Ten months on and few lessons were learned

Nearly a year on from Manchester United’s humiliation at Barcelona’s hands in the Champions League final and it is now clear that the Reds have not closed the gap on the Catalan side – a statement of the obvious. Yet, ‘closing the gap’ was a familiar refrain in the weeks after the 3-1 Wembley defeat, with the debate among fans and manager centring on how United could recover ground the lost to Pep Guardiola’s outstanding side. But in the 293 days since United capitulated to Barça in such dispiriting fashion the Reds not only failed to catch the four times European Champions, but have gone significantly backwards.

In total United lost four times in European competition this season; knocked out of two separate tournaments on route. But that tells only part of the story in a campaign that saw United perform middling at best on 10 occasions in succession. Indeed, even rare wins in Europe over the past seven months have come with caveats; neither of United’s victories over Romanian debutants Oţelul Galaţi came with any great flair, while the defeat of Ajax in Amsterdam was earned on barely 30 minutes of quality football.

More common, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side has plumbed depths of performance in Europe that, thankfully, have not been matched in more than five years. While Old Trafford draws with Benfica and FC Basel were infirm, worse was to come away in Switzerland. Yet, none of those results was a patch on the humiliating thumping handed down by Athletic Bilbao in the past week – a side, albeit talented, that currently lies seventh in La Liga.

It was not, of course, the loss to Bilbao that hurt most this season. Many United fans, mindful of the Premier League challenge from Manchester City ahead, felt a sense of relief that the Reds must no longer go through the Thursday-Sunday Europa routine. It comes to something when United has sunk to that depth - 125 years of proud history discarded in thumping defeat to one of Europe’s second ranked clubs.

More important though, the manner of defeat to the Basques was not only comprehensive, but wilfully lax on United’s part. Both at Old Trafford and Thursday night, in the atmospheric San Mames, there were times when United’s players simply did not care enough. Patrice Evra jogged through the match; Rooney put in the effort only when it suited him; Tom Cleverley strolled around as if taking part in an informal beach knockabout on holiday. The threesome was absolutely not alone in this sin.

In this observation there is no clichéd call for passion. It is a recognition that, at United, there is more than a century of institutional memory. It is more valuable than Thursday’s performance deserved.

“It’s been a disaster in the Champions League and in the Europa League now I think we have to tell the truth – we deserved to go out because we never played with the same desire as when we play in the league,” admitted Evra on Friday, one of the few in the United camp to recognise the catastrophe at hand.

“We can see the difference in the league. We are top of the league and we are more focused, I don’t know why. If we want to save the season we have to win the league. If we don’t win the league, it will be a really bad season.”

There are excuses for failure, of course. Injuries have played a part, but only a part, in United’s capitulation this season. During the Champions League group stages Ferguson’s side suffered for repeated and frequent absences as a full-blown injury crisis kicked in during the late autumn.

Yet, injuries were not the reason that United failed to make it out of the Champions League for the first time since 2005. Complacency from both players and manager on a truly massive scale was the true cause, and both were shameful; it is simply not the United way.

No wonder, then, that Ferguson spent most of Friday praising United’s spirit in the Premier League, drawing focus away from the matter at hand to a title run-in with rivals Manchester City that will consume supporters attention in the coming weeks.

The question now is whether United will learn lessons from a disastrous campaign. Just as Ferguson promised an answer to Barcelona’s superiority last May – and failed – so the club must now learn how to come back from a bottom-feeding campaign; to again compete at the very highest level. After all, the regression has put the lie to Ferguson’s recent claim that United is “not that far away” from Barcelona or Real Madrid’s level.

“There are always lessons to learn from every football match, whether you win or lose,” Sir Alex told Channel 5 immediately after defeat in Spain.

“It’s disappointing more than anything. We haven’t progressed in the Champions League and now we’re out of the Europa League. I think the best team went through. I don’t think we can complain about the result. I think that in the second half in particular Bilbao were the better team.

“What we have seen tonight and last Thursday is a team whose work rate is higher than anyone I have seen in Europe, and that takes you a long way. Apart from the fantastic work rate, they have some good qualities also. It’s not just their work rate getting them where they are at the moment – they’re showing some very good combination football and I think they can go the whole way.”

Indeed, Athletic’s was a brand of attacking, vibrant, and above all, committed football that United supporters can only dream of. In praise of Bilbao Ferguson was generous, but well he might be for it is certainly easier to praise an Athletic side that was better over the tie than any side United has faced, Barcelona aside, in the past two seasons, than address United’s long-running and obvious deficiencies.

One wonders whether spring 2013 will bring a similar debate – will Ferguson and his paymasters recognise decline before it sets in permanently, or offer another river of broken promises.

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  1. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    It’s hard to understand Ferguson these days… who knows what the fuck he’s thinking anymore?

    When he said Barcelona taught us a lesson, and he would see that United would rise to the challenge… I was sure he knew exactly what was wrong, and was sure he had a real and definite plan to fix the problem… so how did we get so lost, and end up so far away from where we were supposed to be?

