Manchester United’s preseason training has kicked off and this ordinarily leads to feelings of excitement in football supporters; the prospect of a new season wherein the failings of former years will be washed away with a new kit and the injection of new signings to clean away the ills. It has traditionally, and even in recent years, been an exciting time for Manchester United supporters. It has always been a time when hope and optimism are at their greatest and supporters have lofty ambitions for the season ahead, expecting a title charge without the harsh reality of weekly games reminding them of their team’s true status.
The prevalence of optimism has not been the case this preseason. The #GlazersOut campaign has not entirely taken over fans’ mindsets, but it has given a glimpse of what the mentality really is for supporters of the Red Devils.
Years of corporate mismanagement have taken their toll on the supporters, who now see the reality of life ahead at Old Trafford; playing in an ageing stadium that lost its lustre in the late noughties, much like their beloved team. Visitors to Old Trafford in recent seasons would point to the rain coming through the grime covered roof and a stadium long overdue a paint job as evidence of things array in Manchester.
The team has been the treated the same by the Glazer ownership and now the supporters finally understand the reality of their plight.
There is no optimism, no hope; just a desperate trepidation as supporters lay waiting in their 1990s armoured tank awaiting the next shelling from the new age rebels across the city.
There are certain things that would have abated certain unhappiness or rebellion in the United support.
New signings have always been a sure-fire way to galvanise the support. In May, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told the media following United’s draw with Huddersfield: “I can’t talk about individuals now but there’s a chance you’ve seen the last of [some] players.” While supporters presumed he meant Matteo Darmian and Alexis Sánchez, was he actually talking about Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba?
As it appears presently, these are the only players likely to leave (or have already left) Manchester United. All of the superstars on overblown, over-bloated contracts such as Alexis Sánchez, Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matić, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones remain, yet two starting central midfielders from last season are looking like the only exits at present. This has not been the shakeup that supporters desired.
And almost by extension – while United have signed two players, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James, these are hardly the magnitude of reinforcements presumed needed to return Manchester United to glory. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed to his permanent position surprisingly early – in March – supposedly with a view to preparing for next season but it seems that his head start has been wasted.
Manchester United are being strongly linked with Harry Maguire – a player with whom they were linked with last season – and appear to be on the verge of a ransom situation with Leicester to prize the player away. Maguire is a fine player, but many United fans are questioning whether he is sufficient improvement upon Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. Additionally, if United are so willing to spend exorbitant money on him now, why didn’t they do it last year and avoid the train wreck of a season they experienced?
Harry Maguire may end up being a quality player for Manchester United, and perhaps he is the type of player they should target, but for now he is not filling Manchester United fans with any level of enthusiasm.
The problems at Manchester United demonstrate their failure to remain a powerful club. They are no longer a club warranting respect from opposition on the pitch, neutral football fans or even its own players. Jesse Lingard’s antics in Dubai this summer were nothing short of disgraceful, and no amount of Snapchat videos of him working out since are going to rectify that. An article appeared in the Daily Mail this week in which they claimed that Barcelona had urged Neymar not to go AWOL to force a move through to the Catalans this summer.
It prompted a question however.
Where was Paul Pogba last week? While he admittedly had a promotional event with Adidas in New York midweek, it seems strange timing, especially considering that he is the one player (supposedly) trying to force his way out of Manchester United and he was the only player absent from training all week. Should more questions not be asked about this or have the Manchester United footballing fanbase just lost patience with the would-be superstar?
It is a depressing time for Manchester United supporters who are perhaps only now beginning to see the true motives and apathy of their absentee landlords. The club is powerless and rudderless. The club is being badly run and for the first time in a long time, optimism and hope is no longer enough to fan the sails of the United support. The sight of Romelu Lukaku returning to training this week might not have been so depressing were there a feeling that Manchester United had the potential to get it right, but from this vantage point, it’s not looking so great.