In the first nine years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, Manchester United discovered the hard way just how difficult it actually is to be a successful football club.
United had been spoiled for more than 20 years from Ferguson’s first trophy until his last. The great man was a constant for the best part of three decades that blurred transitions from era to era and so when the Red Devils tried to go on without him, it was tougher than anyone could have imagined.
David Moyes was handpicked by Fergie but was doomed to fail as soon as he was caught in a halfway house between new and old. Keep things the same or tear things up and start afresh?
In the end, he managed neither – changing a handful of things he had control over but let down by the hierarchy above him utterly failing to deliver in the transfer market.
United went on to throw money at successive managers in Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho in a bid to avoid the same thing happening again. But that didn’t work either and neither coach, each revered for their past achievements, ever had the opportunity to build something real as the club slipped further and further behind rival clubs, and the scattergraph approach never settled on anything long enough to make it stick.
It looked like the ideas were getting better when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was overseeing a rebuild in the summer of 2019. Suddenly, United had decided they wanted young and British to be the flavour of a new-look squad. In principle, it should have been better than it was.
That plan fell apart when it became clear that there wasn’t enough genuine quality to compete with the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, by then two of the very best in the world.
By 2021, it was as though United had wedged themselves halfway between projects, spending a huge sum on Jadon Sancho but also panicking by throwing money at Cristiano Ronaldo. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner papered over some cracks for a short time but was never a proper solution.
What United never did in those first nine years post-Fergie was hire a manager who was the right fit for the specifics of the job at hand and back him, not solely with money in the transfer market – because that was done time and time again without success – but the proper structures and support to work within to allow positive and lasting improvements.
It is telling and damning that both Van Gaal and Mourinho have been less than flattering about the way the club was run in the years since their respective departures.
On this edition of TPL, Scott Saunders & Rob Blanchette discuss how to solve Man Utd's issue at centre-forward & Ten Hag's striker plans. The guys talk Wout Weghorst, the fact João Felix is no longer on the market, Victor Osimhen, Harry Kane, Benjamin Sesko & more! If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!
There have been significant structural and hierarchical changes at Old Trafford within the last couple of years and that has no doubt contributed to the development on the football side. Without that vital and overdue evolution, there is every chance Ten Hag could have soon ended up on the scrapheap alongside Moyes, Van Gaal, Mourinho and Solskjaer.
Ten Hag is proving to be the right man for the job in a way that others weren’t. He has managed to nurture a culture of professional discipline that seemed to have long been lost at the same time as still having earned the respect of the players during what was essentially a punishment.
In a way that predecessors never could, the Dutchman has struck the right balance between youth and experience, as well as actually improving players that he had inherited.
The proof is in the results, where United have now won 16 of their last 19 games in all competitions.
It is still only the infancy of this latest of fresh dawns. But this time feels very different. In the end, the answer wasn’t rocket science, but it took nine years to reach it.
Source : 90min