Are manchester united really in decline?

Liverpool Football Club - General Discussion

Postby JBG » Sat Jun 25, 2005 1:30 pm

Most, if not all, of us here have taken some degree of satisfaction at watching what is going on over at Manchester this summer, with Malcom Glazer threatening to turn the Old Trafford frnachise into some sort of football Burger King (many of us would argue that Martin Edwards already achieved this in the mid 1990s).

Man UTD dominated the 1990s - we cannot deny that - and they got off to a fairly good start in the noughties as well, winning the league in 2000, 2001 and 2003 and winning the FA Cup in 2004.

However, in the past two seasons they have finished third in the league and since winning the big one in 1999, they haven't exactly set Europe alight either.

Arsenal have definitely passed them out in football terms - despite Man UTD beating them handsomely home and away in the league last year - and with the dawn of the new Abramovich/Kenyon/Mourinho Chelski era, not only are Chelsea now a far better football team than Man UTD, with a bigger squad and simply better players, Chelski can also dominate Man UTD (and the rest of us) in the money stakes.

Man UTD had the comfort of knowing in the 1990s that if they slipped, even slightly, they could go out and spend lavishly to restore them to top spot. In 1998 Arsenal won the league and cup double, so Man UTD went out and spent £25million on Yorke, Stam and Blomquist.

This season they have gone out and bought Van Der Saar and Park Juing. Park is not a bad player, but he's not exactly the kind of signing where people sit back and take notice. Had Birmingham signed him you might have thought "not a bad buy there" but really, not exactly a huge arrival that will signal a statement of intent for next season.

On top of that, Ferguson goes out and buys Edwin Van Der Saar. A decent goalkeeper, but at 34, he is nothing more than a sticky plaster over a wound festering ever since Peter Schmeichel retired.

Man UTD will probably buy one or two more Parks and Van der Saars this summer, but talk of Michael Owens, Robinhos and Gattusos are wide of the mark.

Man UTD are no longer the dominant, all powerful Goliath they were 5 or 6 years ago. We can all see that. But is the problem at that club more severe and advanced than that?

The way I see it, the club are flogging the dead horse of Keane, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes season after season after season. Forget Ronaldo, RVN and Rooney: those guys are the spine of the team, its character and personality. They were all great players, and are still capable of going on a 15 game sequence of splendid form that will make all of England sit up and take notice. But they cannot keep going forever. Roy Keane had a good season last year, but he's going into his mid 30s now and I have a feeling that next summer he will surprise everybody by retiring. Paul Scholes is a marvelous player - such skill and vision - but I detect that his motor is beginning to wane and I'm beginning to question whether his hunger is still there. He is entering his 30s and probably has a few seasons left yet, but not as the Championship winning midfielder we all feared a few years ago.

And what about Giggs? Tremendous player on his day, with immaculate dribbling skills and a dangerous intellugence in and about the box, but Giggs only seems to have 10 good days a season now, before injury and mixed form kicks in. Again, like Scholes, he strikes me as a fella who should probably be in the colours of a Deportivo la Coruna or Valencia now, playing skillful but relaxed football in a sunny clime rather than have Ben Thatcher and Robbie Savage kick lumps out of him on a November Saturday afternoon.

Where are the new players to replace these Man UTD greats? Park looks a handy winger, but to me he's a poor man's Marc Overmars than a 25 year old Ryan Giggs. What about Scholes? UTD have Darren Fletcher in their ranks but nobody else. Fletcher is a useful player but Scholes' replacement? Not a chance.

UTD have struggled a lot since Schmeichel went, but what happens when the real power behind UTD's success in the 1990s - Roy Keane - goes? Ferguson is looking at Guttoso who has some of Keane's lung busting ability to cover the ground and tackle everything that moves, but has none of Keane's ability to retain possession and the old Keane's capability of powering into the opposition box. In any event, I think Gattuso is out of UTD's range. So is Essien, a very good player, but again, no Keane. Ferguson is talking about converting Alan Smith into a defensive midfielder.....Fergie, don't make me laugh.

