Conjecture around Manchester United amongst supporters has shifted significantly since results against Wolves and Derby at home, then went up a level at West Ham away. Rather than picking issue with selections here or an approach there, fans are simply pleading for anything resembling competence.
Valencia at home in a Champions League group stage fixture offered hope that otherwise disaffected players would get themselves up for a bigger fixture. They did for 10 minutes and, as is often the case, it wasn’t nearly enough for United against a team who fancied their chances. United collectively folded and were impotently rancid. A delayed kick-off before and timely stoppages during from the opposition only served to extend the slow-motion car crash. It’s painful to watch. United could’ve played all evening with nothing to show.
José Mourinho talked up the efforts from his players which jarred heavily with the performance to anyone left watching. Mourinho is toast, and probably was always going to be since Ed Woodward outmuscled him in pre-season over transfers. Woodward winning this battle is the least sexy storyline going and United fans won’t have even been treated to the full range of fireworks which typically bookend Mourinho appointments. Mourinho looks bewildered, increasingly unarsed and unsupported.
United were arrogant enough to initially swerve on Mourinho – regardless of his evidently waning powers – and then desperate enough to give it a go after all. It hasn’t worked out and the club’s problems aren’t all leaving with the Portuguese when he does. Woodward flirted with Zinedine Zidane, obviously, just as he has with glitzy players with the end result being the same – thanks, but no fucking way. Mauricio Pochettino will be the next name, Ryan Giggs unimaginatively chucked in too. But United don’t have the structure, patience or vision that would allow a developing manager to succeed, never mind leading a group of players that will have seen off Mourinho. Things could get worse before they get better.
In the meantime, the Co92™ were curiously back in town taking in the spectacle. Appetite for unity from influential ex-players in the interim to lift the dressing room will be more palatable than before the churn of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal. United are shredding any sense of identity at every turn and Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and Co. are the quickest potential fix for the moment. Beyond that is anyone’s guess.
Mourinho, meanwhile, doesn’t look like seeing November in charge of United let alone the end of the season. Romelu Lukaku became the latest in a long list of underperformers with a static yet irritable display against Valencia, particularly telling for Mourinho who can usually rely on his main striker to contribute if not always score. Only Luke Shaw looked interested and, in an odd twist, might be the only outfield player improving.
A new manager will have a half-shaped squad with excellent options but as many headaches. Following Alex Ferguson was said to be the toughest gig in modern football, but conditions are set to be demonstrably worse six years on with a complete loss of direction, momentum and a desire for football. Clowns are running Manchester United so it should be no surprise that it’s turned into a circus.
Woodward is the perfect foil for the Glazers’ dereliction of duty with his special brand of celebrity-chasing buffoonery while primarily milking the brand. Fans, largely at home and especially away, are the only ones to come out of the malaise with any credit, and they will again back whoever comes in next as manager. Mourinho will be judged on the football and the results, rightly so – as should Woodward for overseeing six years of increasing incompetence and undermining their last semblance of a plan. Rather than Woodward and his imminent diluted director of football, it’s time the owners came back into focus.