Manchester United were humiliated by their rivals again last night with Manchester City taking their foot off the gas in the second half with a 3-0 lead from the first 45 minutes. It is just another example of how far United are away from where they should be. But where did it go wrong for them and is there anyway to turn things around now?
United have been in the post Sir Alex Ferguson slump since 2013. Without a Premier League title in that time.
They’ve gone through David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is on the rocks.
Mourinho was the most successful of that lot but his tenure was soured by poor relations with players and animosity running through the club.
Solskjaer appeared to rejuvenate the players early on but has struggled since being given the job permanently.
United are now at a crossroads, but Ed Woodward doesn’t seem to know which direction to take.
Big debate – Where did it all go wrong for Manchester United – and how do they get back to the top?
Man Utd news: Where do Manchester United go from here?
Man Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks on as his side are beaten by Man City
United’s crisis started when they hired David Moyes. Jose Mourinho was available – and they didn’t get him.
It was the first example of the big club acting like a small one and has set them back years.
Louis van Gaal had to clear up his mess, Jose Mourinho then cleared up the Dutchman’s and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the Portuguese’s.
Each new manager has had to do the dirty work before getting to the good stuff but that, on every occasion, has seen them sacked.
United need a new manager now. Mauricio Pochettino would be obvious but I’d like to see RB Leipzig’s Julian Nagelsmaan get the job instead.
He’s a young, progressive coach who would have little scrutiny on his shoulders.
But let’s face it. Until Ed Woodward and the Glazers go, mediocrity will be the norm.
Man Utd chief Ed Woodward has struggled with his managerial appointments
It’s hard to pinpoint one specific area when it all went wrong for Manchester United but arguably they have been a victim of their own success under Sir Alex Ferguson.
They won an unprecedented 13 league titles in 21 seasons and moving on from that era was always going to have growing pains.
But they haven’t helped themselves. Ferguson always seemed to bring in the right kind of player for United – with the odd exception – but under Ed Woodward’s stewardship in the transfer market they have been far off the mark.
The past summer finally showed a sense of identity for the Red Devils when they signed talented, young British players in Daniel James, Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. But past mistakes have left a gaping hole in their squad with an overhaul needed to continue in the same vein.
Man Utd boss Solskjaer has struggled to get his players going this season
Manchester United’s biggest mistake, purely and simply, was the hiring of Ed Woodward as the man to conduct their transfer business post-Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill.
United have had several managers with great CVs since Ferguson retired and their squads have still been brimful with quality despite their shortcomings. None have succeeded.
But the running theme throughout is that their recruitment has been well, well below par. The return they’ve had for their levels of investment since 2013 has been woeful, with no real Premier League title challenge and disappointing Champions League campaigns, at least in the seasons they have even managed to qualify for the competition.
For too long there was not a defined plan and United chased blockbuster signings regardless of how they would fit into the squad. Very few worked out – unsurprisingly. In fact very few deals at all have worked out.
There is a clearer strategy under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, abandoning the desire for big names and looking more for players who fit the profile of player the Norwegian wants. It’s a step forward.
Unfortunately, in my view at least, Solskjaer’s plan on the pitch is lacking. As dangerous as the current team may be on the counter-attack, they’re inept at breaking down defences and while they do need a No 10 and better central midfielders, Solskjaer isn’t getting enough out of what he has at his disposal.
Perhaps there’s an argument to say Solskjaer deserves this month and the summer to rectify that, but for me, I’m not sure the Norwegian will ever be cut out for the task at hand at this moment – at least in the capacity as manager.
The solution? Ship out Woodward and Ole, recruit a qualified sporting director and get Mauricio Pochettino in. It won’t be a quick fix, but it’s more likely to get United back to where they want to be than the current Old Trafford set-up.
Man Utd could get in touch with Mauricio Pochettino after he was sacked by Tottenham
The root cause of Manchester United’s troubles is the appointment of Ed Woodward as the main powerbroker.
He is a commercial success but has proved hopeless in leading on football matters since the panic sacking of David Moyes.
Every managerial appointment since then has turned out to be a mistake, missing out on Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino to rival clubs.
Transfer policy has also been a shambles, the hurried signing of Alexis Sanchez just to prevent City getting him, the most calamitous example.
Woodward should go, but that will not instantly help United’s fortunes on the pitch.
A different manager is needed, a proven top class leader rather than an under-qualified interim boss like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Pochettino is available. It is the obvious and sensible move. But it would mean eating humble pie, and who thinks Ed Woodward will do that?
United have searched for the magic formula which will return the glory years they had under Sir Alex Ferguson ever since the Scot left.
Four managers, a strategy to player recruitment which has veered from galactico to long term prospects and academy graduates have all delivered nothing but inconsistency.
Yet it still hasn’t dawned on the club that the solution to their problems lies within, not in the latest must have player or manager or in increased revenue streams.
Progress at this club can only be made if they are prepared to dig trenches and take some pain during two or three years of rebuild.
And while they talk a good game on that score a year into their latest reset, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will almost certainly get just one shot at delivering Champions League football.
A Director of Football responsible for recruitment would be a help, ensuring a continuity through however many managers United want to try.
But making a decision and sticking with it served not only United but most clubs most well throughout history and it is no different now.
Man Utd could go back in for Ryan Giggs to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
It is always a major problem replacing an icon like Sir Alex Ferguson. Remember how long it took them to find an adequate replacement for Sir Matt Busby.
Moyes was clearly not the man, and for whatever reason Mourinho was not either. However, I would personally have given the Portuguese more time to get it right.
The problems at United do not all centre on the manager. The transfer policy has been a disaster in the last five years.
Mourinho is trouble, he is demanding, he is difficult to work with, but he will eventually bring success. Somewhere down the line a compromise with him should have been reached. Of all the people they have tried, he was the best.
As for what they do now – if Solskjaer is not the man, replace him quickly. Maybe bring Giggs back if he will come?