By: _THE BobbyJay
Fourteen years since Edwin Van Der Sar’s brilliant save won the UCL, nine years since United’s last English league triumph, and as of the time of writing, four years, 350 days, 22 hours, 4 minutes, and 37 seconds since the red devils last won a silverware.
The 21/22 PL season beyond every shadow of a doubt sums up the fortunes of the red half of Manchester in the post-Ferguson era. Moments of rapid and endearing brilliance like the opening day 6-1 victory over Leeds united to the total shameful, disastrous, and ridiculous outings befitting small teams like the 4 nil loss to Graham Potter’s Brighton and Hove Albion, the 9-0 aggregate loss to Liverpool FC across both legs of the North-West derby.
Fans have begun to chant “you’re not worthy to wear the shirt” the below-par lukewarm appearances week in, just begs the question of the century; exactly how far from grace has arguably the greatest team in English football history fallen?
Highlighting this season’s troubles, all the Red Devils fan base can pride on are the cheers from David De Gea’s 3-4 magnificent saves per game and the assuredly re-echoing SIIIUUUUU when the Madeira great puts the ball at the back of the net.
The side requires years of rebuild and important fixes under the tutelage of Dutch tactician Erik Ten Hag, of which the utmost priority should be securing a powerhouse at the base of their midfield.
United boast a lot of quality midfielders at their disposal (well, quality before they joined), the then world-record signing Paul Pogba, playmaker Bruno Miguel Fernandes, Fred the red of the Samba boys, Scotsman Mctominay and a host of others, aged and young but yet, they all seem to be relatively non-existent when United seek to build out from the back, transition from defence to attack or even breakdown opposition play (not forgetting the finances squandered on Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini, Andreas Perreira, etc).
They find it difficult to come to receive the ball to build play, get out of the line of sight of opposition players, effectively press, make interceptions, timely recoveries, lunge into tackles, and every basic duty of a midfielder.
The defence is overly left exposed and unprotected, you could pick out acres of space between the backline and final third in almost every game. You can’t but wonder why a side that has been blessed with the disciplined Roy Keane, brilliant Paul Scholes, poster-boy, and the creative David Beckham has a current crop that does not embody the iconic Manchester United mentality, spirit, and will.
[image showing the midfielders unconscious of the opposition’s attack]
Each of the top 6 PL sides boasts a competent defensive midfielder which contributes to their more structured and organized play style. Rodrigo Cascande with City, Fabinho with the Kops, the tireless Kante with Chelsea, Gunners powerhouse Thomas Teye Partey (who by the way sent his nation to the world cup at the expense of supposed “Giants of Africa” the super eagles of Nigeria) and Pierre-Emile Hojberg with the LilyWhites of NorthLondon.
In common, they are all no-nonsense, tough-tackling, and decent passing players unlike the most played United double pivot “McFred”.
Standing at 6ft1, Declan Rice has been one of the most outstanding and rapidly improving players of the young English contingent. With a season-high of 264 recoveries, the 23-year-old has made the most by any outfield player in the league (75 more than the highest United player, Fred with 189), 55 interceptions compared to the 32 and 31 from Fred and Mctominay respectively, the highest pass accuracy amongst midfielders with 91.5% (ahead of Rodri with 91.4%) as well as 70 tackles.
Having also made the most progressive ball carries this season from his deep-lying role, the West Ham United co-captain (alongside Mark Noble) who steered them to the Europa League semi-finals boasts every trait that United desperately need to infuse into their midfield.
Offensively, he has registered a goal, created 2 big chances, and registered 4 assists. The Hammers are poised to do everything they can to keep the 3rd placed player in the 2022 Football Writers Association player of the season rankings on their books or make as much as they possibly can from his sale. Hence, the hefty 120 million pounds tag they’ve slapped on their prized asset.
For a team that has forked out 80 million for Harry Maguire, about 75 million for Jadon Sancho and Romelu Lukaku apiece, and a further 50 million for Aaron Wan Bissaka, it defies logic that they wouldn’t break the bank for the next big midfielder in English football who has proven himself in the PL, the international scene with the English NT and seems to be worth just every penny. With “Oil money” Manchester city and Declan’s boyhood club Chelsea under new owners lurking, the prospective UEFA conference league side in 22/23 needs to play their cards right and fast.
Rice or not, the Red Devils need to get a top-class DMF or the “GGMU” motto might just become obsolete at this rate from the constant blue-black battering in defeat and that glory constantly sung about at the Stretford End might just never return.
Over to you, master tactician ERIK TEN HAG of The Netherlands, break a leg.