That brings me nicely on to the big man himself, Sir Alex. The guy is a legend, no doubt about that, but he is no Shanks, Paisley or Clough. With all of the riches of the world at his disposal and a golden team of Beckham, Scholes, Giggs and Keane, he could only win one European trophy. Cloughie, with a regional team and small budget, won two, two at a time when Liverpool were dominating. Paisley would have shown Ferguson a thing or two of how to make hay when the sun shone.

But enough of that, we cannot deny that Ferguson was a great domestic manager. However, I feel he is beginning to lose the Midas touch........I'm a bit reluctant to say he has lost it already. UTD players look disinterested in the early stages of each season, often culminating in an embarassing away defeat to lowly side in October, before Ferguson getting the hair drier out and they go off on a great three month run. The thing is, its happening every season now, and I'm beginning to wonder that they are allowed to go soft over the summer.

What is more, Ferguson is beginning to change his methods, not a good thing to be doing at this late stage in your career. He built his great sides on a mixture of modest players (Butt, Neville, Bruce and Irwin) with great attitude and commitment with more skillful players (Giggs and Scholes) that knew no other way to play football but to give it everything and attack, attack, attack. Fergie would pick a 4-4-2 side with wingers and try and blast the oppositon.....a tactic that often worked.

Since 2001, however, the guy has decided to change things. He no longer has complete faith in 4-4-2, and tried to use Veron in a strange Christmas three formation. Last season he mucked about with a defensive 4-4-1-1 formation against AC Milan: and got roundly beaten.

He has also lost his knack in the transfer market......if he ever had a knack in the first place. People that were around in the 1980s will remember the amount of rubbish Ferguson bought when he first took charge. He got it mostly right in the 1990s, but now he is reverting to type.

Eric Djemba Djemba, Kleberson, Diego Forlan, Luis Saha, Liam Miller, David Bellion and Ricardo have all been relatively recent signings, and all have failed miserably. Its true that a few have worked out like Ronaldo and Heinze, but in the Glazer era, with Chelski ruling the money roost, Ferguson can no longer afford to blow his wad on rubbish, no more than the rest of us can.

But the thing is, if Man UTD want to get back to the top of the Premiership and make a real go of it in Europe, they need to spend money. Van der Saar is not the long term answer in goal. He will do a job next season, but really, by signing him, Ferguson is passing the problem on to his successor. Gary Neville has a few years ahead of him yet, but will need replacing eventually. Their defense is in reasonable shape, despite the over rated Ferdinand, but therein lies another potential problem. In Rio, they have a Big Time Charlie who will put Beckham in the shade, and he's fussing over a new contract, looking for more than £120,000 a week! They have two choices: sell him, but only get around £20million of their £33million expenditure on him, or pay him what he wants: and risk the other players wanting the same.

Its in midfield where UTD have their real problems. To get in three players to adequately replace Keane, Giggs and Scholes would probably cost between £75-£100million in the transfer market, together with some luck that those three new signings settled in. There is no way that those kind of funds will be available under Glazer, and save Ferguson pulling off 3 £8 million signings of the highest genius, I don't see a solution. He might get one gem on the cheap, but not three. To top that off, there are no new kids coming through the ranks, so Ferguson has to go to the market.

Up front it appears that they are ok.......or are they? Rooney is an incredible talent and if he keeps his nose clean, he could be one of the greatest ever. However, there is always the chance of a Paul Gascoigne, rather than a Pele, emerging from that player. RVN was fantastic for a few years, but he's approaching 30, had a bad year last year, and is getting more and more injury prone. Luis Saha simply and plainly hasn't worked out. Ole Gunnar Solskjaere is not going to come back and carry on where he left off: he is another guy in his early 30s.

Man UTD are at a crossroads. Their golden era is over, and Arsenal and Chelsea have passed them out. They face an uncertain future ahead of them, with a few serious and potentially crippling problems - replacing Keane and Scholes - ahead of them in the next two or three years. They clearly need to rebuild, but so did we, and I suspect that we have stolen a march on them. They are the team of the 1990s, but I think at times they are a club stuck in the 1990s. Chelsea, Liverpool and probably Arsenal are the future. Chelsea and Liverpool are employing new methods and new ideas which is threatening to make the old ways redundant.

