Manchester United are now out of all competitions and top four looks like far too steep a climb with only nine fixtures remaining in the league including games against the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and the side most likely to secure fourth, Arsenal. The season is essentially over. But the club now have an opportunity to be decisive and make the necessary changes to the alter the downward spiral they’re on.
United are now looking for their fifth permanent manager since the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson departed and a large number of players are either out of contract or look likely to leave. This is a real opportunity for the new hierarchy to reshape the club and show exactly how they intend on getting Manchester United back to their glittering best.
There’s a real risk of United being left even further behind Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea if they continue to make decisions aimed at short term success. Arsenal are another rival who appear to be finding their feet under the inexperienced, Mikel Arteta. The Spaniard has built a likeable team consisting of talented academy players and underrated assets with huge upside from other clubs around Europe.
However, Arteta’s vision has taken time to come to fruition as he’s shipped out high profile underperforming ‘stars’ like Mesut Ozil and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang while aiding the development of gifted Hale End academy graduates such as Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe. Despite not having much to show for it as of yet with regards to major silverware, the club’s trajectory looks better now than it has done for over a decade. They have a charismatic squad that fans can relate to while carrying out their manager’s game plan to the best of their ability.
As is previously mentioned, Arteta’s Arsenal have only managed an FA Cup so far and only now appear to be on the verge of qualifying for the pinnacle of European football for the first time in five years, but their general direction appears to be positive with clear synergy between the manager, the hierarchy of the club and the playing squad. There’s an easy to identify transfer strategy with the club recruiting players who suit the long-term vision while also having the necessary skills to fill a role in the team. Therefore, increasing the likelihood these of these small wins being built on and leading to sustainable success.
It’s time for Manchester United to look at what the clubs around them are doing and aim for something similar. Hire a manager on an upward trajectory with a clear philosophy that can be instilled at all levels. Sign younger players who fit this philosophy and have the required quality to play at Champions League level. It’s time for Manchester United to become serious again and look at the long-term future of the club.
There should no longer be room for players the wrong side of 30 with little upside other than shirt sales. This isn’t to say these players have failed or aren’t good enough, it’s just an indication that the club have been far too short sighted and that these players aren’t going to be at the club in three or four years time. In addition to this, as these individuals are established players in the game there’s an increase in demands financially.
The annual wages of these players could be better used in bringing in younger players who could potentially grow to the standard of a Manchester United player with the worst-case scenario being they end up getting sold, but at least there’ll be some sort of return on the investment. Neither Liverpool or Manchester City have purchased a single player over the age of 30 in recent years and when spending big have ensured the signing they’re making fits their manager’s style of play and immediately improves their starting eleven or offers something the rest of the squad doesn’t. United must learn to work smarter in their recruitment and return to their roots in aiming to build superstars, rather than buy them.
Ed Woodward’s departure will hopefully signal a change in approach from the club with the next managerial appointment and transfer window pivotal to showing what Richard Arnold and co.’s long term vision for the club is. There is a real opportunity to make a statement; get rid of some high earners within the squad, further decrease the amount of deadwood and follow the trend set by Arteta at Arsenal by blooding youngsters and signing players who will improve and have the potential to be at Manchester United for more than a season or two. United should be an attractive proposition for any ambitious manager with a real chance to mould the squad in their image and wake the sleeping giant from its trophyless slumber.