Club Focus – Manchester United – A bad turn of the year

Since the turn of the year the fortunes of Manchester United seem to have taken a drastic turn for the worse. Following the matches over Christmas it is usual for United to hit a good run of form which has always been the trademark of Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure in charge, often being the catalyst for them finishing the season as Premier League champions. It is something that has been expected this season and something which has been often been discussed in this very club focus.

2010 may only be four games old for United but already the side has lost twice and only managed one win, against a side with one of the most dismal away records in the Premier League and even that was unconvincing. It may be that the two losses were in the various Cup competitions but if United are to achieve any form of success they must strive to achieve some form of consistency. If we examine the teams played in these four matches we can see the real nature of the problem, none of these sides were a top four Premier League side or a side expectant of achieving against Manchester United.

Not only does the team on the pitch look bereft of ideas, the fortunes of the club off the pitch have been fully explained this week. Following last week’s revelations of bonds and profits this week football fans have been provided with information fully noting the extent of the clubs debts. According to reports the club debt is in excess of £700m. This has been further compounded with the news that each of the sons of Malcolm Glazer, all being members of the board have been able to secure personal loans of £1.67m each from United’s parent company. This level of debt is simply unsustainable. The club is looking to recoup some of the debt with various sponsorship deals, having just announced a sponsorship deal with Turkish Airlines to replace the existing one with Air Asia. Whether the club can achieve this without further exploitation of the fans seems to be unlikely as it currently stands.

Many believe that the loss to City in the League Cup this week shows a shift of power in Manchester which remains an over exaggerated claim but what it does show is that they simply cannot be dismissed as in the days of old. The fact that Ferguson selected his strongest team in order to avoid embarrassment, but his side were still beaten speaks volumes. In truth United were unfortunate with the refereeing decision for City’s equaliser and are still clearly in the tie thanks to Ryan Giggs’s away goal.

What is most disappointing is the manner of defeat in surrendering an early lead. Traditionally United do not lose matches having taken the lead but it is certainly something that is creeping into the current crop. What was also clearly evident at Eastlands was the lack of cutting edge. United are all too reliant on Wayne Rooney and need to provide the England man with more support. Carlos Tevez was full of creativity and spark – his recent run of form under new boss Roberto Mancini must have many Devils wishing he was still in a red shirt. Early indications of the fortunes of Michael Owen may have suggested that his signing was enough to replace the Argentine but comparing the recent fortunes of the two players it is all too evident that United have not adequately replaced Tevez.

The older statesmen of this current side – Ryan Giggs – believes that United are still well in the tie and that the closing stages of the first encounter showed that United do have enough to overturn the deficit. The fact that United players need to examine whether this side does in fact have enough to beat their local rivals is certainly worrying and shows that the so called noisy neighbours can be ignored no longer.

Prior to the second leg of the League Cup United host Hull City at Old Trafford this Saturday. Hull caused United various problems defensively in the recent match at the KC Stadium and also in the corresponding Old Trafford fixture last season. They will look at the way Burnley created chances last weekend and will surely take great heart from this. United need a performance considering Chelsea’s thumping win last weekend and the way Arsenal came back against Bolton in midweek. Whether United will in fact deliver is certainly up for debate with a lack of consistent performances lingering while their nearest challengers seemingly moving from strength to strength and look to be hitting a United esque second half of the season run of form.

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