Manchester United’s Desperation Descends Into a Farce

Manchester United’s Desperation Descends Into a Farce

Published August 18, 2022
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With a simple unserious statement, threaded into his own unrelated tweet about political parties, the Tesla CEO and billionaire lent a booming voice to the cacophony that is enveloping Old Trafford more and more by the day. “Also, I’m buying Manchester United ur welcome,” he wrote, before replying to another user later on, ”No, this is a long-running joke on Twitter. I’m not buying any sports teams.”

Yet for a club sitting at the bottom of the Premier League table at 0-2-0 with a league-worst -5 goal differential and a date with Liverpool on the docket next Monday, the only long-running joke is the club’s last three months and its precipitous drop in status.

The lack of planning and strategy employed by the club is playing out in real time. Erik ten Hag was announced as manager in late April. It was clear at that point that Paul Pogba was leaving, and it was clear at that point the kind of football that ten Hag would try to play. Even something as simple as zeroing in on the right fit at goalkeeper was fumbled. The club let Dean Henderson, better with the ball at his feet, go on loan to Nottingham Forest, while David de Gea, undoubtedly a loyal steward of the club but one who is not as steady with his feet, remained, despite a system that prefers the goalkeeper be adept with the ball at his feet. A decade on, there’s still no proper midfield engine to provide the coverage and safety net that is so sorely needed. (Musk does know a thing or two about operating without an engine, but the same principles unfortunately don’t apply for Man United’s midfield.)

There is officially a more structured sporting hierarchy in place now, whereas there had not previously been, which makes it all the more inexplicable, then, that the club has been reduced to a late transfer scramble, its pressing issues not dealt with in the months before the start of the season. And that’s to say nothing of the Cristiano Ronaldo distraction. It should have come as no surprise that the player casually referred to as “Mr. Champions League” would want no part of Thursday nights in the Europa League, his affinity for the club notwithstanding. He also doesn’t profile as a forward who fits ten Hag’s preferred way of playing, one who is required to press to fulfill his role in the purported well-oiled machine. He piled on to the social media parade Tuesday before Musk, commenting on Instagram that “the media is telling lies,” that he’s been keeping count of which reports are true and false and, cryptically, that he’ll tell all in an interview in a couple of weeks.