    Was Ferguson seeing a totally different problem than nearly everyone else, and therefore had a totally different solution in mind?… if so, can someone explain to me what his solution is, cause I don’t see it.

    Or… did he see things the same way as everyone else, but just could find the solution?… and if this is the case, then I’d like to know why not.

  2. Dean says

    Harsh but true Ed. We just haven’t performed well defensively this campaign. It’s not only the Vidic injury but the sale of O’Shea and Brown, include to that Van Der Sar’s retirement and lack of a defensive midfielder and we have a receipy for disaster. At the start of the season it was all out attack, which gave everyone a hard on. The problem with that in Europe is it doesn’t work with sides that have more creativity. We got well and truly b***h slapped on Thursday but I find it hard to believe it would have happened if both Van Der Sar, Vidic and O’Shea were on the pitch. That being said, this crop of players will be fantastic in 3 years time and the top teams now will be going through a transition like we are now.

  3. sheesh says

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    It’s hard to understand Ferguson these days… who knows what the fuck he’s thinking anymore?

    When he said Barcelona taught us a lesson, and he would see that United would rise to the challenge… I was sure he knew exactly what was wrong, and was sure he had a real and definite plan to fix the problem… so how did we get so lost, and end up so far away from where we were supposed to be?

    Was Ferguson seeing a totally different problem than nearly everyone else, and therefore had a totally different solution in mind?… if so, can someone explain to me what his solution is, cause I don’t see it.

    Or… did he see things the same way as everyone else, but just could find the solution?… and if this is the case, then I’d like to know why not.

    Yup.

        • Stevie D says

          Bit harsh on Sheasy! While I admit he wouldn’t have saved our season in Europe or anything like that, he certainly wasn’t a donkey. v.good squad player to have, did a decent job where ever he played.

  4. Trydent says

    Here we go with all the glory hunters bashing SAF! You arse holes need a reality check.The real reason our midfield cannot compete is the total lack of quality investment in our club.Giggs is 40 and cannot press. Scholes Is 37 and said last saeson his legs were gone.We have Park on the wrong side of 30.Ferdinand is the same. Vidic has been injured all season and DF also.TC has had little time on the pitch due to injury.Half the bloody squad has spent time on the treatment table.Yet you idiots come on and bash the manager! Why don’t you have a voice about the real cause.Those fucking vermin leeches that bought our club.Since the take over they have bleed us dry.Th money from CR would have never even had us having this discussion if it had been reinvested.Instead it went to that usa scum to fill their fat guts.As for this article it reeks of grand pointless, meaningless statements.125 years of proud history… What bloody crap is this? Humiliated by Barca… How is 3-1 a humiliation?Now out of the wood work come the knockers..The bloody sheep that bleet.Bah! Bah! Bah! Ed included!

    • says

      Trydent – who’s bashing SAF? Perhaps you’re just reading what you want in this piece. You certainly can’t have read many articles on this site. But how typical of somebody who jumps to conclusions to lace a comment with personal insults. Says more about you.

  5. Neil says

    Ed, this is really spot on. One thing that really sticks out for me has been the air of complacency that otherwise rarely appears, I think subconsciously taking on the likes of Basel and Benfica caused some of the players to slip into a malaise. Bilbao are not a big name but have been oustanding at times under Bielsa and battered Barca at home in the league only to be pegged back late on in a 2-2 draw, they have great continuity among their young players and are hungry to succeed. As a side that can give excellent performances they are very dangerous in cup competitions, they have reached the final of the Copa del rey in Spain.

    I think the experience of Vidic and to a lesser extent Fletcher have been key components missing, crucial cogs in the defensive core of the team. But I do trust the younger players to emerge stronger for it, there is a good group of youngsters here who have strong potential. The bottom line is that in the matches against high quality opposition, United’s central midfield will be found severely lacking, this is the most influential difference that is obvious to everyone, you would imagine Ferguson cannot let himself speak out about it too much because at the end of the day it comes down to a lack of funds to improve that area of the team. Some of United’s recent signings may have been for ‘big’ money but in each case it was more of a case of each player having their mind made up about which club to go to, I don’t think we will see any world class players coming to the club if they have other alternatives. We would wonder now, does Fergie expect the likes of Cleverley, Anderson and Pogba (if he stays) to eventually become good enough to form a half decent midfield?

    The only way to reach Barca’s level is to generate a strong level of continuity and tactical awareness amongst the whole crop of young players. At such a point, the levels of technical ability will dictate how good the team will be. As we have seen elsewhere, having a shopping list of star names won’t necessarily make a brilliant team straight away.

  6. redevil_83 says

    like every summer i will hope ferguson addreses the tactical and quality weakness in our mid fld when it comes to europe. but yet i will not be surprised if nothing is done about it. i know the gaffer is fixated on european glory, but i don’t see any lesson learned to bridge the gap since 2009 european cup final even. united can be happy about being kings in england, but not being able to compete even in a 2nd tier european competition speaks volumes.

