In 2013, Manchester United lifted the Premier League Trophy for the 13th time. The end of that season also marked legendary manager Alex Ferguson’s retirement, and the subsequent years have been marred by turmoil and poor results.
David Moyes, the heir apparent to Ferguson, was a disappointment and didn’t last a full season at Old Trafford. Ryan Giggs took over as interim manager for the remainder of the 2013-14 season, and United finished seventh.
The following year, Dutch manager Louis van Gaal was appointed as the team’s next great coach. Following success in the 2014 World Cup with the Netherlands, van Gaal looked to be the spark they needed to win the Premier League. So far, that has not been the case.
Yes, van Gaal led the Red Devils to a fourth place finish last season and secured a UEFA Champions League spot too. This season, he even had United atop the table over unlikely frontrunners Leicester City at one point. However, the wheels have fallen off for United, and they have since dropped way down the table.
Aside from failing to qualify for the Champions League knockout stage, their play has looked relatively unconvincing since a 2-0 defeat to Stoke City on Boxing Day. The loss was followed by a scoreless draw with Chelsea, a slim win over relegation-threatened Swansea City and then an uninspiring victory over League One side Sheffield United in the Football Association Challenge Cup.
United finally opened the floodgates when it scored three against Newcastle United. One problem persisted, though, as the Magpies scored three as well to force a draw. Most recently, United won a morale-boosting game against Liverpool at Anfield, but it was still not convincing.
The only thing Red Devils fans have to look forward to is a midweek Europa League matchup at the end of February against Midtjylland. The Europa League, albeit irrelevant, is the only realistic chance United has of winning any sort of silverware.
Behind the red curtain and under the paper bag over every United fan’s head is one thought: Should van Gaal be sacked?
I will confess that I am the opposite of a United fan, but the team’s lack of interest stems from the players and not the coaching staff.
United went out and overpaid for some players over the summer. Although said players are good, they are what American sports fans call “prima donnas” — arrogant, young and skillful players who think they are all so special.
Contrastingly, when United won the title in 2013, their team was filled with class. Javier Hernández, Nani, Nemanja Vidić, Tom Cleverley, Patrice Evra, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Ryan Giggs, Shinji Kagawa and Rio Ferdinand were all key components. All, with the exception of Rooney and Giggs, have departed Old Trafford either due to retirement or the desire to play elsewhere.
Why would they want to leave?
Well, because United was insourcing young, fresh talent to continue to its reign over England. Many sports teams around the world opt for this method, and when done correctly, it can produce the best results.
However, United brought in a poor crop of talent. Marouane Fellaini was the inaugural piece of trash to enter the Old Trafford garbage can. The “lanky poodle” could barely produce the numbers he did with Everton, where he scored nearly at will. Now, he struggles to get shots on target.
That cycle has persisted over the last several seasons, as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Ángel di María, Memphis Depay and Ander Herrera have disappointed in varying ways upon joining the club.
One might ask then why the influx of talent has failed. There’s really only one explanation: They’re all prima donnas!
Anyways, let’s return to the elephant in the room with van Gaal. Do you fire the man? I think he clearly has a poor ability to judge character and has been handed millions of pounds to waste on hapless talent. However, he is not a bad coach. He is tactically smart and knows how to organize a team. The problem, therefore, is that his players don’t have the passion to play for him.
Unfortunately for van Gaal, his time is running out. But the problem at United sits much deeper than the manager. With a group of young players who are wasting their talent away, there needs to be some type of character adjustment.
Meanwhile, the rest of the soccer world will continue to enjoy watching one of the world’s most hated clubs fall apart at the seams. The problem isn’t van Gaal, it’s the players too — some of whom really don’t deserve to wear the United jersey and are a disgrace to one of the most storied clubs in the world.