This summer, so we’re being told, will be one of the most important in Manchester United’s recent history, with a new manager and a major overhaul required to ensure United return to the upper echelon of English football. Last summer it wasn’t much a case of United fluffing their lines in catastrophic fashion as of them completing forgetting the plot of the play that had them as main characters, as the sheer ineptitude of Ed Woodward combined with David Moyes’ inadequacy ensured United’s only signing was Marouane Fellaini.
This season the emphasis will obviously be on the arrivals, with Louis Van Gaal – or whoever will replace Ryan Giggs – likely to be trusted with a budget that, according to which newspaper is your favourite read, will vary from £100m to twice that amount. However, while a couple of world class signings would be more than welcome, United’s priority should be to shift those players who are either no longer of any use or have never served any purpose whatsoever.
As far as experiments go, Manchester United’s decision to appoint David Moyes last summer was as close to an unmitigated disaster as it gets. In fact, by the time Moyes was unceremoniously relieved of his duties, things had gone beyond the point of no return and drastic action was required.
Away from heat maps and statistics recording pass completion rates, football remains an extremely simple game. One in which, crucially, quality always makes the difference, on and off the pitch, particularly over the course of a season. Just as it’s impossible to fathom Tom Cleverley performing better than Yaya Toure over 38 games or Ashley Young delivering more assists than Arjen Robben, it’s naive to expect a decent manager to perform like a world class one.
When a player joins a new football club, the words that’s mentioned more often is “opportunity”.
Everything, from the new manager, to new team-mates to a new environment and fans is portrayed to offer the new arrival with a wonderful chance to revitalise his career, prove his former manager wrong, develop into a world class player or a bit of both, depending who the footballer in question might be.
Home, they say, is where the heart is.
That might be true but, if Manchester United are to wrestle the title back from City’s grasp come May, they’ll need to find a second home away from Old Trafford.
For all the criticism they’ve so far received this year, United have clocked up wins at Anfield (their first in all competitions there since December 2007), St James’ Park (where United had failed to score in the last two league outings) and, albeit in controversial circumstances, Stamford Bridge (the first time United left the blue half of West London with a league win in the last 10 and a half years).
In the corresponding fixtures last season United had picked up only a point, courtesy of a famous comeback against Chelsea.