Why I’m (kinda) happy with Manchester United’s current crisis
Before you assume it’s another rant about the loss vs Spurs, let me stop you right there. It was a nightmare for me. After the encouraging first half, we just caved in. And twice in a row, we conceded three goals due to individual defensive errors and it already seems like it will be a very tough season ahead. Forget challenging for the title, we would be lucky to finish top four with this team. BUT I’m happy with the current crisis. Actually, happy would be a strong word but for the lack of a better word, let’s use it.
Over the past three decades, Manchester United have attracted hundreds of millions of fans, a lot of them only because we became the champions of England again and again. Now, a lot of those reds are discovering what it means to support a team through the struggle to become champions again. And they are losing their minds. So, when we lost to Spurs, out came the #MourinhoOut brigade. And a lot of these fans are going to either stop supporting United or stop bothering or are going to keep on ranting. Jonathan Shrager said it best with this tweet.
So why am I happy?
I started supporting the team in 1997–98. The team had gone from 5th at the start of December 1996 to win the title in 1997 by 7 points and the class of ’92 was coming of age. I realized that I had fallen in love with the never-say-die attitude of Sir Alex Ferguson and his Red Devils. And guess what happened in 1997, we miraculously lost the title to Arsenal by 1 point after being top of the table till mid-April.
But did the team give up? NO.
1998–99 was the most successful season in the history of the club as we won the treble (Premier League, FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League).
That’s the Manchester United the fans loved. Winning the Champions League final 2–1 in extra time in Barcelona without captain Roy Keane and Paul Scholes (due to suspensions).
And more and more fans started supporting the team, a lot of them glory hunters, as United went to become champions a 20th time in 2012–13. And then Sir Alex bid adieu and started the struggle in 2013–14 under David Moyes.
It’s been 5 years and United have especially failed to live up to the expectations of the glory hunters even as we won the Europa League and finished second behind one of the best City teams.
And how have those fans reacted? The following tweet sums it up.
And I’m (kinda) happy that the glory hunters are going to go back into their caves. But the real reason I’m happy is that fans will hopefully realize the true problems which were hidden by the genius of Sir Alex so far.
These fans are calling for the manager’s head (yet again) but the fact is Mourinho is not the (only) problem. We have bigger problems. And those problems started when the Glazers bought the club.
The Glazer Acquisition
The club went public in 1990 and was the subject of takeover bids from property trader Michael Knighton and Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB corporation before Malcolm Glazer’s stake was announced in September 2003. By the end of the year, Glazer had increased his shareholding from 3.17% to around 15%, which he almost doubled in the year up to October 2004. His acquisition of John Magnier and J. P. McManus’s 28.7% stake in May 2005 pushed his own up to around 57%, well over the 30% threshold that would force him to launch a takeover bid. A few days later, he took control of 75% of the club’s shares, allowing him to delist the company from the stock exchange, and within a month, the Glazers took 98% ownership of the club via their Red Football parent company, forcing a squeeze out of the remaining 2%. The final purchase price of the club totalled almost £800 million.
Most of the capital used by Glazer to purchase Manchester United came in the form of loans, the majority of which were secured against the club’s assets, incurring interest payments of over £60 million per annum. The remainder came in the form of PIK loans (payment in kind loans), which were later sold to hedge funds. Manchester United was not liable for the PIKs, which were held by Red Football Joint Venture and were secured on that company’s shares in Red Football (and thus the club). The interest on the PIKs rolled up at 14.25% per annum. Despite this, the Glazers did not pay down any of the PIK loans in the first five years they owned the club. In January 2010, the club carried out a successful £500 million bond issue, and by March 2010, the PIKs stood at around £207 million. The PIKs were eventually paid off in November 2010 by unspecified means. In August 2012, as part of further refinancing, the Glazers sold a number of shares in Manchester United in an initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
Some Manchester United fans opposed Glazer’s takeover of the club, particularly once they realised the level of debt that the club would have to take on after having been debt-free for so many years.
The Glazers have been draining the club ever since and the true colors were shown in the transfer window this season as Ed Woodward failed to conclude deals for two of Mourinho’s priority targets, amid interest in Toby Alderweireld, Harry Maguire and Willian.
Mourinho is not getting the best out of the players
A lot of you will say the lack of transfers cannot be the reason for failing to win at Brighton. And maybe you are right. But I hope you watched the match. All 3 goals were because of errors by Bailly and Lindelof. They are potentially great players but not world class yet and which is why Mourinho wanted to bring in a seasoned Center Back to bolster the weak defence.
A lot of the fans also say Mourinho is not getting the best out of the current crop of players. I would point to Lingard, Herrera, Valencia and even Young (who got an England call for the World Cup). How have those players performed way above their standards and how have Pogba, Sanchez, Lindelof and Lukaku performed below average as compared to their high standards for their countries?
Mourinho is doing something right or maybe not. Maybe some players know what it means to play for the club and the shirt and some don’t. We would never know the true reason.
Jose Mourinho has spent enough…
NO, he hasn’t.
In the period since summer 2016, Liverpool have spent more, with Alisson’s arrival taking their overall spend since the summer of 2016 to £411.55m, compared to United’s £392.55. And since taking over at the Etihad Stadium in 2016, Guardiola has spent over £500m.
What annoys Mourinho and true fans most, though, is not the amount but the fact that Guardiola and Klopp got what they wanted. He was denied the signing of Perisic when we clearly needed a right winger last season and the signings of Toby Alderweireld/Harry Maguire and Willian this season again.
In contrast Guardiola has spent £250 million and more on defenders alone, buying the likes of Mendy, Walker, Stones and Laporte. And he inherited a champion squad with a leader like Kompany and quality players like Silva, Aguero, Sterling and De Bruyne.
Who did Mourinho inherit? Smalling, Jones, Young, Valencia, Fellaini, and Darmian. Only De Gea, Mata, (a rapidly ageing) Wayne Rooney and (close to retirement) Carrick were what you call World Class players.
So, all I have to say is, let’s back the manager and the team because that’s what true fans do. Never-Say-Die.
To sum up, here’s what Ryan Giggs said:
“Manchester United have got a fantastic manager already there. The club are going through a tough time but you’ve got to come through those tough times. I don’t see where Manchester United go after Jose Mourinho. I think they’ve got the right man and they should stick with him. The club, the players and the fans should stick together.”
P.S. I have not talked about the style of football because Mourinho’s teams have won with the same style including us beating City, Spurs, Chelsea and Liverpool last season. So maybe, it’s not about the style at all. Let’s give the benefit of the doubt to a manager who has won it all and is probably our best chance of getting the winning mentality again which was lost under Moyes and LVG.