We are speeding at warp factor 5 to The Business End of the Season™, and I am left bemused as to what direction United are going to take next.
When the champions (hopefully Leicester) are finally crowned in May, when the stands are empty and the crisp packets and polystyrene cups are swept from the terraces (do terraces still exist?), and when the Champions League places and booby prize Europa slots are filled, where will the once proud Manchester United be?
Chelsea has announced Antonio Conte as their new manager. This gives them the authority to tell prospective signings “this is our new manager and this is our plan going forward. No Champions League next season, but you’ll be compensated financially and we will be there the season after – promise!”
Many thought City were premature in announcing the capture of one of the most highly sought-after and progressive managers – Pep Guardiola – and maybe they were. But at that time, City were already starting to lose their race for the championship. The team was and is looking older and jaded, and in need of a rebuild. Pellegrini was not that man, and now City, with their abundant finances, probable Champions League and one of the best managers in the world today, have a plan going forward and the bait to capture any player they wish to spend their innumerable petro-dollars on.
Then we look at Old Trafford. After a dismal season we have had to endure and the decline of our team since Ferguson retired, what do United have to offer any prospective signing? Our history and our money? Is that we have become? Wake up and smell the Bovril Mr Woodward – we don’t want trophy players, we want trophies. £300 million spent so far, and likely no Champions League next season.
With seven games to go, we have no idea who the manager will be next season, and the transfer rumours change from day to day. If talks are going ahead with prospective signings, will they know who will be their manager? Will it be van Gaal? Reports recently stated that he will be given his third season with a smaller kitty of just £80 million. Will it be Mourinho with his excess baggage and reluctance to blood youth – a tradition central to United’s ethos – or will it be the less experienced Giggs, who chose to sit next to van Gaal rather than gain experience managing a lesser team? Gary Neville might have failed in Spain – there wasn’t much going for him, with a different culture, language and rabid fans – but at least he had the guts to try.
Fourth place is going to get harder and harder, never mind winning the dammed thing, and as we approach the final few games, nobody seems to know what our plan is for next season.
With all that uncertainty, maybe only mercenaries out for a last pay day will want to join us (Ibrahimovic comes to mind), and once again, Woodward will try patch up a sinking ship with gold plated bandages.