  7. Sidsidney says

    Great quote from Bielsa: “There are 36 different forms of communicating through a pass”
    Tell that to any one of our midfielders bar Scholes

  8. Herbie Simms says

    You hit the nail right on the head and I’ve been saying it all along. SAF has lost it for sometime now. He believes he has the best players in the world. He rates his players so high, including his flagging midfield. All this talk about Eden Hazard, we need more than just a Eden Hazard to compete in Europe. I will be happy to see SAF retire, even if we do win the league title for a 20th time. He can retire on a high.

  9. Darel Luiz says

    All along while watching the matches against Bilbao I kept thinking in my head, what if SAF just comes out for the post match interview and says ” I don’t know how to beat Sapnish Teams”.

    There has been no closing of Gap and the Spanish teams are far superior in their style of play.

  10. ja says

    In the days when the club used the money it generated for the club, Ferguson almost always brought in at least one top player a season to in his own words “shake things up” and avoid complacency. He also talked about players having to be determined to ‘stay on the bus’.
    Now all he is able to bring in is promising youth, De Gea, Jones, cheap punts, Bebe Obertan Diouf, and middle rank mid 20s Young. None of them, goalkeepers excepted, is going to get the established squad on their mettle and saying “well that new so and so is not going to take my place!”
    Which ultimately is the main reason for the decline, the hundreds of millions being syphoned off to pay banks etc because the plc board was too complacent to have a poison pill in place to ward off carpetbagging predators.
    And Ferguson has got in bed with the Glazers, so he is going to have to lie in it (in both senses of the word!).

  11. Bill says

    Alf has it right, we just don’t know what SAF is thinking these days. He is definitely coming to the end of his life as a manager, trying to keep up the standards set in the past with one hand tied behind his back due to the Glazers is wearing him down. It really is selection roulette at times.

    • Dean says

      Thanks for zoning in on one name from my comment. Say what you like about him… I know his passing was inconsistent and he wasn’t good going forward but at least he could defend. A trait I usually like in a defender.

  12. 19 and Counting says

    3 CL finals in 4 years and we’re slating SAF. Wow. Yes, we have been poor in Europe this season but we are in first place in the league. SAF has done wonders with an injury-ravaged squad and it’s largely because of him that we are top of the league right now. Let’s see what happens to this club when he’s not around anymore in 2 years’ time. We have been spoiled.

  13. Stevie D says

    Can’t believe some of the SAF bashing! WTF! Surely it was down to the huge casualty list we suffered before Christmas that was to blame for our dip in form….both in the PL and the CL. We couldn’t get a decent, experienced team out every week. Obviously this was a major part of the problem, and we were out of the CL before we could turn things around.
    As for going out of the Europa league….we have to draw a distinction between this and the CL. Did anyone really want us to be in the Europa league? I doubt it, I certainly am much more concerned about finishing ahead of City in the PL than winning the Europa league. So hardly a surprise this was reflected in the performances against Ajax and Bilbao.
    However, even with a fully fit squad at its peak, I still don’t think we have closed the gap on Barca. They signed Fabregas to improve their already incredible squad; we signed Ashley Young! That says it all really. I doubt Fergie really sees Ashley Young as the missing ingredient to beating Barca. He’ll do against most of the PL teams, but he’s average at best.
    The squad needs huge investment if we want to catch Barca, but the funds are not available. That is the problem in a nutshell!! Can we blame SAF for this? Of course not, unless you subscribe to Keano’s silly theory that is!! Fergies hands are tied, but he’s done an unbelievable job with this squad this season.

  14. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Commenter said:
    Here we go with all the glory hunters bashing SAF! You arse holes need a reality check.The real reason our midfield cannot compete is the total lack of quality investment in our club.Giggs is 40 and cannot press. Scholes Is 37 and said last saeson his legs were gone.We have Park on the wrong side of 30.Ferdinand is the same. Vidic has been injured all season and DF also.TC has had little time on the pitch due to injury.Half the bloody squad has spent time on the treatment table.Yet you idiots come on and bash the manager! Why don’t you have a voice about the real cause.Those fucking vermin leeches that bought our club.Since the take over they have bleed us dry.Th money from CR would have never even had us having this discussion if it had been reinvested.Instead it went to that usa scum to fill their fat guts.As for this article it reeks of grand pointless, meaningless statements.125 years of proud history… What bloody crap is this? Humiliated by Barca… How is 3-1 a humiliation?Now out of the wood work come the knockers..The bloody sheep that bleet.Bah! Bah! Bah! Ed included!

    Like most Ranters here… I loathe the Glazers… passionately.

    But you’d have to be stupid to not see that Ferguson, is at the very least satisfied with their ownership… and at worst complicit with their financial handling of the club.

    Strong words from Ferguson, at any time, could start mass protests outside Old Trafford… but instead of condemning the Glazers… he tries very hard to convince us all that they are in fact…swell folks, and great owners.

    Who would you like us to blame for that?

    • DeadRevel says

      So you admit that Ferguson rebelling against the Glazers would be a bad thing, then continue to criticise him in spite of that. Where’s the logic? Ferguson makes mistakes but I can’t really stomach Unied fans actually using him as a scapegoat.

      What we need is players with quality on the ball. De Gea, Rafael, Smalling, Jones, Evans, Fabio, Nani, Clev, Pogba, Carrick, Scholes, Young, Rooney, Welbeck and Berba are all good enough to do this, but some of them need time to mature.

