History keeps repeating itself at United.

Published: Monday, 25 October 2021

I watched Busby - the documentary - the other night. It’s terrific. A really good watch.

What a man Sir Matt was. It was an extra-ordinary achievement to win the European Cup only a decade after losing half his team and very nearly his life in Munich. I can’t think of any other sporting achievement that comes even vaguely close.

I got familiar with the disaster when I had to produce a radio documentary, with the late Tim Grundy, on the 25th anniversary of the disaster for (what was then) Piccadilly Radio.

I conducted hours of haunting interviews with survivors. Listened to others from the time and got to understand what it was about Manchester United that made the club special. Why it had such a special place in the hearts of so many.

I’d worked closely with United during Big Ron’s time, so I got to know the club quite intimately. I never tired of asking questions of the legendary Manchester Evening News reporter, David Meek, as we criss-crossed the country covering away games. So I get it. I get what makes United different.

Even so, Busby had me riveted. There it was again. All of it. I repeat - it’s incredible what he achieved. What a man he was.

Fergie got it. He knew. He understood what being manager of Manchester United meant. He embraced the remarkable history of the club. He taught himself about Munich. He became expert on Best, Law and Charlton - and he went onto to replicate so much of what Sir Matt had achieved. The comparisons are incredible. Two demanding Scots. Two totally driven football men. Two men who will forever be ‘special’ to United fans.

But. And this time it’s a big but. Other scary similarities became very evident to me whilst watching the documentary. Neither man could ever really let go. Neither man was ever able to identify a suitable successor. And that theme of ‘history repeating itself’ came back into stark focus again this weekend.

Busby anointed Wilf McGuiness as his immediate successor. Charming Wilf. A good guy. A funny guy - but a guy hopelessly out of his depth in the job. Sound familiar?

Frank O’Farrell had a go, but couldn’t escape Busby’s shadow or influence. Dave Sexton was somebody else’s choice, but The Doc was Busby’s. Big Ron got as close to getting it right as anyone - before Fergie, but they all had Busby in the background. Poor old Frank even found him in the manager’s office on his first day at The Cliff. He had the balls the kick him out - and Sir Matt took up residency half way down the corridor on the way to ‘the manager’s office’

Fergie, of course, chose David Moyes - and chose to go missing when Moyes needed his backing. LVG and Mourinho were Mr Ed’s, who wanted to prove he could make big decisions without Fergie. By the way, I’m sorry Gary - but to say Mourinho was a failure at United is ridiculous. He finished 2nd with a bang ordinary squad and delivered two trophies. I’d say being run out of Spain after 6 months was failure.

Anyway, we all know who chose Solskjaer - ‘new’ Wilf McGuiness. I looked at him on the touch line Sunday and saw an affable guy drowning. Poor fella hasn’t got a clue.

I said recently that it was obvious that none of that side was listening to him They’re playing for themselves - if you could describe Sunday’s humiliation as ‘playing’. What a shambles. Even in the darkest of times I have never seen people streaming away from OT - in their thousands - at half time. Not even the day they got relegated in 1974. By the way - yesterday’s capitulation must’ve hurt long standing United fans more than that ignominy.

Sunday has been coming for weeks. Maybe even months. You can’t keep going to the well and finding water. Time and again United have saved themselves with late rallies. It wasn’t going to keep happening. It couldn’t keep happening.

Ronaldo? Anyone agree with me now? Fernandes? Unless United have got a free-kick or a pen this guy is a luxury. How long before others start saying the same? Pogba? What he did was scandalous. I would go so far as to suggest he wanted to get sent off. He’s a petulant disgrace. And Harry Maguire? A man described by my beINSPORTS colleague Nigel de Jong as ‘the most overrated centre-back in the league’. It’s hard to disagree. It’s no good apologising Harry. You’ll be doing it every week at this rate.

United’s best player was again de Gea - what a save that was from Alexander-Arnold. That one moment elevated him above the rest.

New Wilf McGuiness didn’t know what to do. He spoke afterwards about ‘telling people what to do at half-time’. Half-time? How about trying that at the start of a match Wilf?

No. I’m sorry. Solskjaer, the former manager of relelgated Cardiff and Molde, will never be able to manage Manchester United.

I started the season believing that they had all the component parts to mount a challenge. Wilf says they’re ‘so close’ that he doesn’t want to walk away. Close to what? Close to what should be the sack I would suggest.

Well done Watford. After my harsh words last week I was pleased to see them rally at Everton. Now - more of the same please. As for Norwich - well. What else is there to say?