Much as I would like to think otherwise, I seriously doubt Bruce was thinking of the trauma United would experience in the post-Fergie era when he penned those words – not least, because Fergie was still six years short of being appointed at Old Trafford when the record was released – but he unwillingly summed up United’s current predicament.
Despite being barely six months into David Moyes’ first season, by now we all know the drill – United are in decline, the cracks upon which Sir Alex had papered so efficiently over the last couple of years emerging with sheer force and brutality, while injuries compound the misery of an inadequate squad and Moyes looks increasingly desperate.
Having spent the last five months under increasingly intense scrutiny, Moyes must be relieved to know that, at least for the next 23 days, he will have some company to share the burden of expectations with, given that the January transfer window has thrusted the Glazers and everyone favourite pantomime villain, Ed Woodward, back into the spotlight.
With United seventh in the table, out of the FA Cup and playing tedious football the “Moyes Out” brigade has recruited new members in recent weeks but let’s get one things clear from the start: United are not going to sack Moyes anytime soon.
To do that the Glazers would have to admit they’ve made a mistake in appointing him and Malcolm and sons do not entertain the thought of being wrong too often, nor they’d appreciate having to pay off Moyes’ six-year deal while spending money to recruit another manager for, as they’ve proven time and again, if there’s one thing the Glazers detest more than being wrong is investing money on Manchester United – of course we have bought Robin Van Persie and Dimitar Berbatov, but we have spent less than Sunderland and Stoke in the last eight years.
For the first time since the fateful moment when they took control of the club, however, United’s owners have to make a delicate decision that will have repercussion on the football side of things and, crucially, they can no longer count on David Gill and Sir Alex to bail them out.
Either the Glazers back David Moyes heavily this month or they can wave goodbye to the £80m deriving from a Champions League spot, not only for next season but as far as the club’s foreseeable future is concerned, for were United to miss out on a place at European football’s elite table, the recruitment process – hardly a leisurely stroll as it is – would become incredibly more complicated, not to mention that the likes of Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie and David De Gea could reconsider their future.
How can we expect the Glazers to back a man who has spent £27m on Marouane Fellaini, I hear you say.
Quite plainly, they have no other choice, for while the club will continue to generate revenues for them even without the sustained success the Glazers have used to bleed the club dry, in the medium to long term, a lack of silverware could see sponsorship dry up – Ed could then be unemployed – thus stripping United of the profitability that lured the Glazers to Old Trafford in the first place.
Over the last month alone £220m have been wiped off United’s stock market value yet many continue to bury their heads in the sand, refusing to accept that the men from Florida might, in fact, have something to do with the situation United find themselves in just eight months after lifting the Premier League title.
Depending on which media source one deems trustworthy, United have either £100m available to spend in January, double that amount or nothing at all.
Predictably, the sources reporting that Moyes has indeed a sizeable budget to operate with, point to the fact that he’ll only spend on “selected targets” which, much as having a sensible plan is of paramount importance, looks increasingly to be one of the Glazers’ favourite smokescreens – “We had money, tried, failed. Sorry.”
If, and it’s a big “if”, Moyes has been backed then he must spend and spend big this month, because United’s current squad is not only not good enough to finish in the top four, it’s also in desperate need of a lift and one or two major signings – hard to get, though they might be – could revitalise the dressing room.
If, however, as it seems a lot more probable, Moyes will sit tight because the £100m war-chest is nothing but a puff of smoke, then we can all look forward to four to five years of mediocrity during which luring players to Old Trafford would be increasingly difficult.
Whisper it, but those cynic lunatics who wore Green and Gold scarves (like who wrote this article, for instance) might have just called it right. Now, that would be embarrassing, wouldn’t it?