      The fact remains, that if we hadn’t had a ridiculous injury list this season we’d be clear at the top of the league and probably still in Europe. And all we need is one energetic, passing and skillful central midfielder to completely rejuvenate us.

      We will have money to spend this summer, especially if we let Berba go and (PLEASE) take Owen to fucking pasture. One midfielder and I’m confident that he, along with Clev, Carrick and Pogba, with Scholes / Giggs as midfield back ups will be good enough.

      Relying on Scholes and Giggs is not good, but having them as back ups is fantastic. No-one better than experienced legends who know how to win.

  15. DamnedUnited says

    Sometimes, I feel that Fergie deliberately buys and plays young players or squad players to get them to fight harder. How he keeps them motivated to do this amazes me. Yes, Europe has been bad this season, but the fight the squad has shown in the league is extraordinary.

    Look at Chelsea and Arsenal’s players. Chelsea’s old guard only perform when they can be bothered and will continue to be inconsistent once the novelty of ‘freedommmmmmmmm’ from AVB passes. Arsenal’s young players are mostly never complimented by experience so unless Arsene changes something, they won’t fight every last ball forever.

    Man City however, lets see how long the collection of prima donnas continue to have that desire.

    I do however, have a lot of respect for Mancini. Probably the only guy at that club.

  16. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Commenter said:
    So you admit that Ferguson rebelling against the Glazers would be a bad thing, then continue to criticise him in spite of that. Where’s the logic? Ferguson makes mistakes but I can’t really stomach Unied fans actually using him as a scapegoat.
    What we need is players with quality on the ball. De Gea, Rafael, Smalling, Jones, Evans, Fabio, Nani, Clev, Pogba, Carrick, Scholes, Young, Rooney, Welbeck and Berba are all good enough to do this, but some of them need time to mature.
    The fact remains, that if we hadn’t had a ridiculous injury list this season we’d be clear at the top of the league and probably still in Europe. And all we need is one energetic, passing and skillful central midfielder to completely rejuvenate us.
    We will have money to spend this summer, especially if we let Berba go and (PLEASE) take Owen to fucking pasture. One midfielder and I’m confident that he, along with Clev, Carrick and Pogba, with Scholes / Giggs as midfield back ups will be good enough.
    Relying on Scholes and Giggs is not good, but having them as back ups is fantastic. No-one better than experienced legends who know how to win.

    I’m not sure who you’re talking to… but if it’s me, then you can’t read… I would have loved Ferguson to stand up and speak out against the Glazers… if he had, they may still have bought the club, but I don’t think they could have held on to it.
    And this… “The fact remains, that if we hadn’t had a ridiculous injury list this season we’d be clear at the top of the league”… is just as pointless as considering, that if the Bitters hadn’t lost lost Toure for the ACN, and seen Kompany crocked for a few key games, then they’d have left us far behind.
    In this world, at this time… the reality is… we’ve got the makings of a fantastic team… with a very bright young core… but it will all amount to fuck all, if we ignore the midfield… and that’s exactly what has happened for far too long.
    Ferguson has neglected the midfield ever since Keane started showing his wear and tear.
    While all the top teams in the world, spent large snapping all the best midfield talent, Ferguson has handed the fans all manner of ridiculous excuses… all of which have only appeased the thick and ignorant… everyone can see that our midfield has been declining for years… the problem is, top midfielders are the most coveted players in the game… players with the best ball skills, and the creativity and vision to use them… teams like Real and Barca know this, which is why they snap them up at any cost, even if they don’t need them at the moment… take a look at either teams subs bench and you will see players that would walk straight into our first eleven.
    They cost money… a lot of it… but our owners won’t spend it… and Ferguson lets them get away with that, by telling the fans that all is well… when it clearly isn’t… and it’s fans like you that, year after year, seem to think that, “this year will be different”… “this year, we’ll get our man”… WE WON’T!… and when Ed writes an article suggesting that we won’t, and why we won’t… or when fans such as myself agree that we won’t… then odious little shits like “Trydent” pop in out of nowhere, to call us “glory hunters” and other such nonsense.
    The Glazers are ruining United… and Ferguson has done everything he can to support them for it… as legendary as he is to this club… I find that hard to stomach.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

    • DeadRevel says

      No, you’re wrong. You actually explained to yourself why you’re wrong and yet you continue to post the same shit. If you actually think this club would be better off without Ferguson you are a stupid cunt. Simple. No-one said he was perfect but it’s hardly his fucking fault if he isn’t allowed to spend money is it.

      Oh and it’s not valid to compare City and United, obviously. Since we have had far more injuries. So again, I’ll repeat the simple fact: if we had the same amount of injuries as City this season, we would be comfortably ahead by now. You cant plan on an injury crisis.

