The dissolution



Manchester United could learn a lesson from Liverpool’s epic final ownership saga. While Liverpool stared at meltdown, questions must be asked of United’s position too. Is the club really on the road to similar ruin? David Gill and Ferguson might insist all is well behind the scenes, but the club has challenges on and off the pitch.

Certainly, within the confines of Sir Alex Ferguson’s lair, signs point significant unrest in the dressing room as the squad’s quality has been eroded.

Results have not improved in recent weeks, despite the return of heavyweight defender Rio Ferdinand to the United side. Wayne Rooney might have claimed full fitness this season but his performances are closer to those at Anfield, and not title chasing United.

Yet far from improving the squad, Ferguson must face up to the challenge of a team seemingly in decline. In the recent past Anderson, captain Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick, Michael Owen, and Federico Macheda have been linked with moves away from the club. Many for good reason.

Many of the squad have questions to answer about their form and fitness. Ji-Sung Park’s woeful displays this season, Anderson persistent underperformance and the simple presence of Darron Gibson in the United squad is cause for concern.

Ferguson must also contend with the imminent retirements of Paul Scholes, Edwin van der Saar, Gary Neville and possibly even the evergreen Ryan Giggs. It is conceivable that the quartet will each quit the club next summer.

The almost inevitable retirement of Owen Hargreaves down the line must also be factored into the equation. Either way, Hargreaves is out of contract in June, with little chance the club will offer him a new deal.

Meanwhile, Antonio Valencia’s injury is serious concern, leaving the squad with just Nani as the sole in-form and fit winger. It has left United bereft of creativity in midfield leaving Scholes at 35 and 36-year-old Ryan Giggs as necessities, rather than luxuries.

To compound the problems in the squad star striker Rooney now seems certain to leave, if not in January then next summer, with contract talks broken off and the player’s reputation damaged by Ferguson’s statement yesterday.

United fans are no strangers to the transfer mill of course and many of the stories coming out of Old Trafford can be attributed to the media’s demand for gossip. Yet there is little doubt that United’s current 25-man squad is a long way off the quality Ferguson has possessed in the past. Perhaps far from the quality he really wants.

Ferguson maintains that he is happy with his squad’s depth but in previous years more decisive action would surely have been taken before now.

Even United’s evolution in recent years into a side that defended better than anyone, rather than outscored the opposition, has now unravelled. The team has a real problem despite its unbeaten record this season.

Whispers of Rooney’s inner predicament allude, in part at least, to the lack of investment in the first team. The former Evertonian is hardly the first person to notice the decline but the reaction from a high-profile player is a major blow to the Gill-Glazer-Ferguson coalition.

But if the squad’s decline is to be arrested then the question remains how to stop the supposed rot? To parrot a well-known phrase: investment, investment, investment. Certainly the club’s youth policy is yet to truly bear fruit in recent seasons.

Over at Anfield Liverpool is showing that nobody is too good for the drop. This despite new ownership. Failure to invest in the squad, together with key player sales and financial problems, has left the club in the bottom three and the manager on the brink.

United may well be a long road from that scenario but the warning signs are definitely there.

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  • Paul

    Should read “To paraphrase a well known phrase” (or expression, instead of phrase, because of the repetition, because to parrot it would be to repeat it exactly.

    Otherwise I agree with almost everything in this piece.

  • herbie simms

    Yes, Liverpool have new owners but they have already said that they do not have that kind of money to buy expensive players. They stressed that the club has to invest in its youth program and bring the players through like that. It will be quite awhile before Liverpool make it back in the top four. United have always had a first class youth program and are way ahead of most clubs. Can’t seem the club slipping too far down the table in the future, should always be a top 4 and no lower than a top 6 team. But Liverpool are in a bottom 2 position and now got to fight themselves out of the relagation zone.

  • http://www.sourceofgravity.com Bill

    One thing I’ve noticed with Liverpool is that their squad is very thin numbers wise.

    With all the injures we have we are lucky that we do have a large squad, although as stated previously we do need more top tier talent.

  • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk/members/jaff/ Liam

    A big squad littered with dross like Gibson and unproven youth.

    Top tier talent is required for GK, AMC, DMC, LW and now a ST positions. Combiened with no money it is looking extremely grim.

  • herbie simms

    I guess by now, you all have read Rooney’s statement that Rooney has put out for his reason for leaving. Just read the print out from BBC news. What you all got to say about it?

    • mongoletsi

      I say “fair enough”. He’s seen Tevez and Ronnie go. That’s made/saved us £105m. Where’s the like-for-like? A bit of loyalty though might be nice although this is SAFs penultimate season so…

      Vidic is, for me, the only player who would be 1st choice for any team. Evra looked more like his (world class) self tonight though to be fair.

      Rewind only a few years and you’ve got arguably the best defence in the world. With Rooney, Tevez, and Ronnie keeping Berba out.

      It says it all; Rooney knows the truth – that there is no serious money for signings. He probably looks at Torres and thinks “I’m not up for that”.

  • Pingback: Wayne Rooney confirms departure « Catch me if you can

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    mongoletsi said:
    I say “fair enough”. He’s seen Tevez and Ronnie go. That’s made/saved us £105m. Where’s the like-for-like? A bit of loyalty though might be nice although this is SAFs penultimate season so…

    Vidic is, for me, the only player who would be 1st choice for any team. Evra looked more like his (world class) self tonight though to be fair.

    Oh fuck… another one.

    Rewind only a few years and you’ve got arguably the best defence in the world. With Rooney, Tevez, and Ronnie keeping Berba out.

    It says it all; Rooney knows the truth – that there is no serious money for signings. He probably looks at Torres and thinks “I’m not up for that”.