Man UTD and Ferguson might have one last glory afternoon left in them yet. I wouldn't rule them out. They could, thereotically, win the Premiership one last time. However, thats getting increasingly unlikely.

Next year is crucial for them. We will be revamped and full of optimism, and we are ready to make a charge to over take them. It could well happen. If UTD were to slip to fourth and finish trophyless again, there will be a clamour for Ferguson to go. If Ferguson goes, Keane will follow. Giggs and Scholes might give the successor a year, before heading for Spain or Italy for one last big pay day.

When Ferguson goes, who will replace him? What players will the new man have at his disposal? What money will be available to buy replacements?

Maybe the tide has already turned on MAn UTD and they are already in decline, but like Friday the 13th, we are too afraid to say the bad guy is dead incase he comes back one last time?
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Postby 84-1106852058 » Sat Jun 25, 2005 2:15 pm

Straight to the point with this one JBG,I think United are on the slide.As you said Giggs Scholes,Keane,Van de sar are all in the twilight of their careers,and United dont seem to have the srength in depth that they used to have.Each time Fergie tried to rest players last season he had to bring them off the bench to rescue games.When he did throw somebody in out of the reserves there was nobody that stood out.
  United were very fortunate to have the likes of Giggs,Scholes Beckham and even the Nevilles all playing together in a successful youth team.Young talent emerging at the same time was a major factor in Fergies success, lets not forget he was one game from the sack.Now he is one season from it.
The new owner of the club expects results,to achieve this he has to invest in the team,something we are led to believe he is reluctant to do.If he doesnt the glory days at Old Trafford are well and truely over.
  If United dont have a successful season this time ,I can see Fergie being replaced and United appointing a new manager every couple of seasons as this Yank will expect to win things cream off the money without having to spend any.
Fergie should have retired at the end of last season.He has had his day,and his judgement is clearly clouded with his obsession for European glory a task which Ibelieve is way beyond them.
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Postby LFC #1 » Sat Jun 25, 2005 2:18 pm

Wow, very well thought out and well written JBG. Bit worried that you took that much time of your life to worry about manure though. :D

I think we should finish above Man Utd this season.

On Managers, although Cloughie was a great manager (before my time obviously, but it doesn't take a genius to relaise he did great things with Nottingham Forest, not really one of the traditionally big clubs), I lost a lot of respect for him when I read that he said about Hillsborough and Liverpool fans in his autobiography:

"I will always remain convinced that those Liverpool fans who died were killed by Liverpool people."

These comments re-ignited the ridiculous allegations and blame put on Liverpool fans by the media. He never regretted the comments either and said that he didn't care if Liverpool fans didn't buy his book cos "Half of them can't read and the other half are pinching hub caps". He then went on to say that he would have got in more trouble if he said what he really felt about the situation.

Cloughie was bang out of order saying this, as he knew very little about what he was talking about it, and tbh I was disgusted when I read it and lost a hell of a lot of respect for him. Even Fergie is more dignified that that ffs!

Sorry to go off topic a bit JBG, but just think that Cloughie may be a legend in footballing terms but not as a person, he is definitely no Shanks or Paisley
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Postby Fowler_E7 » Tue Jun 28, 2005 12:10 pm

Man U will always be a top 4 side i would think, but their period of dominance is almost certainly over. The days of Man Utd winning the league every year a well and truly gone. Chelsea have taken there position as the big spenders so they will have to join the normal transfer market with the rest of us, something Ferguson does not have the nouse to do in my opinion. They still have some great players though i still think they will be in the title race for a considerable amount of time next year, but after that i see them falling to a level of ourselves in the past ten years, finishing 3rd and 4th most years, but only time will tell.
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Postby DrLiverpool » Tue Jul 05, 2005 3:17 pm

this is my first post in over a year and its about man u ???

anyway as much as i would like for it to happen man u are not going anywhere they will still be in the top 4 for the next 5 years...

why? well they wont be champions unless glazers become abramovich and spend,spend,spend which they will do but not enough to win the league i'm afraid its going to be chelsea this and probably next year that do that...

they are in decline but not a serious decline they'll be doing good enough to play CL football...
but they wont win the league unless the glazers surprise us and spend their benjamins...
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Postby jonnymac1979 » Tue Jul 05, 2005 3:49 pm

They'll be like Roy Evans' Liverpool side.  Challengers, but it will be a limited challenge, they will flatter to deceive but might win the odd cup.  No more than that.

