Picture the moment. It’s 3pm on Saturday 16th August 2014. The rest of the Premier League kick-off knowing that United are back. The other games follow an emphatic victory for Louis van Gaal in his first game as the new manager of Manchester United, as his optimism
Well, that’s what people were led to believe would happen, following United’s pre-season results. But it wasn’t to be. The excited optimism of the season’s preparations has all but disappeared, replaced by the dull reality that United are far from champions.
It’s proven to be a bitter-sweet moment for those fans whose feet stayed firmly on the ground as United toured the US, beating everyone in sight: it really was only pre-season.
It turned out to be the dawn of a false reality, a reality that has set in and brought United’s faithful back down to earth with a bump. This United side simply is not good enough.
As quoted by the Daily Mail today, Paul Scholes has claimed that of this current crop of United players, Wayne Rooney aside only Darren Fletcher would make the starting XI of great United squads of the last 10 years. He’s not just ‘got a point’ – he’s hit the nail on the head.
Squad depth is a key factor for all Premier League teams nowadays. Whether you’re challenging for titles, scraping a Champions League place or staving off relegation, having 22 players in your squad that are all of the standard required for your particular club is essential. And United’s lack of strength in depth has been exposed to a magnitude never before seen at the club.
The very fact that Jesse Lingard – a forward – and Ashley Young – a winger – started at right and left wing-back respectively yesterdays clearly demonstrates the failings of the United heir achy over the course of the summer. The simple fact of the matter is that Luke Shaw – who ironically enough is now injured – and Ander Herrera are David Moyes signings. The deals were more or less in place long before the arrival of Louis Van Gaal. All he had to do was approve of the acquisitions and get them to sign on the dotted line.
So who’s to blame and what can be done? Ed Woodward, executive vice chairman at United, has taken a lot of flak since he joined United, mainly for the way he appears to endorse sponsorships and kit deals but ignore player signings. And so far this summer, it’s been (no) business as usual – as important as the £750m kit deal with Adidas signed recently is, without the players on the pitch to get United back into the Champions League, the kit deal won’t materialise.
The criticism of Woodward in particular is bringing about the question of whether or not it really was David Moyes to blame for United’s disastrous season last term. Of course, the manager takes his fair share of the blame but on this occasion he, and Van Gaal after him, have seemingly received nothing like the kind of support Sir Alex Ferguson received from David Gill.
It may only be a matter of time before Woodward and Van Gaal form a formidable partnership, but right now there’s just as much chance of both walking if new signings do not come walking through the door, and fast.
If they don’t it could be another season of misery for United, and Woodward, for one, may be the one to pay the price.