Cleat Geeks

Manchester United, Norwich City and Lewis Carroll

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

Lewis Carroll. (from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)


new-main-standThe sentiments expressed between ‘The Walrus and The Carpenter’ in Lewis Carroll’s classic book might well be heard echoing in the corridors of power at Manchester United or at least something like them.

It is a month since United won at Watford and since that time they have been knocked out of the Champions League and been beaten or drawn in games which they should have won. The latest debacle came at home to Norwich City on Saturday 19th December, a 2-1 loss which might be the final straw for all involved. Manchester United were up against a team languishing in the bottom three in the premiership table and who were promoted only last season from the Championship.

United began brightly enough for the first twenty minutes or so, however inevitably they ran out of ideas and energy as Norwich took a 2-0 lead scoring in the 38th and 54th minutes. United supporters rallied a little when Anthony Martial scored in the 66th minute but there was to be no fight back and the game petered out with only a Chris Smalling near miss to raise the temperature in the final minutes of the match.

On Manchester United Televison after the game the regular guests, Gordon McQueen and Lou Macari did not hold back their thoughts on the way United are playing at the moment. McQueen highlighted that this was not the first time the team had lost to a Championship side at Old Trafford. Highlighting the recent Middlesbrough game in the 4th Round of the League Cup when United failed to score in 90 minutes and eventually went out of the cup 3-1 on penalties. He argued that even though Norwich are in the Premiership now they are the equivalent of a Championship side and for Manchester United not to be scoring against such teams is unacceptable.

Macari, not for the first time this season remarked that it was difficult to understand why United are so poor at the moment in their syle of play. The fact that United only had two shots on target in the whole game was also not lost on former Manchester United players. Their views, not surprisingly, were reiterated by many of the supporters phone calls, emails and tweets.

There was talk before the match of some supporters groups hiring a plane to fly over Old Trafford trailing a banner  reading “VAN GAAL OUT” which  at least this time did not happen. However Van Gaal did have to pass a number of fans on his way from the dugout at the end of the game who did not hold back on their booing and general discontent regarding the managers tactics and substitutions.vanGallheaddown

Louis Van Gaal now faces a critical time as the manager of Manchester United. There are many media rumours that the United manager only has one or two matches to save his job. This is in a way ridiculous because to save his job Van Gaal has to adopt a different philosophy but as the saying goes ‘an old dog can’t learn new tricks’ and Van Gaal is ensconced in his own way of doing things.

To add to the mix, unfortunately for Van Gaal, one of his own apprentices, Jose Mourinho, has suddenly become available on the open market after being sacked by Chelsea. While not a perfect fit for United, in Mourinho is a proven winner and that is what United need at the moment.

Many pundits at the moment are putting two and two together and getting four, however football, like life, is rarely as predictable. Yet as Lewis Carroll’s rhyme states, the time has come for the United board and owners, the Glazer family, to “talk of many things”.

The first order of the day for those in charge is whether to support Van Gaal through what is now a crisis of confidence for the team and for their manager. On the field the goals have dried up with the main striker Wayne Rooney being the obvious culprit but he is not alone. Until recently the excellent defensive record was something Van Gaal took pride in having United in the top four places in the premier league. However all that has changed of late with United not having won in their last six matches in all competitions and now conceding goals.

rooney&vanGallThe United board have few options and if Mourinho signs for another club they will become more limited. The romantic notion of appointing Ryan Giggs as their new manager is full of pitfalls. The argument that Giggs is part of the club’s lifeblood only goes so far when the end result is all about winning. He is unproven in club management and United do not need another failure. In baseball it’s three strikes and your out, United should be looking for more experience to avoid that particular analogy.

The board and owners may in the end stick with Van Gaal who has one more year to go on his contract after this season. If they do and it seems unlikely at this point in time, they know what they will get from him. Whether they stick or twist, the next few days and weeks are critical to the outcome of their season.

Manchester United face a tricky trip to Stoke at the weekend, a place they have not faired well at over the years. Then, shortly after United face Chelsea at Old Trafford in what could be Mourinho’s first home game if he is appointed. This would make for a certain amount of irony, however it is not thought of as a definite possibility just yet.

Normally at this time of year for most clubs all the talk is about possible transfers in January, at United there is little of that because of the uncertainty of who will be the man in charge. What needs to happen soon for the sake of the club is a statement of intent, whatever is decided, so the manager, club and supporters know the direction they are headed in for 2016.

The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things”

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