United fans will have to fight for change

For a number of different reasons this may make for uncomfortable reading for Manchester United fans. Their team’s humiliation at the hands of Danish minnows on Thursday night brought notable descent from the crowd who, somewhat creatively, reimagined their homage to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to vent frustration at the current team’s ineptitude.

For the most part the criticism was levelled at the players, that was until the full time whistle was blown. The fall out since arguably their most embarrassing European defeat has been extensive in terms of media and fan attention on the club. Whilst initial anger was directed at the performance of the players, soon attention turned to the dutch ‘trainer coach’ and his ally Ed Woodward. The owners however seem thus far to have gotten away unscathed from this season’s latest debacle and if United fans want to see real change they will have to start hurting the Glazer’s money laden pockets.

Ed Woodward is very much the Glazer family’s man. He has worked for them long before their affiliation with the Red Devils and is trusted whole heartedly by them. And why not? The shot caller at Old Trafford has generated huge sponsorship money for the club. That after all is their main priority. Manchester United is a cash cow to them, not a football club.

The only way Ed Woodward knows how to appease the fans is to throw silly money at ‘marquee’ signings in the hope that they will spark some life into a team devoid of pace and imagination. Those things used to be the cornerstone of everything Manchester United stood for now the club is more interested in increased market share rather than on the field performance. This business model has had limited success at Real Madrid in spite of this Woodward has publicly claimed on MUTV that it’s something United will look to emulate.

As a result of these uncertain times, Louis Van Gaal has been kept on and left in the firing line despite a stubborn refusal to evolve as a coach. He has dragged the players confidence down and moved on proven winners from the squad. If there is to be any change to the club’s current plight then the fans will need to  vent their anger in the form of much more than tweets and songs .

Here comes the truly painful part: The best approach to enforcing serious change at Manchester United will require fans to take a leaf out of their bitter rivals book. They must make it clear that season tickets will not be renewed, they must let their feelings be known at the ground through loud protest and silent walkouts just like Liverpool have done in recent times.

The Merseyside club’s fans first got rid of Gillett and Hicks and now have had a significant victory over ticket pricing with their new owners. Manchester United must go back to their green and gold roots if they want to spark revolution at the club. The only way to do that will be to hit the Glazer family where it hurts them most.

It is clear Ed Woodward has struggled with transfers amongst other football related issues in his role at the club. He must be made to realise that wasting money on new overrated players is not as important as making good football decisions. The ten months it took the club to appoint Nicky Butt as head of their academy is a damning indictment of where the club is at board level at the moment.

There is a level of disbelief amongst fans that Louis Van Gaal is still in a job but ultimately it will be them who decide his fate. A continued show of anger towards the club and manager is unfashionable but it might be the only way to get the change they want to see.


Man City’s Premier League failings could damage Chelsea’s European campaign

After Manchester City’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of Liverpool on the weekend most pundits handed the Premier League crown to Jose Mourinho’s men. The transition of domestic power taking just six months from Eastlands to Stamford Bridge. Gary Lineker took to Twitter to congratulate Chelsea on a league and cup double as Chelsea beat Spurs at Wembley on the same day to lift the League Cup.

Whilst the news is all good for Chelsea and their fans on the domestic front, their superiority and dominance in the league won’t help them in Europe’s elite competition. Since nowadays you do not even have to be champions of your country to qualify for the Champions League the intensity and workload in the race to become Europe’s top dog has increased markedly. The top leagues in Europe are afforded four places and the Champions League in most people’s eyes is seen as setting the bar for the highest standards of football. An obvious example of a winner who didn’t win their domestic league is last year’s European champions Real Madrid who were seconds away from losing the final to La Liga Champs and city neighbours Atletico Madrid.

All of this is bad news for any side dominating their domestic league at any time and history backs this up. One of the few criticisms of Sir Alex Ferguson and his Manchester United sides is that they won too few Champions League trophies. It is no coincidence then that their two triumphs under the Scot came in seasons where they were pushed all the way on the domestic front. In 99 United had to beat Spurs on the final day of the season to ensure victory over second place Arsenal and in 2008 they narrowly beat fellow Champions League finalists Chelsea to the Premier League crown.

The theory is then that when pushed hard domestically it is easier to transfer that intensity and form into European football. On the flip side to that, coasting to victory in the league means having to step up performances in the Champions League and this has rarely been possible. The theory is not nailed down to just English clubs. The same can be said of various sides across Europe and it must be pointed out that no side has ever retained the trophy up to this point.

It wasn’t so long ago that the footballing world was lauding all things German. Bayern Munich were champions in 2013 admittedly after a procession in the second half of the Bundesliga season. In the first half they were pushed hard by Dortmund who seemed to conserve energy in the latter parts of the season for their European exploits; A tactic that nearly paid off losing 2-1 to Bayern in that tight Wembley final.  The next season and Pep Guardiola came in and brought his brand of football to what was an already impressive side. The results were mixed though and whilst they continued to exert their huge dominance on the Bundesliga their European challenge faltered. They were soundly beaten by Real over two legs in the semi –final of the competition a result that is bound to have hurt former Barca man Guardiola.

It would seem that in order to win the Champions League a side must reach the peak of its powers in May a challenge that is made all the more difficult when strolling to league victory. Maintaining that peak is an even greater test but if anyone can become the first side to retain the trophy it’s European royalty Real Madrid.

Chelsea’s Champions League campaign is far from doomed but they will need to be pushed a little harder in what remains of the English season if they are to take Real’s crown in May.