Deluded Optimism (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Transition)
Football. Wonderful, addictive, nauseating, exhilarating, infuriating, glorious football. It’s been good to us these past twenty years or so. Not so much these past twelve months. A season is not defined by one game, and Manchester United’s defeat (read: humiliation) at the hands of faux-club MK Dons will not define theirs, however even the staunchest of optimists are found biting their fingernails at this latest result. It is three games into the new season, just over a year since we embarked upon life without Fergie and we Reds find ourselves in the midst of something large amount of us have never seen before. Whisper it quietly now; mediocrity.
Let us get the irrefutable truths out of the way first. 1. This was a shambolic performance. 2. This shambles was worryingly not out of character for our current squad. 3. We have more players in our squad that are not good enough for the team than those that are. 4. Those that are actually good enough are completely bereft of confidence and form. 5. The malaise runs much deeper than we ever could have imagined; the result of poor investment for the best part of five seasons and the clustermuck that was replacing our greatest ever manager with a pretender who was never up to the job.
Yes, it’s time to grab a beer (or five) my friends, as it appears that we are in this one for the long hall. Heaven may indeed have sent us Mr. Van Gaal, but he is mortal like the rest of us. There is no quick fix here, however even on nights like tonight there are still many reasons for optimism.
No More Hiding Places for Our Flops
If one thing can be gleaned from tonight’s performance above all others it’s the reality that our beloved club is carrying far too many passengers that will soon depart. What seems obvious now has often been put down to a fault of circumstance or absence of luck. In some cases it has been acknowledging infrequent positives and dismissing the obvious and recurrent negatives. Hernandez is amazing in the box. If only Anderson could stay fit. Free Shinji! In truth our inherently likeable Japanese schemer has never looked like approaching his best form, Hernandez has lost the one part of his game that justified his inclusion and Anderson has been stealing a living for six seasons. They have reportedly been told they are free to go, and the performances reflected it. Their time has come and gone and this club will move along without them. Goodnight, good luck, thanks for stopping by.
Investment in the Team
It’s long overdue but the almost £200million that’s been spent in the year since Sir Alex’s departure show that the Glazers are indeed willing to invest in the team. Whether realization that their beloved cash cow is not quite so appealing to potential official jam doughnut partners when languishing in mid table obscurity or it’s a genuine aspiration towards success is a conversation for another day. What matters is the tight-fisted gits have finally stopped penny pinching and decided to get a bloody round in. Along with copious departures, there have been four additions intended to go directly into the first team. It is expected two more will follow in the next few days. The club is in complete upheaval, but we are (finally) getting the players we need. It may take another window before all is resolved but rest assured, they are coming.
Familiarity is Growing
A lot has been spoken about the players growing accustomed to Van Gaal and his vaunted “philosophy”, which is a valid point. Equally important is that with each passing game our new boss gets more accustomed to the players at his disposal. He is determined to give each player a chance and is not afraid to experiment with players and place them outside of their comfort zone. See Ashley Young, or Adnan Januzaj, who has had as many different positions as games this season. Those he feels are up to it will be given time to benefit from his coaching. Unlike with David Moyes, you feel that with each passing game the boss is working through the group and getting closer to his idea of his best team and knowing exactly what they can and can’t do. It takes time.
So obvious a point that it may seem pointless to mention but; our new manager is Louis Van Gaal. A winner with experience and trophies with the biggest clubs in Holland, Germany and Spain. His pedigree can stand alongside any manager in world football. You would struggle to name more than an elite few managers that are more qualified for the task of restoring our sleeping giant to its former glory.
So there we have it. Four reasons to be optimistic going into this new season. It won’t happen overnight (It may not happen by Christmas) but things will eventually come together and Manchester United will rise again. Our duds are on the way out, quality replacements are coming in, the squad is slowly acclimatizing to their new roles and we have the right man steering the ship. I trust there won’t be many results more shambolic than getting smashed 4-0 by a club whose fans seem baffled by the absence of trys and conversions but the path to success is sure to be perforated by the occasional pothole. It may get worse (somehow) before it gets better. As a certain twitter legend @BusbyMUFC stated in a statement so beautifully accurate I nearly deleted this entire piece out of sheer envy; “Sometimes you gotta tear it all down to make it beautiful..”
Tear it down Louis. It’ll be a masterpiece when it’s finished.
Kevin Levingston is a freelance blogger who occasionally disappears. When he’s around you can find him on twitter @KevinLevingston