Seven games to go. Seven games in which Louis van Gaal could save his job and Manchester United’s season; more should the Reds beat West Ham United at Upton Park in 10 days to progress in the FA Cup. It is a little over half-a-dozen games that will define not only a season, but shape the club’s immediate future. Rant knows the outcome. Well, sort of…
For once, the international break was a welcome distraction, and not just an unnecessary fixture in the calendar. Manchester United supporters enjoyed work, head held high, knowing the team couldn’t let them down – and with a glow of recent victory over Manchester City still fresh. All good things must come to an end though and the Premier League returns with United welcoming Everton to Old Trafford, chasing fourth, and with it a Champions League spot.
It wasn’t so long ago that English football was in awe of Manchester’s clubs. For a time the city had legitimate claim to being the world’s capital of football, with two powerhouse clubs trading titles for four years. The United-City rivalry has been at the centre of some of the best conclusions to a Premier League season in recent years, yet, as Manchester United prepares to travel across town to face neighbours City on Sunday, the fixture is hardly talk of the town, let alone the nation.
Last Thursday week Manchester United hit rock bottom in Denmark as the Reds suffered yet another defeat under Louis van Gaal. Defeat at Midtjylland was described as the Dutchman’s ‘Olympiacos moment’ and few could see a way back for Van Gaal at United; even the most patient fans had finally lost faith in the veteran manager. Yet, United heads into a run of potentially tricky run of fixtures in fantastic form after three blistering performances in the space of six days. What a difference a few days makes. Read More
No matter how fans receive the news, Louis van Gaal is often the headline. Twitter, Facebook, the Internet; the Dutchman fills plenty of column inches. And whether it’s a focus on the process, philosophy or the recent bizarre remarks about keeping his players “horny,” Van Gaal is bursting with quotes. The downside is the same regurgitated stories, recycled and reworded with a new angle to keep the speculation-driven media happy. Meanwhile, the headlines shift fans’ minds off the players, who for much of the season have failed their manager and club. Read More
Perspective can be hard to find; near impossible in football. Louis van Gaal’s? Seemingly ebbing away. It is, says the Dutchman, not his side’s form that is erratic, but “the media that is inconsistent.” It was, he says, not such a bad thing that his team lost at 19th-placed Sunderland, but that the “media makes it bigger than it is.” It is, he claims, not another campaign racing towards the scrap-heap, but a season “not as bad as the media are writing or telling to the fans.” Presumably it is also the media’s fault that Van Gaal’s side has won just three of its past 10 Premier League matches. Read More
There is obvious cause for concern at Manchester United this season. Rant Cast has taken to summing up United’s long-term prospects as the “Liverpoolisation” of the club. The obvious gist is that United, having enjoyed two decades of supreme dominance over English football, have come to the end of a cycle and that, for the time being at least, the glory days have gone. I’m writing this article as a Liverpool fan that has witnessed the club’s dramatic decline from the top – and whilst in the short-term United have obvious problems, there are completely different circumstances that will prevent the club from going down Liverpool’s path. Read More
In a week where all the talk around Manchester United has been firmly centred off the pitch it may have escaped many observers that the Reds travel to Sunderland on Saturday searching for the three most important points of the season. Rumours that José Mourinho is coming dominated the headlines early in the week, with many pundits claiming a deal has been completed for the former Chelsea boss to succeed Louis van Gaal in the summer. Then, on Thursday, executive vice chairman Ed Woodward briefed investors that the club is confident of breaking half a billion in revenue by the end of the year. Supporters might be forgiven for thinking everything is going well at Old Trafford. Read More
“In many respects this sport above all others has articulated certain changes in English society over the past century,” writes James Walvin in The People’s Game, a seminal work on the history and rise of football in England. From the “ritualistic free-for-all” of medieval times, to a codified game for the common people – football’s development has long matched the long arc of economic and social change. Yet, long gone too are the working class and community roots of yesteryear; today’s game is a globalised proposition, distilled with little irony into an insipid brand that proffers an “identity that acknowledges everyone who plays a part” in the Premier League’s overly-commercialised machinery. Read More
Manchester United, in fifth, travel to 13th-placed Chelsea on Sunday, with Louis van Gaal’s side seeking to mount a serious challenge for the top four. It is a sentence few would have believed if mentioned in August. Yet, mediocrity has struck at both Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge this season, with neither set of supporters enjoying the football on offer for much of the campaign. Read More