Connect with us

Champions League

Why Manchester United have spent five years without winning a trophy

It wasn’t long ago that Manchester United were the dominant force in English football. Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge for over a quarter of a century, winning 13 league titles and two Champions Leagues.

But those days seem like a very long time ago now. The Red Devils have not won a league title since the Scotsman retired in 2013. In fact, the closest they have come in that time was last season, when they finished 12 points behind local rivals Manchester City.

On the European stage, they haven’t been too hot either. They have not won the Champions League since 2008 and have only won two knockout ties in the last nine years.

Solskjaer’s reign at Man Utd showed glimpses of promise, but ultimately failed

They haven’t won anything since 2017. And, after their round of 16 defeat to Atletico Madrid, that trophyless run will continue for another year.

Replacing a manager like Ferguson was always going to be a difficult task. He lived and breathed Man Utd. He knew the club inside and out. Expecting someone to come in and immediately continue his success was unreasonable. A lacklustre period was inevitable.

But surely they could have done a bit better than this?

Man Utd have tried everything over the last few years. They went for the overachiever in David Moyes, the proven winners in Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, and the club legend in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

All of those managers were given millions to spend. Several big names have come and gone at Old Trafford. And yet, they’re still not back on top of the world.

A number of those big-money signings haven’t worked out. Angel Di Maria was a British record fee at the time and left within a year. Harry Maguire is currently the world’s most expensive defender, and he’s been a nightmare.

Maguire has been a disaster lately

In contrast, look at who Liverpool and Man City have brought in over the last six years or so. How many of those players have flopped? Very few, if any.

On the surface, it may seem like Man Utd just don’t know how to spot a good player, but it’s a little bit more complicated than that. The players they buy aren’t necessarily bad players.

However, the 20-time champions seem to take a fairly lazy approach to the transfer market. They seem to buy players without much consideration for how they’ll fit into their squad.

Take Aaron Wan-Bissaka, for example. Man Utd needed a right-back, and he was doing well at Crystal Palace.

So they signed him for £50 million, without any regard for how he’d cope in a team that was expected to be on the front foot for the majority of their matches.

Unsurprisingly, Wan-Bissaka hasn’t worked out. That doesn’t make him a bad player, but he’s not suited to a club that looks to dominate games.

Wan-Bissaka was the wrong type of player for Man Utd

Man City and Liverpool take a little more care with their signings. They buy players that fit their systems, and coach them into being top players within those systems.

The problem that Man Utd face is that they haven’t really had a clear, defined style of play for a while. Solskjaer’s side were good on the counter-attack, but were often left relying on individual brilliance to get them through games.

Pep Guardiola likes heavy possession-based football. You could point to any position in Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI and easily describe that player’s role. Having a set style makes it far easier to buy the right players.

But this isn’t the only factor that goes into a successful signing. Coaching is also important.

Despite spending over £800m at the Etihad Stadium, Guardiola has rarely brought in ready-made superstars. He’s signed good players and coached them into being world-class players.

Liverpool’s wide duo benefitted hugely from working under Klopp

Liverpool are in a similar boat. The likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane showed loads of potential at Roma and Southampton, but didn’t reach their current levels until they played under Klopp.

Having a top-level manager can make all the difference. City and Liverpool had plenty of duds under Manuel Pellegrini, Roberto Mancini, Brendan Rodgers, Kenny Dalglish etc. But they hired the right men and gave them the time they needed to build a strong team.

Alexis Sanchez is regarded as one of the most disappointing signings at Old Trafford in recent years. He was fantastic at Arsenal, but managed just five goals in all competitions for Man Utd.

The Chilean was also wanted by Guardiola at the time, and many view this as a lucky escape for the Cityzens.

However, had he been integrated into a functional team by a world-class manager, he probably would have been a huge success at the Etihad Stadium.

By that same token, had a player like Bernardo Silva gone to Utd instead of City, he probably wouldn’t have been half the player he has become. He fit the profile that City needed, and Guardiola coached him into reaching that next level.

There is a lot of work to do at Man Utd. In the summer, they will be bringing in a new manager, and several players are expected to leave. It’s not looking promising right now.

Could Pochettino be the right man for Man Utd?

However, there is also an opportunity here. This would be the perfect time to overhaul their transfer model.

They need a manager who can build a team and develop players, and they need players who fit into their system. And, more importantly, this manager needs to be backed with time and money.

They may have to play through the pain barrier for a couple more seasons, but they should eventually see the rewards if they get it right.

More in Champions League