What JBG said about Mourinho and Benitez bringing new methods into this country was right.  Wenger did it eight years ago, but I don't think even he has what it takes to step up to the level Mourinho and Benitez are at already.

In the last two years alone, they have raised the bar in European football, never mind our Premier League.  And they are relatively new to the job, but have meticulously studied the game for years. 

It sounds a cliche but football has become a whole new ball game and these two men have grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and changed the way you have to plan for games, the tactics to use, the way to train and the way to play.  You must have seen the clip floating around the internet from Spanish television where Benitez invites the cameras into his office and he shows them how he analyses the games.  He has sensors in eight different areas around Anfield so he knows at any given time, where the players are in relation to the other players on the pitch, what speed they are running at, what their heart rate is, where their marker is, you name it, he knows it.  Benitez has described himself in the past as "..a loner with a laptop."  This clip is the proof of this.

I would imagine Mourinho is just as detailed.  Wenger is known for having a 'Mr. Burns from the Simpsons' style wall of televisions in his home which plays football from around the world 24 hours a day.  He's an obsessive as well, but his methods are probably not as sophisticated as the new boys in Town.  He and Ferguson are too busy trying to beat each other, rather than concentrate on the fact that there are two new managers on the scene both domestically and in Europe.  Two new managers who have shown much more talent and a will to win in a much shorter space of time, before Wenger and Ferguson even knew what had hit them.  Two new managers whose teams will leapfrog Arsenal and Manchester United to become the new standard bearers for English football.

I'm not even taking Everton into account here.  Never mind Everton.  They showed a lot of heart last season but still have a very long way to go before they can be mentioned in the same breath as the clubs I have mentioned. 

But back to the topic, I will predict that Manchester United will at best, finish fourth in any future four horse races that the Premier League has now become.  They might have one last good season in them but from then on in, they are in trouble.
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Postby DrLiverpool » Tue Jul 05, 2005 3:52 pm

jonnymac1979 wrote:They'll be like Roy Evans' Liverpool side.  Challengers, but it will be a limited challenge, they will flatter to deceive but might win the odd cup.  No more than that.

exactly  :nod
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Postby Owzat » Wed Jul 06, 2005 1:04 pm

Big thanks to Arsenal for toppling the mancs and with help from Abrahamovic consigning the mancs to an embarrassing 3rd spot every season
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Postby Fernando Morientes > 19 < » Wed Jul 06, 2005 1:50 pm

i hope they do... :D
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Postby ckay » Wed Jul 06, 2005 1:56 pm

Great post JBG, I have nothing to add! You sumed it up yourself! :buttrock
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Postby LFC #1 » Wed Jul 06, 2005 2:30 pm

jonnymac1979 wrote:They'll be like Roy Evans' Liverpool side.  Challengers, but it will be a limited challenge, they will flatter to deceive but might win the odd cup.  No more than that.

What JBG said about Mourinho and Benitez bringing new methods into this country was right.  Wenger did it eight years ago, but I don't think even he has what it takes to step up to the level Mourinho and Benitez are at already.

In the last two years alone, they have raised the bar in European football, never mind our Premier League.  And they are relatively new to the job, but have meticulously studied the game for years. 

It sounds a cliche but football has become a whole new ball game and these two men have grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and changed the way you have to plan for games, the tactics to use, the way to train and the way to play.  You must have seen the clip floating around the internet from Spanish television where Benitez invites the cameras into his office and he shows them how he analyses the games.  He has sensors in eight different areas around Anfield so he knows at any given time, where the players are in relation to the other players on the pitch, what speed they are running at, what their heart rate is, where their marker is, you name it, he knows it.  Benitez has described himself in the past as "..a loner with a laptop."  This clip is the proof of this.

