It Isn’t Easy Being Manchester United

Posted: August 4, 2015 in Manchester United
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(This is an article I first posted back in August of last year. The reason for republishing this edited version is simple, it is still pretty relevant.)

Well, that ‘s the halfway stage reached with United in fifth place. The expectation after the last spend would have been a little higher, maybe fourth or third, as everybody expected Chelsea and City to be one and two, so a little down on target to date.

Now, all that remains to be done is to strengthen the squad so that the second half of the season culminates in a top four finish.

So let the problems begin. Firstly, everybody who is anybody will be linked with a move to United except the three, now untouchable, at Barcelona, (as eagle-eyed readers will know, since this article, Neymar actually has been linked with United).This, in itself, is a problem. Gone are the days when you merely had to say that you represented Manchester United for the targeted player to immediately pack his bags and instruct his agent to negotiate his departure.

If United are genuinely interested in a player, (genuinely being the operative word here), unless the deal is done quickly it normally doesn’t take long for other clubs to become interested.

Take Thiago Alcantara for example. At one stage everybody thought this was a done deal and he was going to United. Cue a little hesitation on United’s part and in steps his previous coach, Pep Guardiola, to take him to Bayern Munich.

Similarly, Tony Kroos was mooted as being United bound until Real Madrid decided he was just the player they needed.

So no, United don’t quite have the clout they used to. Why this is has been covered in a previous article, which you can read here, so I won’t get into it again, suffice to say that they have competition for every player they want to buy.

Another problem is that sometimes the player United want doesn’t want United. Gareth Bale had a mediocre season at Real Madrid last time out so, naturally, he wants to stay and prove himself. Had he had a good season he would probably want to stay and improve upon it. Whatever his reasons he doesn’t want to go to Old Trafford at the moment.This is where United should just accept that it isn’t going to be and move on.

Where United need to exercise caution is that, when some of their top targets either don’t move or go elsewhere, they don’t get attracted into buying average players just to buy somebody.

Personally, I think this is what happened with Di Maria. I think that Ed Woodward was trying to back up his statement about money being no object for Manchester United and there was guess who, Real Madrid, to take advantage. Di Maria had been overrated for years and United should have got him for around €30 million, but we all know what happened.

In fairness it isn’t easy. Even Fergie made some average, (to be polite), signings who he must have thought would come good. Veron didn’t work out. Neither did Eric Djemba-Djemba or Kleberson. The worst ones would have to be Massimo Taibi and Bebe. He did, however, get it right far more often than he got it wrong. Cantona, Ronaldo, van Nistelrooy, Stam, Schmeichel, Cole, Yorke, Sheringham to name but a few.

What doesn’t happen now, anywhere near as often as it used to, is the signing of players from the lower leagues.

When United were relegated back in 1974 I can remember Tommy Docherty bringing in players nobody had ever heard of before. Alex Forsyth from Partick Thistle, Stewart Houston from Brentford, Gerry Daly from Bohemians, Gordon Hill from Millwall, Jim Holton from Shrewsbury, Steve Coppell from Tranmere. He bought Stuart Pearson from Hull and Jimmy Greenhoff from Stoke. He brought in Lou Macari from Celtic and, in 1977, this team beat the all-conquering Liverpool team in the FA Cup final, (granted, they lost the year before to an offside Bobby Stokes goal against Southampton). Although this team never won the league many people think they would have done had Docherty not been sacked for his affair with Mary Brown, the physio’s wife.

This scenario is unlikely to ever be re-enacted. Nowadays top clubs demand almost instant success. The time required to do what Docherty did, although he did it very quickly, would never be granted to a manager as it would still take too long and again, the top clubs don’t want to take a chance on a lower league player being good enough, or not, at a higher level. The role of the scout now seems to be to go and watch the best teams and find out if a player is surplus to requirements.

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