      What confuses me is that you actually seem to agree with me on the main issue which is that we need a new midfielder. What you are ignoring is that fact that our midfield was functioning very well st the start of the season, at which point many people were saying ‘I’m glad we didn’t buy Sneijder / Nasri’. This seems to be confirmed given that they’ve both been very mediocre this season. My point was that if Clev had remained fit then this ‘midfield crisis’ wouldn’t be a crisis. Even Ando was playing well and we had Morrison and Pogba to look forward to. Things change – that’s football. If Ferguson buys a top midfielder this summer and gets rid of Owen my faith will be restored.

      But either way I will never accuse Ferguson of deliberately encouraging the decline of United like you.

  17. tony says

    Patrice Evra jogged through the match; He’s jogged through the fucking season.I cant remember if Evra is actually a good defender?(NOT A FUCKING WINGER).When people say he has had a good game,It’s only in attack,I can’t remember a great tackle or anything defensively from him in such a long time.If i’m wrong let me know.

    • DeadRevel says

      Yes you’re right. He’s been shit for a long time. Hurts to say it, but it’s true. And those interviews he gave after the Euro elimination(s) were pretty hard to take considering he is as much to blame as anyone.

      Though I can’t be too angry towards him – he is a United legend in my eyes and I think he lost his brother in late 2011. That combined with fatigue, the French debacle, the racism row etc must be difficult to cope with mentally.

  18. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Commenter said:
    No, you’re wrong. You actually explained to yourself why you’re wrong and yet you continue to post the same shit. If you actually think this club would be better off without Ferguson you are a stupid cunt. Simple. No-one said he was perfect but it’s hardly his fucking fault if he isn’t allowed to spend money is it.

    Oh and it’s not valid to compare City and United, obviously. Since we have had far more injuries. So again, I’ll repeat the simple fact: if we had the same amount of injuries as City this season, we would be comfortably ahead by now. You cant plan on an injury crisis.

    What confuses me is that you actually seem to agree with me on the main issue which is that we need a new midfielder. What you are ignoring is that fact that our midfield was functioning very well st the start of the season, at which point many people were saying ‘I’m glad we didn’t buy Sneijder / Nasri’. This seems to be confirmed given that they’ve both been very mediocre this season. My point was that if Clev had remained fit then this ‘midfield crisis’ wouldn’t be a crisis. Even Ando was playing well and we had Morrison and Pogba to look forward to. Things change – that’s football. If Ferguson buys a top midfielder this summer and gets rid of Owen my faith will be restored.

    But either way I will never accuse Ferguson of deliberately encouraging the decline of United like you.

    You really should, read carefully, stop, and think before you type, especially if you’re going to call anyone a “stupid cunt”

    Because you could end up looking like a “stupid cunt”!

    I’m one of Fergusons biggest fans… always have been… and it will be a bad day for United when he retires… and I’m not sure there is anyone out there that can follow him.

    However… only he knows why he defends the Glazers… against the grain of most United supporters. No one said it was his fault that the Glazers are cunts… but the Glazers ARE cunts, and I’m sick of Ferguson telling me otherwise.

    And you’re right… it’s not “valid to compare City and United”… regarding injuries… that’s not what I was doing… I was trying, (and obviously failing) to point out to you, that “what ifs”, mean fuck all. If Vidic is fit, then Evans doesn’t play… who has been very good… how do you know that Vidic doesn’t have a couple of rubbish games, and we’d have been better off with Evans… truth is, you don’t… in fact, you proven with your ridiculous arguments, that you really don’t know fuck all about anything.

    As far as our midfield functioning well early season… well Wolves were top of the league after three games… what does that tell you… fuck all!… are you still there?

    And as for this… “But either way I will never accuse Ferguson of deliberately encouraging the decline of United like you.”?????????????????????????

    You’re an idiot!

  19. sheesh says

    Commenter said:
    Patrice Evra jogged through the match; He’s jogged through the fucking season.I cant remember if Evra is actually a good defender?(NOT A FUCKING WINGER).When people say he has had a good game,It’s only in attack,I can’t remember a great tackle or anything defensively from him in such a long time.If i’m wrong let me know.

    He’s finished as a defender. If we had the cash, we’d buy a decent left back. Unfortunately, other (more pressing) holes need filling.

  20. han says

    sheesh said:
    He’s finished as a defender. If we had the cash, we’d buy a decent left back. Unfortunately, other (more pressing) holes need filling.

    i do hope you are not referring to anderson’s mouth…

  21. Herbie Simms says

    Iam not bashing SAF. We are at the top of the league but the overall performance is crap! At 70 years old, he is just set in his ways and has run out of ideas. Its time now for a fresh new manager with fresh ideas or we will continue to fail in Europe. Yes we may continue to win the Premier Division title in the English league but we will not be considered a big club around the world if we continue to fail miserably in European competitions. Our style of football also needs to change. Look how we were destroyed by Bilbao, a fifth placed team in the Spanish league with a bunch of youngsters. It was their style of play that killed us.