    • mongoletsi

      What? Evra was decent tonight. What’s wrong with that?

  • Duncan

    Wow. Rooney’s statement seems like just the thing to say when you are trying to win back the fans favour…

    Anyway. Why start all this now? The transfer window isn’t for another 2-3 months. Is he happy to just not train, smoke, and f*ck whores till he goes?

  • herbie simms

    Maybe Fergie needs to spend a night out with Jennifer Thompson. He needs a wake up call. I bet he will be on TV the next morning with a big smile on his face.

  • http://moja99.wordpress.com New Moja

    Everyone needs to tighten their belts nowadays. Why shouldn’t it be the same for our club? We didn’t want the Glazers and their debt, but we’re now stuck with them.

    It’s really unfortunate that Antonio Valencia got injured, as his assists were so vital to our good performances last season.

    We haven’t played well this season, but we’re still scoring goals. If it wasn’t for those stupid mistakes at the back, we’d be top of the table by now.

  • Spike

    Unregistered User said:
    I guess by now, you all have read Rooney’s statement that Rooney has put out for his reason for leaving. Just read the print out from BBC news. What you all got to say about it?

    Fook off…both.

  • meraass

    Couple of random comments on the team:-

    Evra – actually looked good last night in lieu of what have been treadful performances since and including the world cup (having said that we were playing buraspor at home?!)

    Anderson – It pains me to say that I’ve actually given up on him – he’s shit and doing the occasional run past two players (albeit bumbling and losing it thereafter) doesnt hide this. his vision and passing is not up to scratch.

    Carrick – Always have a soft spot for him due to his vision. Unfortunately not seeing enough flair from him at the moment.

    Park – Amazing performance in particular against Milan at home last season but this season he has been woeful. Any fool could see he should have been replaced at 20 mins. catch 22 in that he needs match fitness although ultimately he has his limits.

    Macheda – I dont care if you have crap service all game, you should still look like your desperate to play for us. Last night he looked lazy and disinterested at a time where the opposite response would have made perfect sense. Compare him to Chicarito who always looks busy/dangerous even if he is ineffective.

    P.S. Nobody leaves Bebe on the bench!

  • Just1n

    It is financial sound to be prudent with spending, but Utd have never shirked spending the dosh when they needed players. That is not happening any more. In previous years when the youth broke through it was understandable not to spend cos the quality of that youth was unbelievable. It’s not the same now. I mean Gibson, FFS give me a fucking break.

    No value in the market – Fuck off already.

  • herbie simms

    New Moja mentions Antonio Valencia but United have two replacements for that position in Bebe and Obertan. SAF needs to start Bebe on that right wing. Replace a winger with a winger so they can keep that same style of play. Right now we are well into the season and SAF is still experimenting with players and positions. That should have been done in pre-season.

  • Brown

    On the bright side we won the match, Nani was good, a bit careless but alright.
    Smalling reminds me of Nesta
    Raphael gives his all in every match, i commend him on that.
    Macheda will improve if given time, he is quite young you know.
    Chicarito always has a wonderful first touch, but if given the right service will be a great asset.
    Obertan needs more opportunities.
    Changes need to be made in the middle of the park, thats my only concern for united, once we get the defensive and offensive midfield right, i think our problem is solved.

  • RobDiablo

    Unregistered User said:
    On the bright side we won the match, Nani was good, a bit careless but alright.
    Smalling reminds me of Nesta
    Raphael gives his all in every match, i commend him on that.
    Macheda will improve if given time, he is quite young you know.
    Chicarito always has a wonderful first touch, but if given the right service will be a great asset.
    Obertan needs more opportunities.
    Changes need to be made in the middle of the park, thats my only concern for united, once we get the defensive and offensive midfield right, i think our problem is solved.

    A win is always nice, but being bored senseless not so much. Nani was our best player – just shading Rafael, but I do not believe that that is a good thing. Nani does not come close to doing anything as well as Ronaldo (including rolling on the floor feigning injury), so I am not ready to embrace him as Ronaldo’s replacement.
    Rafael saved what would almost certainly have been a goal, and throughout the match made good use of his speed and surprising strength. He’s coming along nicely, indeed.
    Macheda is not yet capable of playing on his own up front. Chicharito would have been a better choice last night.
    Obertan should be given a run at left wing. At least he won’t be knocked down and dispossessed as easily as Park Ji-Sung.
    If United use the money from the sale of Rooney to buy two, top-quality midfielders (ones good enough to put Fletcher on the bench – where he would have been ten, twelve years ago), they could yet challenge for the league, but the CL is way out of the realm of possibility for now.

  • herbie simms

    Sorry but Fergie has just released another statement that he is only investing in young players. Will not be buying any world class players because they are not worth the money. He also said he is quite happy with the players he already has. Cleverley is coming back in January and can also bring back Diouf to replace Rooney. That is coming from SAF.

  • http://none ian

    For goodnes sake let’s look on the bright side.
    Smalling looks as though he could be an exceptional player; not just a defender but a real player
    Raphael, ditto. How far behind is his twin too?
    Hernadez is settling down well. His attitude sems to be spot on; we look as though we have a gem.
    Nani has improved significantly again this season. He has terrific skill & a fair bit of pace.Now it looks like he going to score more than 10 goals in the league.
    If we add to those five, Cleverley we have six young players all with the potential to be real United players & Berbatov looks as though he now comes into that category too. That must be a prospect to relish; how long is it that we were in such a position?

    It is a very great pity about Valencia. He is a terrific pro, with a good football brain who gives us solidity in attack & defence on the right flank & would form a a great partnership with Raphael. Attitude is everything & most of that lot seem to have a very positive attitude.

    Give the boss some credit. Sometimes we do need a bit of patience.