I would imagine Mourinho is just as detailed.  Wenger is known for having a 'Mr. Burns from the Simpsons' style wall of televisions in his home which plays football from around the world 24 hours a day.  He's an obsessive as well, but his methods are probably not as sophisticated as the new boys in Town.  He and Ferguson are too busy trying to beat each other, rather than concentrate on the fact that there are two new managers on the scene both domestically and in Europe.  Two new managers who have shown much more talent and a will to win in a much shorter space of time, before Wenger and Ferguson even knew what had hit them.  Two new managers whose teams will leapfrog Arsenal and Manchester United to become the new standard bearers for English football.

I'm not even taking Everton into account here.  Never mind Everton.  They showed a lot of heart last season but still have a very long way to go before they can be mentioned in the same breath as the clubs I have mentioned. 

But back to the topic, I will predict that Manchester United will at best, finish fourth in any future four horse races that the Premier League has now become.  They might have one last good season in them but from then on in, they are in trouble.

Wow, excellent post jonny. Gotta say I agree and I can't think of two better than Rafa and Mourinho at the minute.

Peopel who say Morinho is noly doing well cos of money are talking bollox as far as I am concerned, he showed how good he was at Porto, and has managed to gel a team of superstars on high wages into a very good team, something Real Madrid have struggled to do, the man is a great man manager and is very charismatic.

What needs to be said about Rafa, they guy is just class. To come to Liverpool and win the CL in 10 months, with a team which is far from being complete is quite astonishing.
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Postby The Ace1983 » Fri Jul 15, 2005 1:02 pm

Can you ever right off Man Utd? I hate to say it, but I don't believe that the Glazer Troll's will distroy our enemies for us. The Glazer's like Money and to make it from a football club, that club has to win. They've told Fergiescum to spend and that's what he'll do. Ehat we've seen over the past few years is the disintergration of the team that proved Alan "Liverpool are rubbish because I don't play for them anymore" Hansen's comment "you don't win anything with kids" to be wrong. Beckham and Butt have both gone, Giggs and Keane are starting to show their age and the Neville Monsters have been getting even more ugly than ever. With Beckham's departure we saw the end of Horse van Nistelrooy's prolific goalscoring, and this will not be re-ignited by Park, a player who prefers to cut inside and shoot, rather than stay wide and cross. The impulse buys of Saha and Smith have started to look dubious and Smith was never an out-and-out striker anyway. The purchase of Tim Howard was just to sell shirts in the US, just like Bosnich-Oz and Park-Korea. Van Der Saar is a sensible buy, but only because he was cheap. As you said JBG, it's just a band-aid over the cancer. Rooney's signature was the most influential and he has provided goals (and scored them) and he sells shirts, the two most important criteria to the mancs.
Put this team together with the likes of Rio, Sylvestre, Ronaldo and who ever else, you still have a very good team and with a few sensible investments, our worst nightmare could be realised and they could return to top form. I won't say whos on my list, because I don't want to give them any help (   :D  ), but it might only take another two buys.
I'm far more concerned with our own worries to think too much about Man Ure and theirs, but at least we have Rafa and not Fergie.

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Postby JBG » Fri Jul 15, 2005 2:47 pm

Its like a Friday the 13th film with Man UTD: every time you think the villian has finally died, he comes back for more!

People wrote Man UTD off in 2002 yet they came back and won the league in 2003.

HOWEVER, I was browsing some Man UTD forums last night and its amazing the doom and gloom among Man UTD fans. There was the odd cocky comment about Chelsea and Arsenal being flash in the pans and UTD returning to dominance next year, but the majority of Man UTD fans are extremely pessimistic. They know that their midfield is dying and they are distraught that the money isn't there to fix it.

For example, there were two threads of interest. One was on Michael Essien, the other an older thread about Steven Gerrard. Almost all the posters said they'd love to sign either of the players but both were "out of our league", "we cannot afford them" or "they'd never come to us even if we could afford them".

There is also a small but growing section of Man UTD fans who want rid of Alex Ferguson.