  22. Sidsidney says

    Fergie hasn’t ran out of ideas FFS we just need a plan how to tackle this ‘new’ style of football that we’ve been owned by in recent years.
    Bilbao play differently to Barca but the philosophy and the approach is the same; fit as fuck, skillful as fuck, pass and move to fuck. I’m thinking of the South American teams I saw at the last World Cup n all. Brendan Rogers just mentioned them on MOTD and how they influence Swansea’s football.
    I think their superiority is down to simple things, like how much time they spend with the ball in training. For a centreback to be able to dribble like that he must practice with the ball shitloads – more than traditional centrebacks do. And to be fair to Fergie all of our centrebacks, and our keepers are comfortable on the ball too.
    But what we really need if we’re going to compete is a more skillful, more ‘aving it midfield who can play at a higher tempo than Carrick, Scholes & Giggs, and the bodgers like Jones and Park. Cleverley is a step in the right direction; someone who passes and moves, always busy, always looking for it.
    We need a plan. We need to adapt. I think England does in general if it wants to dominate Europe like it did 4/5 years ago, and if the national team wants to be slightly less of a total embarrassment. I mean the fact we still turn kids away for being too small is ridiculous when you consider 3 of the top 4 players in the world are midgets. I could rant for hours about this.

  23. Gopher Brown says

    I think the main problem we have is a lack of any tactical nous. SAF is not the Luddite many people think he is when it comes to tactics, but too often in recent years it has felt like he has written 11 names on the board and told them to ‘just go and bloody play, figure it out for yourselves.’

    Good tactics can make a bunch of fairly average players look brilliant (just look at Bilbao the other day) and can make a brilliant team into World beaters (Barcelona).

    It took us a long time to accept Carlos Quieroz’s 433 formation, but it delivered results. Our retraction into 442 in the last two seasons is ridiculous as it’s an outdated formation that does not produce anything like the fluency and movement we need to succeed at the top level.

  24. JayJ says

    Fergie is a world class manager. We are still fighting for the league and we have been in 3 out of 4 champions league finals. All this despite being strangled of funds. Wenger has got money and look at Arsenal, shit.

    All those who go on about him bumming the glazers. What is he supposed to do? Do you think inciting a protest is going to help? How fucked up would our club be If the manager was saying the owner is a cunt, the division and press attention would be a huge distraction from the team and we would be nowhere.

    Anyone who thinks that would force the Glazers out is a fool. They would be more likely to sack Fergie than leave. It’s a stalemate so Fergie is putting on a false smile saying all is fine but there is “no value”.

  25. Jim says

    JayJ. You’re absolutely right! They own the club. They’re his boss. The pribciple applies in any job at any level. You don’t bite the hand off that feeds you! What’s he supposed to do? Come out and say they’re cunts, and they’re robbing the club blind? Get himself sacked and what? Hope for the Red Knights to ride on in and pay billions to buy the joint, and then get himself reinstated?

  26. han says

    Commenter said:
    Fergie is a world class manager. We are still fighting for the league and we have been in 3 out of 4 champions league finals. All this despite being strangled of funds. Wenger has got money and look at Arsenal, shit.

    All those who go on about him bumming the glazers. What is he supposed to do? Do you think inciting a protest is going to help? How fucked up would our club be If the manager was saying the owner is a cunt, the division and press attention would be a huge distraction from the team and we would be nowhere.

    Anyone who thinks that would force the Glazers out is a fool. They would be more likely to sack Fergie than leave. It’s a stalemate so Fergie is putting on a false smile saying all is fine but there is “no value”.

    agreed but then again, the man who says little also can speak volumes – he does not have to say they are great owners unless of course he means it – but sometimes he does appear a tad too quick to defend the yank fucks

    • JayJ says

      I know what u mean Han, fans would prefer it if he wasn’t positive towards them but it is a tough one for him. The questions he is asked about the Glazers, the Ronaldo money etc are hard to answer without annoying the fans or the Glazers. Obviously he doesn’t want to do both but he can’t please both sides when they are so opposed.

      I’m looking forward to when he retires and writes an autobiography so we can hear the truth. Bet there’s a lot of stuff goin on we don’t know about.

      Fergie always has the clubs best interests at heart and I bet he is fuming inside about what the Glazers have done to us.

      • DamnedUnited says

        I doubt his autobiography will be a ‘tell-all’ book. He never talked about any of his feuds with the players he showed the door and I doubt he’ll do it at the end of the career.

  27. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Commenter said:
    Fergie is a world class manager. We are still fighting for the league and we have been in 3 out of 4 champions league finals. All this despite being strangled of funds. Wenger has got money and look at Arsenal, shit.
    All those who go on about him bumming the glazers. What is he supposed to do? Do you think inciting a protest is going to help? How fucked up would our club be If the manager was saying the owner is a cunt, the division and press attention would be a huge distraction from the team and we would be nowhere.
    Anyone who thinks that would force the Glazers out is a fool. They would be more likely to sack Fergie than leave. It’s a stalemate so Fergie is putting on a false smile saying all is fine but there is “no value”.

