There is an all-too-familiar feeling of déjà vu that engulfs Old Trafford. David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have had the ax wielded during their tenures and, for the fourth time in eight years, Manchester United are on the hunt for a new manager.
Eight years have passed since Sir Alex Ferguson won his 13th and final Premier League title before handing over the keys to his empire to Manchester United. Since then, only three major trophies have been presented to Old Trafford, the last of which was five seasons ago.
United remain a colossus of English football only in name and income, business on the pitch has ended Solskjaer’s laudable attempt to restore the glory days, and the Old Trafford club are wondering how he got here and in which direction to turn Next.
Speaking in a special edition of Excluding script, ex-United captain Gary Neville, winner of eight Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues, explained how endemic poor decision-making and a cultural crisis rocked Old Trafford, and why cultivating a vision of Manchester United is the only way out.
How did Man Utd end up here?
“Lack of good decision-making on the football side, no doubt about it. There is a cultural problem at the club.
“Ole has been roughed up over the last few months, that’s what you get when you’re the manager of a football club, especially one the size of Manchester United. But the reality is that once he leaves, the focus will shift to somewhere else.
“It will be on the leaders of football, it will be on the decision-makers, it will be on the owners. They have proven that without Sir Alex Ferguson they cannot function properly as a football club. «
« Something is fundamentally wrong with Man Utd »
“If you spend over a billion pounds, bring in world-class managers in Mourinho and Van Gaal and they strive for the success the club wants, there is something fundamentally wrong with the club which means they don’t win.
“Something has to change for the club to get to where it needs to be. We could be reasonable and say that the job that Ole has done is to build the bridge to a better future and someone will pick it up, run with it, and go win the league, but I’m not sure.
“I live in Manchester city center. When I drive to Manchester City, not only do I see a football stadium, I see a DJ playing music outside the stadium, I see an atmosphere being created, a fan experience, a spirit.
« I see a new musical arena with 25,000 seats under construction [on the Etihad campus], there is a world class football academy, world class facilities, there is a mini stadium that the academy and the women’s teams use. They’ve built a football empire here, where it all happens, and they make good decisions on and off the pitch.
“Yet on the road to Old Trafford, where they have the best asset in the world at Manchester United, the biggest football club in the world in my opinion, and certainly the biggest football club in this country, you had a lot of them. money spent over the past eight years, but the decision-making has been really poor.
“Three out of these four managers got long-term contracts or extensions and were made redundant within months. It can happen once, but it can’t happen three times. «
« Build a vision that fans can connect with »
“There are a number of things the club has to do. They have to name a great manager, they have to get that next date right to build on the work that has happened over the past two or three years where they have been more measured in the transfer market and taken on. better decisions.
“However, off the pitch they have to build a vision for a football club. A vision creates an experience for the fans, bringing Manchester United back to a point where there is a top-down connection.
“There is a regeneration; a new stadium, new training facilities, a women’s stadium, an academic stadium. national level, but globally. Locally first, then you build a national community, then you build an international community.
“Manchester United regularly talks about building digital communities; I’ve been very critical of them the last few weeks, they seem to look a lot at algorithms, analytics, and fan sentiment. But they must have a righteous heart.
“Who is communicating the football club’s message to the fans? I don’t know a single person who is still actively operational in the football club who can communicate what this club is to the fans. There are people in the boardroom and a couple of people who know the club, but they don’t have the capacity to communicate that vision to a group of people who love this club – the fans. «
« Man Utd needs understanding, not local guys and legends »
“At the end of the day, at that point, I won’t go back to Old Trafford, that just won’t happen. It’s not good.
“You can achieve the values and culture of a football club without necessarily being the biggest fan in the world. Jurgen Klopp made it in Liverpool, Pep Guardiola created a culture and atmosphere in Manchester City that is special.
“It doesn’t have to be the local kid or the ex-legend coming home, it has to be someone who can understand what this football club means. Sir Alex Ferguson came from Aberdeen in 1986 without knowing what Manchester United was; he I had never lived in Manchester and had never worked at the club before, but he understood it, he understood it right away, understood it and put it in everyone and has created a dynasty.
« I’m not saying Manchester United have to create a dynasty, but they have to find a manager who can build something from the ground up, communicate with the fans and understand the culture, the values, the principles, the fun, the risk – everything Manchester United is. «
The first steps Man Utd must take …
“Ed Woodward is leaving, they’re going to have to appoint a new CEO, and that CEO has to make sure they have the right people to run the club’s football team. That’s all, the first job.
“Maybe it’s Richard Arnold, who’s worked with Ed for the past 10 years, and he has to take a step back from what’s happened over the past eight years, put his own mark on it and make sure he doesn’t become someone who takes over what is already happening, he has to assess everything that is happening at the club.
“I think they make sure the right footballers are there, and then they can find the right manager at the end of the season. If he comes in, Richard Arnold has to assess this very quickly.
“I have lost faith in the owners’ ability to do this, they are in America and are so distant and out of touch with the football club that it is wrong. «
« An upheaval of the mass players is not necessary »
“I’m not saying Manchester United don’t need to be beefed up in some areas, but they’re a very good group of players who should be able to accomplish a lot. They are so talented, there are a lot of young people, but they need someone to come along who knows how to master them, bring them together in a group, make them believe in a way of playing and get results before the end of the season. season.
“At the end of the season, I imagine Manchester United will appoint a brand new manager, and he will have to move them forward. But I don’t think Manchester United need any disruption in the dressing room. They may need strengthening in the central midfielder, you could say there is a developing right-back problem and Aaron Wan-Bissaka needs some competition.
“But other than that I would say if Manchester United could put the players they have in good shape on the pitch, they will have a great chance of winning a lot of football matches. «
Neville’s message to fans: « It’s still our club »
“The fans of any football club are the most important people. Manchester United fans are among the most loyal in the world. Ultimately, they will respect the fact that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given everything over the past three years.
“Manchester United will always be there, people come and go, but the club will always be there, regardless of the staff. The point is, in good times and bad, it’s still our club and you support it.
“I grew up for 18 years without seeing my club win a league title, I’m used to it, I have no problem with that. I then spent the most amazing 20 years of my life being a part of something where we’ve won a lot I’ve seen both sides, and I’m in no rush, I’m not going anywhere, I’ll always be a Manchester United fan until the day I died and that will never change.
“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer losing his job is a sad day, of course he’s a club legend, but there will be days worse than this. Manchester United will be Manchester United fans long after today, regardless of who plays for the club and what happens in the future. «