Shouting From My Sofa about… Manchester United.
*This piece was written at the end of October 2021 and all information and opinions are from that time too.
It wasn’t gonna go out, but then I re-read it and thought that a lot of stuff here still applied that I might wanna be proven right about in the near future, so here it is, documented.
Whatever you want.
When I was a wee yan, Manchester United were the enemy. I would support every other team in the world before I praised anything they did. They seemed to constantly be benefitting from preferential treatment, be it from the press, the referees, or the FA.
Now, looking back, some of that is overblown as I was looking for excuses to discredit a side that was often doing deservedly well. And since a certain manager has left the Old Trafford dugout, a lot of that fear and mysticism seems to have gone as well.
Manchester United have proven themselves mortal. They’re human and they bleed like the rest of us. But because they didn’t bleed for so long, the plasma is sweeter and it will continue to be with each merciless slice.
If a giant tyranically ruled over your land for decades and then suddenly keeled over defeated, would you ever get bored of tea-bagging their corpse? Absolutely not! Firstly, because you don’t know when they’re gonna wake up, secondly, because you were sick of them lording it over you for twenty years that it’s time for your twenty years, and thirdly, because the fans of the giant were insufferable and now it’s kinda nice seeing them retreat or just full on abandon ship.
Now, I wanted to see that giant fall so damn much, but it’s getting sad now.
When the scapegoat was Mourinho or van Gaal I was enjoying it because it meant that this time couldn’t even be turned around by two of the most highly regarded managers to ever do it.
When Solskjaer’s the scapegoat — I don’t like it.
Immediately, it shits on the idea of the former player coming back to save his club, which is a great story. And while it would have been funny for nearly any other Man U player to fail (Roy Keane, Gary Neville, Jaap Stam, the list goes on), Ole is maybe the only one who could’ve stepped in that I wanted to at least do okay. Apart from Quinton Fortune.
I cannae say for why, but I’ve always liked Ole even though he played for the enemy. There seemed to be something about him that didn’t fit in with Fergie’s Red Devils despite all the moments, mementos, and monikers he garnered for the side.
And then he came back.
When he did, it wasn’t the United I grew up despising. There were still facets of the squad I didn’t care for, but Ole even saw to that, and while Manchester United will never be a team I support, it was nice not having players and tactics I actively hated clogging up a league I watched. It felt as if the one link I had to the worst thing in English football was rewarding me for not hating them entirely.
And then the rewards kept coming, and kept coming. It felt like it was kinda evened out because they weren’t doing terribly, they just weren’t winning any trophies, but then the old ghosts reared their heads, those Roy Keanes that taunted me years prior from the pitch were now doing the same from the studio — my respect for Ole had been taken advantage of, and now there were calls for his head from those supporters when all they had to do was either shut-up for a few more years or abandon ship like so many others.
There is no light in this club.
They have masqueraded as exercising patience, but they haven’t given any. Every new match is an opportunity to get back to where they once were and if they don’t do that, if they dare show that they’re not on the level of a Manchester City or a Liverpool, then it is time to start again with a better manager.
On Sunday 24th October, 2021, Manchester United were beaten 0–5 at Old Trafford by fierce rivals Liverpool. It was a poor display rife with defensive errors and attacking lethargy that near enough emptied the arena of home supporters by half-time.
It was the match the indicated everything wrong with Manchester United at the moment.
From my sofa, anyways.
I’ll just get this one out the way because I don’t make time or space for intimate knowledge on the workings of this club because it bores me even with clubs I like.
They’re rich so that’s already bad, and they seem like pretty distant owners who see the club as a commodity rather than the living, breathing beast it is. I can think of a few like that and it’s already too many.
So sell up to Usain Bolt and let the good times roll.
You think my sofa sees behind the scenes? You bet your bippy it doesn’t. I look at what’s on the pitch and I make snap judgments based on ninety minutes once a week. Now I’m installing a sofa in the dugout and inviting all my friends round ‘cos we’re deciding their fate.
Before I do delve in, respect to each and every one of these players/human beings.
David de Gea
‘Just sell him while you can still get a bit of wonga for him. He’ll be out to pasture soon, he’s nearly 31!’ — ‘Rank’ Ronald Muck, Uncle’s Brother
‘He’s always injured and when he’s not, he should be. Bailly? More like Selly.’ — Sally Sandpaper, Friend of the Family
‘Overpaid social media influencer who only turns up for his country and sees the club as an accessory above a commitment.’ — Buster, Family Dog
‘I’m sure he wants to be back with his family in Spain… It’ll be good for him, Manchester weather won’t be doing anything for him. Please, Juan.’ — Mum, Mum
‘I tell you what, if he could play football, he’d be right up there.’ — Foster Grant, Best Man at my Best Man’s Wedding
‘A handsome devil whose been unable to replicate his form from previous stints in Donetsk and Coolsville.’ — Daphne Blake, Teenage Sleuth
‘Who should we sell?’
