Hubris: A United Malady
There are certain things never to be taken for granted, but pride blinds a lot of us to the most important of pitfalls. In victory, channelling all senses to the sensation of feeling the present adoration, sense of worth, accomplishment and smugness, that feeling of e Pluribus Unum.
Yet, the truth of it all is, that nothing ever lasts & nothing ever will. One might desire to prolong their stay at the top, solidify foundations and build lasting institutions to preserve and persevere, but that can only last for so long. The values of what built something great can only become diminished and exhausted because that is the way it always will be. Everything is cyclical.
It is though unfortunate that man refuses to learn this lesson, or at least be aware that it is a certainty. Throughout history, we have seen the fall of empires, kingdoms, countries, city-states, conglomerates, companies, and football teams.
Manchester United suffered 2 humbling defeats over a week and has endured a horrid season despite the promises the beginnings held. This current season crystallizes what has been going on since the departure of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson. To say this decline wasn’t expected is the very hubris a lot of United fans have held onto in the ensuing years since the departure. The belief that structures and processes existed within the club to ensure the continued excellence the club had enjoyed for the better part of two and a half decades.
Nothing like a season to forget brings it home. A season that has seen us conceding a combined 10 goals against arch-rivals Liverpool, exiting the League Cup and FA cup to lesser sides, and rife speculations of infighting in the dressing room. The club SAF and David Gill left behind looking like a mediocre frat house was never on the bingo card of any United fan who experienced the highs of the treble-winning season, the dual triumvirate of Cole, York & Sheringham/Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Ronaldo, Rooney & Tevez and the sheer brilliance of Robin Van Persie in Sir Alex’s final season.
Still, a keen observer would know that the cracks were beginning to be exposed on the house that SAF built. Losing 2 UCL finals in 4, the refusal to acquire several world-class midfielders, the retention of the old structure SAF left behind, and the lack of transition between SAF & his chosen successor. There were so many indicators that the club hierarchy had not planned properly for the exit of such a dominating figure in the club’s history.
Even when it became clear that this was not merely a Managerial problem, the club still took the better part of half a decade before beginning to show signs of implementing any modern structure regarding adequate football administration. By then, significant damage had been done and resources were allocated unevenly and haphazardly. 2022 is the year it all comes home to roost.
As a United fan, my real hubris has been the belief that no matter what is going on behind the scenes, the right managerial appointment will take us back to the summit of English and European football, that all we needed was someone who truly understood what United is about. All this could not have been much further from the truth. United requires a surgical rearrangement, one which is precise and intentional. Player acquisition truly has to be more prudent than extravagant.
Not all player purchases have to be about glamour, just functional and effective players are a key aspect of any winning team, and United seem to have forgotten that. Fergie prided himself in elevating the importance of players like Ronny Jonson, Wes Brown, Phil Neville, John O'Shea, Darren Fletcher & the legendary Ji Sung Park. Yet, United teams since 2013 have tried to lean more towards littering the squad with overpaid has been or over-priced non-starters.
The appointment of Ten Hag and the departure of Marcel Bout & Jim Lawlor point to some interesting dynamics in the football administration aspect of Manchester United, while the academy seems to have returned to the process of churning out highly talented youngsters with great potential. The likes of Shola Shoretire, Hannibal Mejbri, Alejandro Garnacho, Noam Emran, Joe Hugill, Alvaro Fernandez, Kobie Mainoo, just to name a handful says interesting things about the long term vision of this great club.
The current season is undoubtedly a write-off, a significant number of the senior squad will be departing, and the new manager will find his task quite daunting, but his CV indicates he can create a formidable team going forward. Hopefully, the term ‘squad rebuild’ won’t come up 18–24 months from now once again. By my count, since Sir Alex left, we’ve rebuilt this squad at least 3 times in 8 years. A fourth one will be needed, and maybe this time, we finally get it right.