Where is the outrage, Manchester United fans?

The slow erosion of the club goes on but there is a distinct lack of fan fury

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford on Wednesday night. Photograph: Getty Images

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford on Wednesday night. Photograph: Getty Images

a
 

Drip, drip, drip.

Watching Manchester United these days has taken on a strangely repetitive quality. Usually when giants flounder there is a grim fascination in seeing them fail, in watching players raised on success having to deal with defeat and misfortune. But not now, not any more. United grind on. They pick up some points, they drop some points. Nothing much changes. The narrative seems to have stalled. They have good players who can get them goals, but they have a propensity for chaos that means that 15 games into the season they have a negative goal difference. The slow erosion of everything Manchester United have been goes on.

Drip, drip, drip.

A 2-2 draw against a team who are now 20 games unbeaten is no disgrace, of course, not even when that team are Arsenal, who haven’t won in the league at Old Trafford since 2006, who still seemed drained by the emotional frenzy of Sunday’s north London derby, who lost players every four or five minutes to injury and who at times regarded the ball in their box with all the decisiveness of a group of nervous Victorian maidens spying a butterfly on their first jaunt out with a raffish lepidopterist. But that is a 2-2 draw that leaves them 18 points behind the leaders Manchester City – which is, coincidentally, the precise number of points City have dropped over the past two seasons put together.

Drip, drip, drip.

Sacking season is nigh. Mourinho’s father was sacked by Rio Ave at Christmas 1984; he knows football has no season of good will. Perhaps more pertinently, the third anniversary of the defeat at Leicester that brought his exit from Chelsea comes a week on Friday. The following Sunday will be the 46th anniversary of the 5-0 humiliation at Crystal Palace that cost Frank O’Farrell his job as manager of United. The parallels are not exact, but in both cases there was a sense of inexorable decline that needed just one final trigger to tip the manager over the edge.

Drip, drip, drip.

In terms of results at least, this is not as bad as Mourinho’s final season at Chelsea. Then he was removed after gathering 15 points from 16 games. Even if United lose at home to Fulham on Saturday – Claudio Ranieri, the benign assassin, waiting for Mourinho once again, wondering whether all those jokes the former professional translator used to make about Ranieri’s lack of English really were that funny after all – they will have eight points more at the equivalent stage than Chelsea did three years ago. But Chelsea, perhaps, were a little unfortunate in certain games then, whereas United this season were fortunate to beat Newcastle and Bournemouth and could easily have lost to Wolves and Southampton: the performances haven’t been so different.

Drip, drip, drip.

But perhaps the more relevant comparison is to United’s past. This is not, admittedly, like 1972, when they went into that game at bottom-placed Palace in second bottom. But football now is not like 1972. The rich have a safety net; even in the worst seasons they can only fall so far. And this, by United’s standards, is shaping up to be their worst season of the modern age. Extrapolate 23 points from 15 games over a 38-game season and you get 58. That would have been enough last season admittedly, to pip Burnley for a Europa League place, but it would also represent United’s lowest points tally since 1989-90. They’re on course to concede 63 goals, something they haven’t done since 1978-79. If Mourinho, self-styled arch-pragmatist, enemy of poets and Einsteins everywhere, isn’t sorting out the defence, you begin to wonder what is left.

Drip, drip, drip.

Yet what is odd is the lack of fury. There should be howls of outrage, bedsheets in the stands, protests on the roundabouts, banners drawn from planes. Matt Busby Way should seethe with revolution. It does not. The most notable boos at Old Trafford on Wednesday night were reserved for the introduction of Paul Pogba, whose relationship with his manager deteriorated further on Saturday when Mourinho singled him out for blame after the draw at Southampton (where he had lost possession 14 times). Reports that Mourinho denounced certain of his players as “spoiled” at the hotel even before the game suggest the discord here has become even more palpable than it was in those final days at Chelsea. The last of his skills to desert Mourinho, perhaps, is his capacity to inspire his loyalists and convince them it isn’t his fault, not when the board, the players and the media are there to be blamed.

Drip, drip, drip.

The end is coming. The Mark Robins escape that saved Alex Ferguson in 1989-90 doesn’t apply any more: as Mourinho’s immediate predecessor Louis van Gaal knows, the FA Cup saves nobody any more. Fourth place already looks out of reach, but the drift goes on, and will perhaps endure until the end of the season, the lack of urgency in the boardroom adding credence to rumours of possible takeover. But this cannot go on. Old Trafford doesn’t automatically sell out any more. United are not a club made for this low-grade antagonistic mediocrity.

At some point, erosion will takes its course, the incessant dripping will break through and the edifice will fall. - Guardian services

a
The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.