What next at Old Trafford?

Published: Monday, 22 April 2019

Where on earth do Manchester United go now? £744m pounds spent - and four managers appointed - since Sir Alex Ferguson quit and they’re light years behind the top two in English football. And that puts them at least the same distance - perhaps a little bit more - behind some of Europe’s elite clubs, as we saw in both Paris and Barcelona. Never mind that they got past Paris (with an incorrect VAR decision) they were played off the park by them for 180 minutes - and Barca did the same whilst in cruise control.

The win in Paris only served to ramp up the hysteria surrounding Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Ed Woodward must be thinking ‘Why? Why? Why did I listen to them again?’ As we’ve discussed here - it was the wrong decision.

I watched Liverpool scrambling about post-Dalglish. Graeme Souness tried to change things and move from the ‘Boot Room’ culture. It didn’t suit a lot of people then. He tried too hard and moved too quickly. I was a critic - but he was right. He couldn’t take people with him and was sacked. Liverpool turned to Roy Evans - another disciple of the ‘Boot Room’. Outcome - more wastes years. Eventually they changed direction and Gerard Houllier - the man behind the Clairefontaine Academy in France, laid the foundations for Rafa’s success.

Do you know, had United stuck with David Moyes post Fergie his contract still wouldn’t have expired! Imagine what he could’ve done with £744m - stability and backing.

I was one of those that said early that he wasn’t going to succeed - largely because he couldn’t steer the club his own way. The shadow of Fergie was too long and too fresh. Out he went - for Ryan Giggs.

Van Gaal’s football didn’t suit. Out he went. Mourinho couldn’t take it his way. Out he went. Again, I have to admit that I lost patience with his whining - but was he right? Was finishing 2nd with this group one of his greatest achievements? On the basis of what we witnessed yesterday I’d say definitely. Mourinho was smart. He saw the writing on the wall and worked his way out. Talking to him about what happened since was illuminating. He saw all this.

How often has it been said that ‘a man’s greatest strength can also be his greatest weakness’? The same applies in many walks of life. So too at football clubs.

Perhaps Ibra is right. Perhaps United have to get over Ferguson - the circle of Ferguson - and carve a new era. Why do United pay Fergie £3m a year? For advice like he’s just given? Solskjaer was his idea. The appointment was welcomed by almost all his disciples. They’re a lot quieter now.

As for selling this current lot - who to? Who will buy? Wages are huge. Reputations are in tatters. Can they afford to change Managers again? Woodward can’t. He’ll have to go if he tries that. Cue Gary Neville for the top job. That would be a popular appointment with United punters, but it still wouldn’t cut the ties with Fergie.

I’ve had plenty of stick down the years for my views on his departure. I said when he left United were eight players short. I’ll repeat again that van Persie’s goals papered over all sorts of cracks.

It’s only fools that don’t learn the lessons of history. How long did United try to hang onto Sir Matt Busby’s legacy? How long did Liverpool believe the only way was the ‘Boot Room’? It’s happening all over again. Question - what other PL club would’ve appointed Solskjaer? Question 2 - what top European side would’ve appointed Solskjaer? Good luck Ole - you’re going to need it.

On another matter - how bad is the standard of refereeing in the PL now? I’ve mentioned this often enough recently as well. I’ll never understand the thinking with appointments either. Why has Martin Atkinson been given City or Liverpool in six of his last nine games? Is there an argument that when that happens an individual gets overly familiar with players? Cardiff will certainly think so.

In Cup ties we continue to be the only

country in the world ignoring IFAB protocol by not offering the ref a pitchside monitor to check decisions.i repeat - this is wrong. A match ref must have responsibility for the final decision. This is what IFAB regulations state ‘the referee is the only person that can make the final decision; the VAR has the same status as other match officials and can only assist the referee’. That’s pretty clear to me. So why are our match refs being told the decisions they should make from a bunker just outside Heathrow - by officials not as competent as they are? Mike Riley, the man in charge of dubious appointments and falling standards, has got to change this. I’m hearing that if he doesn’t then UEFA and FIFA will not be using our refs in major competitions next season - thereby denying them the chance to officiate properly - and arguably - get better at what they do. Right now this would affect Antony Taylor and Michael Oliver.

And what about the future Mike? Nine of our elite refs are 46 and over! Roger East is 54!! Come on. This can’t be right. Riley has had his time - and someone else should be given a chance now.