‘Dalot. Sell Dalot.’
‘Well, they can’t sell all of them.’ — Frances and Farsley, Ghosts
‘Moves like a butternut squash falling down the stairs.’ — Joseph The Butternut Squash who lives at the top, and often, at the bottom of our stairs and has a very limited scope on life
As you can see, my friends and family and pets and ghosts can be quite harsh and reactionary, and while their points may hold water with some folk in the world, we cannae be treating this like a game of FIFA.
Is managing Manchester United in real life anything like managing them on FIFA? Can Ole just scroll over Fred and click ‘Add To Transfer List’ and he goes on a database that only football managers have access to?
I’m sure that’s right.
While shipping some of these players out might ease the astronomical wage bill (well over four million a week), it might see a bigger problem come to pass. Ego.
Ego ain’t a bad thing. A sizable one can be an issue, but everyone has an ego. And it doesn’t fall entirely on the players, but they are part of the Manchester United ego. They’re easily the most discussed side in English football and that is often because of pundits with a United link, or for the sheer fact that they are ‘Manchester United’, they’re still treated as the biggest club in English football because of what they did before. It’s understandable that players would come in and coast a little bit — I’m not saying they are, but they could. It’s not an understatement to say that someone who plays for Norwich has to work a lot harder than someone who plays for Liverpool come a match-day. It doesn’t mean they don’t work as hard as one another, but the former has to do that much more.
Certain players can be accused of having oversized egos that can drain a club. We can see that attitude issue affecting PSG, and we’ve seen it at Real Madrid as well — divas who think they’re bigger than the manager. There do seem to be insinuations that Pogba is doing the same thing, and with the arrival of Ronaldo, that that may continue if not get more severe.
While some departures might be implemented for the progress of academy players or budget issues, both reasons suitable for Manchester United, others could be good for seizing control of both the narrative and the power.
And Buster wants to keep Phil Jones around as well.
OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER
I think he seems nice. I have no idea what goes on and have not seen inside those dressing rooms at half-time. Because it is often a crime. But it seems the prevailing opinion is that Ole doesn’t have that killer instinct that a manager ‘needs’ to put the fear of God into their players and get ’em playing like champions.
For me, I reckon he can come across as a bit passive, but that’s most football interviews. They don’t wanna reveal everything that’s been going on. The most they’ll stretch to is saying how shit they feel after a thrashing or how good they feel after a hell of a haul. The media isn’t the place to do their business. But they can still show passion. Charlie Austin speaks his mind and does so with unmistakable heart — media training might run deep in a lot of players, but don’t forget that heart in your voice.
That’s just what I prefer though. Ole is a professional who cares about the club, and a lot of decisions are out of his hands. With many calling for the next managerial juggernaut to come on board, we’ve already seen what this club does to them (see Mourinho and van Gaal) — so if they were to sack Ole, I’d say go with a firm hand to steady things, and you betcha I’m thinking Allardyce, I’m thinking Warnock, someone who can lay down a line and say this is how we’re doing it for now, and then a long-term appointment. I’m thinking Crewe’s David Artell. Doesn’t take no bologna, good man manager, adventurous tactics. Get him in.
But obviously I don’t want Ole to leave, so don’t get him in.
But all that managerial mumbo-jumbo takes us to one thing…
I touched on it before how supporters and pundits have appeared to act patiently without realising the task at hand. Pundits aren’t too bad, they just continue to see Man U as the superpower they were twenty years ago and think they should still be at that level, which actually, now I say it out loud, adds a lot of unnecessary pressure to achieve near-impossible goals on a side.
But then you’ve got the wealth of publications jumping on those bandwagons screaming ‘OLE OUT’ at an unreasonable volume followed by loathsome YouTube pundits or Twitter analysts who manage to give neither the view of a fan or someone in the game and so say nothing of any substance, which is why this isn’t going out.
Casual fans add fuel to the fire as well. I like the fact that we can hear the opinion of the supporters now, but they’re still reactionary, and they’re still impatient.
Manchester United aren’t the treble winners from two decades ago anymore. They’re a club struggling to find their new identity. Instead of berating them and moving them from one regime to another, have actual patience, have actual understanding. Don’t just say you do and then call for Ole’s head when they lose to Watford.
Impatience adds pressure. You know why van de Beek is sitting on the bench doing nothing? Pressure. To buy a ‘big’ name. It’s the same reason Sancho is there — because the club couldn’t be shown to be weak in a transfer pursuit.
Manchester United, accept that you’re not that side anymore. If you do that, and you help your club find a new identity, it might look pretty similar to the old one.
Keep it streets ahead,