Are we witnessing the death of the great Manchester United?
Tuesday night pretty much summed up United's season so far. An away loss together with a below par performance, bewildered players and added pressure on manager David Moyes. It's been a stark contrast to the years of success seen under the previous regime.
When Wayne Rooney signed his new lucrative contract last week it seemed like it would be the catalyst to turning their season around, and a win over Crystal Palace only increased those hopes.
But the loss to Olympiakos in the Champions League brought the Red Devils back down the earth with a bang. It wasn't just the result but the way they lost that got under everyone's skin. The home side were considerably weakened having lost their leading goal scorer in Konstantinos Mitroglou to Fulham in the recent transfer window, but this hardly seemed to matter as goals from Dominguez and on-loan Arsenal youngster Joel Campbell put the Greek champions one step into the next round.
Even more worrying for United is that they hardly put up a fight. There was no cohesion within the team, Olympiakos only had to step into the opposition half and the away side seemed scared and frightened. Recent record singing Juan Mata looked the only likely spark in a dull attack but even he did not possess the killer instinct to get Moyes's men going.
Robin Van Persie is a shadow of his former self with this game highlighting that statement majorly. Having controlled the ball well from cross he then rolled it past his marker setting himself up in front of goal. Now, an inform Van Persie would have blasted the chance into the back of the net and into next week, even an average one would have made the keeper work, but this under firing version blazed his shot over the bar to both his despair and everyone on the away side. It wasn't just his shooting that was off key, however. United fans mouths were watering when they signed the Dutchman last season with thought of partnering him with star forward Rooney, and it proved a success with a debut title win for the international. But this year under the new management it has been a complete contrast. With the "Van Rooney" dream team almost non-existent, the pair only notched up a staggering three passes together all night.
The former Arsenal striker almost seems confused with life at Old Trafford these days, as do many of his team mates. The Dutch International had the audacity to not only joke about his side's current predicament but then also to criticize his fellow players, siting "they make it hard for me to play my game" (or words to that effect).
In the past, no matter how annoying it was for a rival supporter to admit, Manchester United were a very professionally run club, from the core not just the players. They had a strict Manager of whom they must agree with at all times (I think we all know what would happen if they didn't!), players gave very limited and straight interviews and generally they took a loss on the chin with blame very rarely being pointed at the man in charge. This season has all but completely altered the way the club is run. There is little or no backing from the board for the new boss apart from the odd "we will give him money to spend on new players" (which he probably will not be able to attract due to his relatively unknown status to the world's top players together with the clubs current form). The operatives in charge of the ticket sales have now even had the cheek to demand supporters attend the second-leg of their Champions League tie with Olympiakos other wise they will banned from attending the Manchester derby (which probably doesn't sound like a bad thing to many United fans at this particular moment in time!).
This move stinks of both desperation from the board and revolt from loyal fans who have just about seen enough. They see players who aren't working for the shirt or playing for the badge with pride, a new manager is in charge who seems to take one step forward and two steps back with the situation becoming increasingly clear that he is out of his depth, and very little chance of silverware come the climax of the season.
For 25 years Sir Alex Ferguson provided the red half of Manchester with charges towards success that went practically unrivaled, especially in England. Now some nine moths on that legacy and dynasty looks like it could be coming to an abrupt end. Whatever events unravel within the next few months it is sure to be the likes of which United have never seen before, and most probably will never forget.
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