Oh dear, what can the matter be?
These are the opening words of a rather silly song we used to sing as children. They ring true at Old Trafford right now.
What is happening to our once rock ‘n’ roll team, that was feared throughout Europe for more than two decades? Even long before that, the Busby Babes were blazing a trail through the continent before being tragically cut short. The success in that era was no less than a miracle, establishing the myth and mystique of Man Utd in hearts and minds around the world. In 2015, however, the unique aura around the club seems to be slowly ebbing away.
When I watched our latest manifestation on Saturday, I saw a team bereft of ideas and experience, frustrated with the roles they are being made to play. What has van Gaal done, and why can’t he see the problems so many fans, ex-players and pundits continue to discuss?
We can’t blame our injury problems. Bournemouth had five of their top players injured. A whole team that cost less than Anthony Martial took us apart. If at the start of the season we saw that we would play newly-promoted Bournemouth without five key players, here was a definite three pointer. Well, not for our boys…
Some say we can’t blame van Gaal for the injuries. Why not? Arsene Wenger is often blamed when his team is decimated by injury. We don’t know what goes on behind Carrington’s doors, but players have reportedly complained to the manager that training is too severe, too boring and too physical.
We have serious issues at the moment and van Gaal seems to be the catalyst. His recent decision-making seem erratic at best. Before playing Wolfsburg – a game we needed to win – van Gaal claimed we were not good enough to win the Champions League. Then he brings off a World Cup winner in Mata and brings on ex-Crewe flop Nick Powell who has played twenty minutes of first team football in two years.
Then, against Bournemouth, where three points would put us top of the betting league, he takes off Fellaini just before a free kick into their area and again brings on Powell. In the last fifteen minutes, we sent in cross after cross to the box, and guess what, no Fellaini, who, by the way, scored our only goal, and on the day was slightly better than most of the team.
Then with minutes to spare, he brings on Phil Jones. Not Young, who sat on the bench, but Jones – a centre half.
Furthermore, van Gaal’s ridiculous strategy of selling or sending away decent front players seems to have been a monumental error of judgement. Well done Chicharito for scoring a hat-trick for Leverkusen this weekend – his fifteenth goal in twelve games – and congratulations to James Wilson, who has scored twice in his first two games for Brighton.
I’m also tired of van Gaal’s Brendan Rogers-style press conferences, as he clearly seems to be in denial. I’m tired of seeing Ryan Giggs looking gormless and out of his depth on the bench next to him. What is he waiting for, dead man’s shoes? Why doesn’t he do what Gary Neville has done, be brave and take a chance somewhere else to gain experience? Swansea would be a great opportunity for him at this moment, and if he fails, then maybe he’s not the right choice to take over at Old Trafford.
I only hope that the men at the top are discussing plan B, and either sounding out Ancelotti to help us into the second part of the season, or making the appropriate overtures to Pep Guardiola before City snatch him from us and cement themselves as Manchester’s Northern Powerhouse – this I couldn’t stand!