I usually do not blog too much about other clubs, unless I am mocking them in a sarcastic manner. But this blog is a little bit different, as whilst it is about Man U, it is also relatable to Arsenal.
Last night Liverpool hosted Man U in what has to be one of the dullest Premier League games of all time. Littered with pointless fouls – there were 5 in the first 4 minutes – the game never got going. It was supposedly going to be watched by a billion people around the globe, an advert for the Premier League. It would have sent a billion people to sleep.
ISIS will be forcing its captives to watch re-runs of the game with toothpicks keeping their eyelids open as it’s latest form of torture. Having to re-watch the game over and over again will have people screaming to be burnt alive or drowned in a cage.
It is the media response to the game that has surprised me.
BBC Sport’s Chief Football writer, Phil McNulty, described the game as ‘vintage Jose Mourinho’. That he was ushering in a new Man Utd way. Others, on TV, radio and in the written press, have gone out of their way to praise Mourinho’s tactics, describing it, amongst as other things, as a master class from Mourinho.
Whilst Gary Neville said the game gave him doubts over Man U’s title credentials this season he was apparently encouraged.
They nullified Liverpool, grinding out a 0-0 draw. Playing ultra defensive, breaking up the play at every opportunity. Mourinho and Man U set themselves up to not lose the game, rather than win. Hardly any touches in the opponents box, limited position, a single shot on target and their 1st corner in the 82nd minute.
Now had this been David Moyes’ Sunderland, Tony Pullis’ West Brom, or any Sam Allardyce side in the last 20 years, I would fully understand the praise. A lowly side, battling out for a draw against a title challenger.
But this was not a bottom 3 side fighting for their life, it was Man U, the most successful team in English football history.
Victory last night for Man U by 2 goals would have seen them actually leap frog their great rivals in the league. They would have been 4th in the league, 3 points off top. Not bad for a side in apparent turmoil.
A 0-0 draw has left them in 7th place. 3 points behind Liverpool, 5 points behind the league leaders. Rather than getting praise for an underwhelming performance, their should be criticism for Jose Mourinho who last night conceded the title. By not going for the win, he showed that he does not believe Man U are title contenders. He is not even aiming for top 4. He was happy with a draw.
What yesterday showed is why Man U are playing on a Monday night on a Champions League week. They were awful. And this shows how Man U have fallen.
In 2012/13 they were Champions for the 5th time in 7 years. They had not finished outside the top 2 in 8 seasons. The last time they finished below 3rd was in 1991. And here they were, putting 10 men behind the ball, hoofing the ball forward, not interested in scoring, happy for a draw that kept them 7th.
25 years of not being out of the top 3, they have now failed to break into the top 3 in the last 3 seasons. The way they set up, the way they played Monday, it does not look like they will make top 3 this season. And yet we should be celebrating Mourinho?
After their title win in 2012/13, Fergie left Man U, and since then things have gone to pot. And this is where the Arsenal stuff comes in.
Firstly in came David Moyes. The British manager given a chance. He spent a summer trying to sign central midfielders, got turned down by everyone, and ended up with Marouane Fellaini from his old club, Everton. And that was it.
Including the January signing of Juan Mata, Moyes spent £68m, was sacked in April, Giggs shagged his brothers misses and they finished 7th.
Next up was Louis van Gaal. The managerial genius who once substituted his goal keeper before a penalty shoot out. He spent the good part of £250m on players, and his only game changing tactic was to hoof it up to David Moyes’ Fellaini in the last 10 minutes in the hope he headed one in. 4th and 5th and an FA Cup finish. Not a disaster, but not the success Man U fans desire, expect, and have gotten used to.
He was soon out the door when Jose Mourinho came in.
Mourinho has spent £150m over the summer. Including a world record transfer fee on Paul Pogba, who has since gone missing. His key players have been Moyes’ Fellaini and Moyes’ Mata. The result of his investment and genius has left Man U in 7th place, celebrating a 0-0 draw against Liverpool as if they have just beaten Barcelona in a Champions League Final.
Four summers since Fergie left, nearly half a billion spent by 3 managers and for what? To fail to break into the top 4 in all but one season. To play like Stoke City under Pullis or Bolton under Allardyce. 10 men behind the ball. Hoofing it to Zlatan Ibrahimovic who has no pace to run onto it. And the manager being labelled a genius for overseeing the dull game.
How the mighty have fallen.
There is a stark warning for Arsenal in what is happening at Man U. Both for fans and the board alike.
In van Gaal and Mourinho, they got in two manager who, on paper, were at the top of their game. They have given them all the resources they need to be successful. Both have spent the f**king money. And it has got them very little. A single FA Cup in 4 years and playing for a 0-0 draw away from home against a rival.
The time is coming when Arsene Wenger will leave Arsenal. But him leaving, and the new manager spending £100m+ a season will not guarantee success. It will not automatically make Arsenal champions. It will not even guarantee us top 3.
Man U have gone from perennial title challengers to mid table battlers in the space of 3 years. Only Leicester’s fall from grace has been grander in recent years. And spent £500m for the privilege.
The fact the media are going so OTT praising them for a dull 0-0 draw shows just how far Man U have fallen.