Like Ace said, the Glaziers aren't stupid and want to make money, and the best way for them to do that is to return Man UTD to the level they were at in the late 1990s. They have promised the fans "another Rooney" but I think the biggest flaw of the Glaziers' takeover is that they don't understand football as a sport.

OK, I'm sure they know the rules and I'm sure they know the main players in the game and the biggest clubs, but probably have no more knowledge of the game than the average girlfriend who doesn't follow football (sorry girls, its only an example, plenty of girls know loads about football.....my own girlfriend knows most Premiership players and knows the ins and outs of Liverpool). I think the Glazers think that they can give Ferguson £25m to buy new players and then Man UTD will automatically be successful again.

However, as we all know, football in England and Europe has moved on dramatically since the late 1990s and Man UTD are in decline. Giggs, Scholes and Keane are fantasy players, and to get three of them together at one time is a once in a generation opportunity (for example, we never managed a decent central midfield in the 1990s yet now have an abundance of talent there). Giggs, Scholes and Keane have at best 1 or 2 seasons more left in them as a unit...in fact, I'll wager now that Roy Keane will retire next summer. I think Ferguson has made serious blunders in concentrating his transfer funds on Ronaldo and Rooney. I think his head is stuck in 2001 when he signed Veron and I think he doesn't fully appreciate that Scholes and Keane will soon run out of steam. In his head he's still looking for that magical "Veron" type player, a player that probably doesn't exist, whereas he should really be looking at buying two world class midfielders.

He said yesterday that Park is Ryan Giggs' successor, which is an indication of how things have changed. Park looks a handy chap, but I don't think he'll ever be a patch on Giggs. To properly replace Giggs you probably need to buy a Joaquin or Robben rather than a Park, yet there is no money there anymore.

Likewise, there is talk of buying Gattuso to replace Keane, probably for about £10million. Gattusso is a good player, but miles off Keane's standard. To replace Keane you probably need to buy Essien or Gerrard, both of whom are now light years away from Man UTD.

What chance of replacing Scholes then? To buy a guy as good as Scholes was in his peak would cost you £35million now.

I think that the major flaw in the Glaziers' plan is that they have underestimated the rebuiding required at Man UTD. I'm sure all of their balance sheets add up, but the flaw is that they have allocated around £20 to £25million a season to spend on players, at a time when Man UTD need to go on a £70m shopping spree now to fix the problems. Therein lies the flaw.

UTD will be strong again next year, and will challenge for the title, but they won't win it. The might be strong again the following year, but sometime over the next 2 or 3 years a major collapse, in the form of an abysmal October/November run that we used to get under Roy Evans or Gerrard Houllier, is on the cards.

Another reason to be a Mersey red than a Manc red.
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Postby 76-1115222408 » Fri Jul 15, 2005 4:07 pm

Excellent Thread!!!
dont think i really need to add anyhting as JBG and Johnny have covered all bases on this one. Good reading thanks (even though it was on Man United states of America)
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Postby JohnBull » Sat Jul 16, 2005 10:58 am

United have fallen into the same trap as we did in the late 80s/early 90s by worrying over replacing aging superstars and forgetting the grafters that make a successful team.
Fergie can buy all the Rooneys he wants but at the end of the day it is the likes of Keane, Scholes, the brothers Grimm and the other "heart" players who will be missed most.
Some of the signings that Kenny made at the end, and Evans made were bizarre to say the least and they were followed by a complete lack of managerial direction leaving us in the position that Raffa came into. He, in my opinion, is the first real manager we've had since Paisley but where Bob had a working model that he went on to improve, Raffa has had to start at the foundations and build a completely new machine.
Fergie has got to the stage where he has lost the plot and forgotten the reason that they became so successful, TEAMWORK ! Buying a succession of superstar coke-heads who run around kissing the badge but don't sacrifice themselves for the club will speed up the decline. In the meantime there will still be enough clubs who roll over and die at the mention of United to keep them in the race but the inevitable conclusion will be a collapse. It is one matter getting the ball rolling but the hard part is keeping it going in a straight line year after year.

By the way Cloughie said a lot of things in his book which were generated by the Bells distillery rather than his brain. He was a great manager and loved Shanks and Paisley, always showing respect.
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