Rebuilding Foundations

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 13.02.41After all those years of Arsenal and Manchester United competing for the highest honours it was interesting to see their differing fortunes in Europe this week as they prepare to face each other today.

A lot was made about Arsenal making all those changes against Hull in the Cup only to then get beat easily by Barcelona. Louis van Gaal didn’t have the same luxury with his injury hit squad for their Cup games.

Arsenal were light years behind Barcelona. And United’s problems are even greater. Watching them struggle as they have this season has been painful as a former player who did his best to play for that badge, the shirt. The best I did to entertain. It’s not only seeing the struggles in the results, but the way they are playing is alien to me.

As much as I agree that Louis van Gaal’s time is probably up – and has been for some months – I worry about those who think a change of manager is suddenly the fix to the many problems Manchester United have. And don’t even get me started on Jose Mourinho, who I am still not convinced is the right man. But I’ve made those comments on a regular basis and this is about the problems at United.

I see United play with no flair and more worryingly no heart and I think the main problem is due to a lack of home grown players who are good enough. It’s a problem through the English game, it isn’t restricted to United.

I know the club have given chances to many kids, but it’s been sink or swim for so many of them; this isn’t the classic case of one kid coming in and getting his opportunity, it’s a case of injuries meaning so many are getting a chance before they’re ready or, more often than not, after we know that they aren’t. The most impressive for me has probably been Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, but I look at his promise and I compare it to the likes of Arthur Albiston and Jimmy Nicholl who were breaking through when I was at the club and I’m sorry but I don’t see the same quality. I want to see it, more than anyone, but I can’t lie – there are some players at the club who are millions of miles away from what it takes to be a Manchester United player, and I’m not just saying this about the kids.

We have fallen into the trap of over-spending on average foreign players; Memphis Depay has so much to prove and it may not be the most popular opinion but for me the jury is still out on Anthony Martial. Perhaps you can say my standards are too high, maybe if there were better players around him he would be better, but I still expect more from him. I am worried that because standards are so low at Old Trafford at the moment, people are starting to accept less than what Manchester United are renowned for, and to me that is a very, very dangerous trap to fall into.

We only need to look at Arsenal and how they have flattered to deceive over the last 10-12 years. They look like they’re on the right track, but how many times have we said that over the last few years only to see them cruelly exposed as so far behind the top European teams.

I’m convinced that this is all traced back to the age old problem – and I make no excuses for bringing it up again – about the influx of cheap and average foreign players. It has not only ruined the English game but it has damaged the identity of great football clubs. We are witnessing it at United and it hurts and frustrates me. People complain about the lack of heart, the lack of fight, that old United teams used to fight to the death, and they’re right, but the problem is so obvious and it isn’t being addressed.

I’ve been talking about this problem for years and it hurts to see the figure of players available for England drop from 50% to under a third. 50% is still way too low. It is criminally low. Yes, I will agree that to some extent, there was a time when the introduction of foreign players did mix it up a bit, and added something to the game, but somewhere along the line, the balance was lost and now it is gone it is difficult to get back.

What we’re witnessing at Old Trafford goes far beyond the manager, it is a moment of transition which threatens the identity of the club at a time when it may be impossible to reclaim it. Is this an over-reaction? You may think so, but I disagree. Arsenal are a great example, as United prepare to face them, but look at Liverpool, who fell from grace and are yet to get back to what they were.

I have recently released more copies of my autobiography. You can get copies here.

3 thoughts on “Rebuilding Foundations

  1. so spot on Gordan.. i sent this into the club about 4 monthes ago
    To All at MUFC
    It’s with a heavy heart I find myself writing this e mail.
    I am a man u supporter and I have been since a boy of 6 and that was not yesterday.
    I can’t remember never having a hero in a red shirt from all our famous number 7 to players like big Norman Whiteside, mark hues, stam,
    Rio, scholes gigs beckham, van the man, Ronaldo, Rooney, the list could continue. My point is every one of these lads did something special for every man, woman and child who followed them, they made us dream! We were mesmerised by their skill, there talent and there passion for the team we sang their names from the stands we cheered every goal we celebrated every win and felt every loss, we cried tears of joy when teddy and solskjaer did it in 99 and we have shed many tears in sadness too. But I can honestly say I have never felt ambiguous about watching this amazing team play until now.
    Please understand this is not about our results or our league position this is about passion, about being brave enough to play I mean really play the game. That’s what we do isn’t it? We were always a team that expressed itself of the field of dreams even when we lost we never when out without a fight you had to drag us off the pitch.
    But last week I had one of the lowest experiences in football. A few days ago now my youngest son came to me and said he wanted a city kit from Santa… so I sat down and asked “why do you want a city kit wee Man”? my son response devastated me for two reasons one He wanted a city kit, and two I couldn’t argue with his logic.
    “Daddy” he said I just don’t really think man u have any good players like Messi, Ronaldo, agro, d Silva, company, neymar even vardy. What could I say?…. He added “And they don’t play football that well”. I tried to tell him about the truly world class players we had over the years and the amazing games we were involved in against teams like real Madrid and Juventus but this was a lifetime ago to a 9 year old.
    I titled this email losing our sons! I guarantee you this is happening on a regular basis I’m sure I’m not the only father experiencing this.
    We need to give them heroes to believe in again, that exceptional talent that allows them to dream, the type of player that when they put their jumpers down for goal post they say I’m want to be so and so! The truth is I believe we have a few player of this calibre in the squad but we need to let these players play. We need to be brave enough to play the game again! It’s not even that important to be winning major trophies every year as I truly believe this has got much more difficult to do, I believe our sons will fall in love with this amazing club again if we play win lose or draw the right way. Playing full on football.
    Where are the mesmerising runs from the wings? The 20 yard voile’s? The overhead kicks? The diving headers? The sharp intricate forward passes that end with a shot on goal? Where are the red arrows? The busby babes? Stand up the red and white army and give our sons heroes again!
    Let them dream better still let them see it with their owns eyes on the pitch. Pleases don’t lose us our sons, don’t rob them of the great journey I have been on with this fantastic club. Once again stand up the red and white army!

    Once a red always a red,

    1. Tell your son that Manchester United creates legends. They don’t have to be like Messi, Neymar, Robaldo etc. Just because they are big names, does not mean they are really the best players. United have a great youth system, bringing some of the best players through the club. What better to watch a player from his first game – get better and better and say you have been there to see him reach those goals? Just a thought!

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