything United currently have.
The failure to spot the right players, to recruit them, retain and improve them all stem from the same fundamental issue. It is not something that will be changed overnight and it won’t be painless, but unless Man United at least try to get to the root of the problem, acknowledge it and correct it, it is likely to get worse (amazing though that sounds) before it gets better.