Since the end of last season, I’ve lived in a sort of limbo in which I seek stories about United less enthusiastically than I normally would have done. The momentous end to the 2012-13 campaign culminating with Fergie’s departure took me into uncharted territory as, for the first time in my lifetime, I experienced a strange sense of detachment from the game.
I, like many others, had not foreseen Sir Alex’s decision to leave the club and after David Moyes was appointed, my interest on all the things United somewhat took a different route, one that I had never experienced before, yet a very interesting one.
Obviously, I’m still as mad as it gets about the club and everything it stands for (which, deluded romantic that I am, is working class men watching football on a Saturday afternoon, rather than the flurry of new sponsorship deals United have secured over the last couple of months) but while, in previous summers, I’d be avidly consuming and debating over every inch of newspapers’ columns, this year, so far, I have merely been an interested observer, letting all the Reds – ITK and not – pouring out their opinions, verdicts and predictions about next season.
Football generates discussions and awakes opinions like very few other sports do and United fans have long been rather divided on a number of topics, from on-pitch decisions to boardroom policy and I, rather naively as it turned out, expected the end of Sir Alex’s era to bring the majority of the fans together in support of David Moyes.
Alas, I was wrong. Or, at least, I was wrong to an extent.
The new United manager took the reins less than three weeks ago and has already had the luxury of having everyone and their grandma advising him on what he ought and oughtn’t to do at Manchester United Football Club. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for opinionated fans who provide constructive criticism, but I tend to believe that a manager who’s coached professionally for over 15 years is rather more suited to call the shots than you and I, or any member of the media out there, for that matter.
If we all were the tactical geniuses we secretly believe ourselves to be, we wouldn’t be doing our job, we would be in the Old Trafford dressing room on a Saturday afternoon at 2.50pm. Instead at 2.50pm we’re either hurrying towards the turnstiles after one drink too many at the pub, positioning our backside on our favourite armchair or trying to catch a glimpse of the screen down our local pub (OK, technically that doesn’t happen on a Saturday afternoon, but you get the picture).
Of course we would love to see the likes of Thiago, Strootman and just about anybody who could strengthen our terminally ill midfield (“but we’ve won the league last season!” i hear you screaming), provide adequate support for Robin Van Persie up-front or even, dare I say it, beat the first man when taking a set-piece.
But, for all we know, we might find ourselves in August hugely disappointed at the squad David Moyes has assembled and pedantically cursing him for having the cheek of con Sir Alex into appointing him as his successor. On the other hand, Moyes might sign all the players we required and we could still end up empty handed because, as our neighbours across town and a certain Russian in South West London blissfully continue to ignore, teams need time to gel together in order to be successful.
Which brings us to a crucial shadow that, personally, I believe will be casted over United’s head for a while. Following 26 unparalleled successful years we might as well be poised to experience a couple of barren years for, you see, Manchester United Football Club, like any other sporting organisation in the world, don’t have the God-given right of being successful.
It seems to me that many Reds have either failed to grasp the concept or simply refuse to entertain the prospect like a teenager on the verge of returning to school disguising himself into thinking that the holiday will last another week. The Twitter account UtdBeforeFergie (which, for the record, I find rather cringeworthy) recently asked its followers if they would swap a couple of trophy-less seasons if that meant getting rid of the glory hunters that infest our club.
I, for one, would make that swap without batting an eyelid for this transfer window has highlighted how spoilt we have grown during Fergie’s era, to the point where some people pondered if the league title was worth celebrating for “it was just another title”, rather than jumping with excitement and milking the moment like a 71-year-old man used to do.
I’ve been bracing myself for a couple of hard seasons, I would even welcome them, in fact, for an unsuccessful spell for United would allow fans to reclaim part of the club they so dearly love. It would be uncharted territory, but it would provide a reality check for the many spoilt, never-happy-no-matter-what fans that have crippled our club for so long.
United fans,are still in the largely enviable position of considering the potential signing of an England left-back as poor piece of business, while other clubs would be delighted to be presented with such an opportunity – which is not, in any way, form or shape me hoping David Moyes decides that a couple of decent players are all United require. I am fully behind David Moyes, and I’m sure many other Reds are too, but I’m also fully aware that he might not have the same pull on players that Sir Alex Ferguson had which, theoretically at least, could see us missing out on some of our transfer targets
Of course, given our club’s tradition, we consider donning the red shirt a privilege that should be exclusive only to a rather limited group of players (a group to which the likes of Anderson, Ashley Young and Federico Macheda do not belong) and, given the expectations our success under Sir Alex has bred, we are desperate for world class signings.
However, just as far as winning trophies is concerned, United are not entitled to any particular preferential route when it comes to sign players. Tradition, success and glamour count only for a handful of players these days, while the overwhelming majority are attracted by larger paychecks, there’s no way around it.
Would I like to see United strengthen their midfield in the summer? Too right I will. Do I believe it will happen? I believe that Moyes will do anything he can to make sure his squad will be as ready as it can be come August 17, and if that means that we’ll have to rescale our expectations, then so be it. Football is a roller-coaster ride and the more prepared a club and its fans are to the deal with the lows, the quicker they are likely to experience the highs again.
I sincerely hope we’ll be challenging for trophies from the start, but meanwhile those who have already written Moyes off might want to entertain the idea of jumping on a shinier bandwagon for the time being, from when they’ll undoubtedly look on to us as we negotiate our way through a sea of nervous breakdowns and tears.
Many among those who would rather see the back Moyes that having him in charge and who bemoan a lack of activity in the transfer window, are the same individuals who branded the anti-Glazer protest as a pathetic and moronic attempt to solve what was, in their eyes at least, a non issue.
United have been extremely successful in recent years, despite some rather dubious decisions in the transfer market but, now that Sir Alex is no longer available to rectify some of those mistakes – some of which had to be attributed to him anyway – things might be about to take a turn for the worst.
Laying the blame at David Moyes’s door would be utterly idiotic. It would also go a long way in measuring how spoilt some fans have grown.
Do we support United for what they’ve won or for what they are? For me, it’s a no brainer.
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