    Oh bullshit… had Ferguson sided with the fans in the first place, we might have stopped the take over… and you’re a fool if you can’t see that… No it’s not definite, but it’s possible.
    When the Glazers made their moves, was when anti-Glazer sentiment was strongest… but we needed a focal point, a champion… Ferguson could have been that champion… if he’d asked us, we would have marched on Old Trafford by the thousands… but instead he rolled over like a big hound, to have his belly tickled.
    And the Glazers would not have dared to sack him… do you really think that they could? that is the most ridiculous notion… there would have been riots.
    It’s too late now, because many, including me have lost some respect for Ferguson… I still rate him as the best man to run our club… but the fact is… before the Glazers took charge he was practically beyond reproach… absolutely inseparable from the fans that considered him one of us… now we see that he has his own agenda, and his own loyalties… the fans are NOT his main concern.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  28. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Commenter said:
    JayJ. You’re absolutely right! They own the club. They’re his boss. The pribciple applies in any job at any level. You don’t bite the hand off that feeds you! What’s he supposed to do? Come out and say they’re cunts, and they’re robbing the club blind? Get himself sacked and what? Hope for the Red Knights to ride on in and pay billions to buy the joint, and then get himself reinstated?

    FFS… another ridiculous reaction to a very simple idea.
    Ferguson is rich… he’s won everything there is to win with United… he has legendary status, and one day there will be a statue of him at Old Trafford…
    So why could he NOT have thrown in with the fans?… the Glazers would NOT have fired him… that would be financially stupid… you said “don’t bite the hand off that feeds you!”…and you’re right… but you’ve misplaced the real power here… the fans are the real “hand that feeds”…
    And just for the sake of argument… so what if he did lose his job?… what would it cost him? He could manage anywhere… he would have been snapped up in a heartbeat…
    So what would he lose? Nothing!
    The Glazers are parasites… everyone agrees… and Ferguson has sided with them against the fans?
    Maybe it doesn’t bother you… that’s fine… but some of us find that hard to accept…

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  29. dozer says

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    FFS… another ridiculous reaction to a very simple idea.
    Ferguson is rich… he’s won everything there is to win with United… he has legendary status, and one day there will be a statue of him at Old Trafford…
    So why could he NOT have thrown in with the fans?… the Glazers would NOT have fired him… that would be financially stupid… you said “don’t bite the hand off that feeds you!”…and you’re right… but you’ve misplaced the real power here… the fans are the real “hand that feeds”…

    Your point would have been valid if the ‘fans’ were a large majority – not everyone went against the Glazers or there would have been empty seats every game.
    You watch, if the prices are increased by 20%, the seats would still be full.

    Sir Ryan Giggs? No no no. Sir Paul Scholes say.

  30. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    That’s not the point.

    Fans are apathetic as fuck… they’re just consumers to be fleeced like all good sheep…

    Doesn’t mean they’re not at home seething about being screwed… year after year, people bitch about the cost of Sky, or the cinema, or their pint… but they keep going back for more.

    Sheep need leaders… that’s because they’re… sheep.

    Look at the media coverage Beckham got with that scarf stunt…

    Had Ferguson spoken up loud and clear from the start… he could have mobilised thousands.

  31. sheesh says

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    And just for the sake of argument… so what if he did lose his job?… what would it cost him? He could manage anywhere… he would have been snapped up in a heartbeat…
    So what would he lose? Nothing!

    Try asking the man who has built the club up from relatively modest foundations in 1986 to what it is today what he loses if he were to walk away.
    The simple answer is that he loses everything that the club has become. From the point of view of the manager, the club is his baby and you cannot put a price on the emotional attachment he has for the club. It goes beyond the success on the pitch or commercial success. It’s about all relationships he’s developed within the club at all levels – from the academy staff to the tea ladies to the kit man to his secretary…and so on. It’s about something which feeds his inner drive which means that he’s the first person at Carrington at 7am in the morning. I understand 100% what the poster is talking about.
    Ferguson is United. I’ll bet that the day he finally steps down will be a day he feels that his heart has been ripped out – and that’s why I can understand why he didn’t start issuing ultimatums, or protest alongside the fans or start threatening the Glazers.
    I go back to the idea about the club being his baby. Why would he rock the boat or do/say anything to jeopardise what he has built at United?
    If you think he loses nothing, Alf, I think you’re dead wrong. What Fergie loses goes beyond trophies or money or a big fuck-off statue outside Old Trafford. Why do you think he has opted to work beyond 70? What Fergie loses is intangible.
    If what I’m saying is overly romantic nonsense, it’s no more romantic, nonsensical or fantastical than this idea of Fergie leading the fans to a ‘glorious revolution’ against the Glazers.

