Fast forward 10 years and there were few clubs more feared than Manchester United. Serial winners both domestically and in Europe, they were often considered the biggest club in the world.
United’s unrivaled dominance saw them to a record 13 Premier League titles in just 21 years between their inception in 1993 and 2013. This includes an incredible three successive titles between 2006 and 2009, a feat that has yet to be equaled. Many have claimed this is due to Alex Ferguson’s incredibly effective management style and tireless work ethic. Ferguson expected unquestioning loyalty and 100% commitment. In return, he helped develop the confidence and skill set of some of the best players of the last few generations, including Ronaldo.
This begs the question: why are they currently in 6th place without having won a title in 8 years? Many say that Ferguson was the glue that held it all together, however, Manchester United have seen a fall from grace.
Premier League odds have United at 125/1 to win this year’s title, according to odds from 888sport.com. To get to the bottom of why this is so, let’s start by looking at Manchester United’s current season.
The 2023/2023 Season
Man United’s 2023/22 season couldn’t have started much better, and Red Devil fans had much to be optimistic about.
It started with the signings of two world-class players in Jadon Sancho and Rafael Varane. These were second only to the return of United legend and one of the world’s best, Cristiano Ronaldo.
A 5-1 thrashing of Leeds on opening day indicated that patience with the manager had paid off and this could be United’s year. However, lackluster performances soon became the weekly grind for Ole’s men before the embarrassing results quickly confused Red fans.
Starting with a 4–2 loss against a Leicester side that had been in poor shape all season, United suffered a heavy 5–0 loss to rivals Liverpool. Most painful of all, however, was the embarrassing 2-0 loss to fierce local rivals Manchester City when United were in terrible shape.
Losing to the other team in a city they’ve dominated for years meant maybe there was a changing of the guard. Goalkeeper David De Gea is having his best season in a long time, which shows how badly he has been playing United.
Eventually, club legend Ole’s reign came to an end and he was replaced by caretaker Ralf Rangnick. Since then, there has been a slight improvement in results and performance, but United still bear little resemblance to the team of yesteryear.
So how can Manchester United rise back to the top of English football?
Since Sir Alex’s departure, Manchester United have been crying out for some consistency. The best teams have a cohesive vision recognized by the club, the manager and the players, something that is missing at United.
This is reflected in the different managerial hirings observed in recent times. Van Haal relied on possession, leading to some of the most boring football ever seen at Old Trafford.
Mourinho was a more defensive coach, preferring to sit back and fight back. Current manager Ralf Rangnick prefers a high-intensity, high-pressure style of play.
Without a clear vision and desired style of play, each coach has very different plans for the team. As a result, players are only compatible with one manager, which has led to frequent short-term signings.
It’s no wonder that, over the last 5 years, Man United have a net spend of £100m, more than City. Furthermore, even the current manager only has a six-month temporary contract, which shows the lack of a long-term plan.
Manchester United, instead, must decide how they want to play and bring in coaches and players that suit only that specific style. With Chief Executive Ed Woodward set to step down, a competent replacement could begin to iron out some of these problems.
A new midfielder
After such a successful summer transfer window, it seemed that little could be done to further improve the team. However, despite the big name acquisitions, it seems that the team is even worse off than last year.
McTominay and Fred have been pillars in United’s midfield despite frequent criticism for making mistakes. Matic seems equally error-prone as he enters the latter stage of his career at 33 years old.
Man United need to spend to bring in a midfielder who brings quality, energy and intensity to the full-back. Amadou Haidara, with his technical prowess, seems to be the perfect fit, having previously worked with the current United manager.
Pace of work
While having a team full of superstars looks good on paper, it’s always said that humility breeds hard work. Working hard for the team and following up is absolutely necessary for almost every player on the field.
As a collective, United don’t work hard enough without shutting the ball down and back. The simple fact is that they need to improve their work rate and their willingness to run to defend better.
Had De Gea not been in such good form, Manchester United’s defensive record would have looked much poorer.
Manchester United must improve
During the height of Sir Alex Ferguson’s success, the prospect of United failing to succeed seemed unfathomable. Manchester United need to regain the cohesion and direction seen under Sir Alex to fix today’s disjointed performances.
The talented team they have must be trained to work as hard as possible. Finally, a new signing in midfield seems to be the last missing piece of the puzzle.