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United’s manager courtship shows nothing has changed in club planning and power structure

More of the same from United’s inept board of directors...

Everton v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

There have been some pretty loud reports about Manchester United since the start of the international break. Donny Van De Beek exit rumors, Jadon Sancho at right back (puke emoji), and of course managerial courtships. One suggested Brendan Rodgers, another suggested Zinedine Zidane, but perhaps the most important one was a fairly quiet report about the brief but impactful courtship of newly hired Tottenham manager, Antonio Conte.

The Mirror reported that the Italian Serie A and Premier League winner wanted around £200m to spend in the first couple transfer windows, including this coming January, but that the United board found this “unacceptable.” While this report may not be exactly true, it is in line with other reports linking United to different candidates, with the general attitude being the United board believes that the current squad is good enough to win with now.

That is both believable from the board and absolute bullshit on their end.

Manchester United have a lot of problems, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s inability to manage the current situation is only one of them. They are talented, especially in attack, but as has been explored many times this season the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo has not only complicated who will start in a front 3, it has pushed more responsibility onto players behind them, exacerbating the lack of quality in midfield and leaving the defense exposed. Whether Solskjaer or someone else is manager in January, the pressing need for a reliable holding midfielder simply must be addressed.

This notion from the board is quite indicative of their consistent ineptitude when it comes to football planning, and the last two weeks have really exposed them yet again for what they are: a bunch of people who know nothing about football and care only about making money.

When it became clear that Solskjaer had lost his tactical touch the board clearly considered their options, and with how much is coming out now about Rodgers and Zidane they clearly still are, but there was no succession plan in place, and the decision making did not appear to go through the newly appointed football director, John Murtough. Ed Woodward is still technically in charge despite the process of him stepping down starting in May, and his understudy will simply be another businessman with a background in club merchandising. The Glazers have responded to Glazers Out by taking a more active role in the club, directly influencing the re-acquisition of Ronaldo and diverting money away from potential midfield targets to do so. The new structure has served as more of a public facing ruse than anything actually beneficial to club operations, and the failures of the team in recent months has exposed just how unprepared the club is to influence direct, positive change to the team.

So what can we expect? Likely more of what we’ve seen in the past, unfortunately.

Solskjaer will be sacked only when the team’s European qualification (i.e. TV money) is in jeopardy, and the club will make a quick and likely ill-advised hiring decision to bring in someone who will both struggle to establish a team identity and not be adequately backed by the board in teambuilding. And then in a couple years when it fails we’ll be having this same conversation yet again.

The club has not adjusted to the times, and there is no long term planning. The trust put in Solskjaer and his rebuild may have been the closest they came to finding such structure, but it was inherently flawed in it’s reliance on the manager and the inevitable recruitment shortcomings under the Glazers. Despite appointing a football director, technical director, and the supposed exit of Ed Woodward, it’s clear that nothing has changed in Manchester United’s power structure, and the non-committal managerial search has shown that. The club remain a dysfunctional organization, hiding behind nostalgia and, unfortunately, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who can almost certainly not save the situation but has been left to do so nonetheless.