  32. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    No, you misunderstand me Sheesh… and in a way you’ve argued for me… United is Fergusons legacy… he’s largely responsible for what it is today… but it seems to me that Ferguson has separated club from fan base… it’s not HIS club… and it’s not the Glazers either… it’s ours.
    This may just be my opinion, but the way I see it… football clubs can never truly be owned by anyone but the fans that support it…
    The Glazers aren’t even football people… they’re just Shylocks, manipulating pennies… why on earth would Ferguson side with them before the fans… he may have sound reasons… it may be just as you say, to protect “his baby”… but at huge cost to the fans… he put his own agenda above the desires of the fans… he knew we didn’t want the Glazers owning United…
    My point about him losing nothing… maybe I worded that wrong… what I was getting at is, with what he’s earned, and won with United, and at his age… there’s not much more for him to gain… as far as the Glazers are concerned, he holds all the leverage… they couldn’t threaten him with anything… from their perspective, what good would it do to to sack him… they’re not sacking a man desperate to cling on to a pay cheque, or with lofty ambitions unfulfilled…
    And I don’t think it’s romantic nonsense at all to think that Ferguson could have lead a “‘glorious revolution”… it sounds silly the way you’ve worded it, but the fact is… the want was there… just not the will, or the organisation.
    When the Glazers took control of United, a lot of fans turned their backs on the club, thousands more pissed and moaned, and quite a few even protested… what might have happened if Ferguson had personally and publicly thrown in with them?
    Look at the G&G campaign… ultimately it accomplished fuck all, but it showed the numbers opposed to the Glazers…
    Ferguson could have made all the difference in a few thousand complaining down their local pubs, and 10/20 thousand turning up at Old Trafford on match day… and you’ll never convince me that we couldn’t have stopped these leeches from getting their slimy teeth into United, if only we’d had the leadership and the organisation.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  33. MrKirie says

    Disclaimer: I read the full article, but not the comments, I have studying to do….

    I don’t think Fergie ever intended for us to match Barcelona this season. We have a lot of youth, but also older players who need to be phased out. It’s a transitional squad and it will take time. Now, I’m not saying that in 3 years time we will be champions of europe and the new Barca, but to condemn what is being done at United on the basis of one season is ignorant. A few good purchases this summer, allowing a few players to retire and our current youth some time to develop, I can only see progress in our future.

    Also, we’re most certainly in the title race and with the emptyheads dropping out of Europe as well, I for one am happy with the fact that we can take one game at a time, not risk additional injuries (let’s remember that we’ve had a heck of a lot of injuries to key players this season) and focus solely on the title. #20 :)

  34. sheesh says

    Green and Gold achieved fuck all because, relative to the number of fans worldwide, not enough people got on board with it. It also achieved fuck all because (and I’ve raised this before), of all those who bought the scarves, how many actually understood what it was about? I can only go off what I saw on match days but a lot of people wearing green and gold scarves were also going into the megastore – which sort of defeats the object of protesting against the Glazers. Not only that, protesters were actually helping the Glazers by paying money and going to the match. It’s ludicrous. Then there are those who don’t go to games but pay Sky subscriptions. So what was the net effect? Fuck all.
    The fundamental problem with United being such a global institution is that it’s harder to unite people for a common cause (especially when not everyone is anti-Glazer). The Glazers will never give a shit what a few thousand fans wearing Green and Gold scarves think when they know full well that there are many more fans in the Far East who will buy football shirts and other tat.
    If we were the size of Charlton Athletic, for example, it would be far easier to get people to understand what the cause is about, get them to protest in sufficient numbers and protest in a manner that is actually going to make a difference. This will never happen at United. We’re not a community, we’re just not. We haven’t been for some time. When you become as big as we are, you lose that. We’re a money making machine.
    Besides, the Glazers don’t care about protests. All they care about is the bottom line and, if the bottom line is affected, who suffers? United do. I fully accept that there is no longer a waiting list at United but I think that this has more to do with the cost of season tickets going up, Automatic Cup Scheme and so on than any protest.
    Fergie is smarter than getting involved in a protest which probably wasn’t going to lead to anything which I assume is why he didn’t get involved. I don’t believe he ever feared upsetting the owners but his fundamental priority is the team. He never wanted to walk so it was a question of making a compromise – being given full autonomy to run the team as he sees fit and to keep his mouth shut about everything else.
    Alf, I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. I personally think that the idea of United fans stopping the Glazers is pie in the sky. It’s going to take someone with cash to make them hand over the club lock, stock and barrel.

  35. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    “Alf, I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.”

    Yep… because you’ll never convince me that Ferguson couldn’t have made the difference between fans sitting around complaining, and getting off their arse to get involved.

  36. Sidsidney says

    I can’t be arsed to reply to Sheesh because I’d end up writing loads

    In fact I can’t be arsed with debates about Glazer anymore because I just end up repeating the same arguments and truths

  37. squigs says

    United fans don’t have it in them to think past the short term, we have seen it plenty of times. Shareholders United was good but after fighting off Murdoch but never pushed on to acquire a stake to give the fans a true voice. A lot of the talk from the fans after the takeover was bravado. Yes a few went to FCUM but crowds stayed consistent in spite of various price hikes and even the playing side sustained a remarkable level of success on the pitch.

    Fergie is no angel, Roy Keane had it spot on when he said that he puts himself first. Yes support might increase hugely if Fergie made a stand, but on the other hand he is out of the job and the Glazers will have another manager.

    Fergie is not going to back the wrong horse.

  38. chocolatteballs says

    Always a good enough squad to challenge for the Prem but few of these players are good enough for Cl or Ueafa cup like we saw against Bilbio.

    He knows this but instead of replacing players he just gives them new contracts at the end of each season . I think he worries more about assembling a squad that are gonna beat stoke and Liverpool away than he is about creating a team that plays fluent confident football.

    It’s depressing.

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