The Manchester United decade in review: A shadow of their former self
If you are a Manchester United fan, brace yourself, as this will not be easy reading. If you are fans of rival clubs, here's one more chance to take the mickey out of your crestfallen friends. It's an understatement to say this decade was not easy for United fans. Everybody knew there would be a period of transition following the retirement of the great Sir Alex Ferguson, but even the most pessimistic Red Devils fan would not have imagined it would be this bad.The only consistent thing about the club post the Sir Alex era has been their inconsistency.
The pride of Manchester United fans is deflated with each passing week ever since the great Scot bid a teary farewell after the 2012-2013 season, with yet another Premier League title added to their burgeoning trophy cabinet. No one expected this would be the last league trophy the club would lay their hands on in this decade. But, alas it was. David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and José Mourinho all came and left - unable to bring back the glory days. The players have also bore the brunt of the transition as they had to deal with the different philosophies that each manager has tried to implement at Old Trafford.
While the successes and the failures of the aforementioned managers were well documented, there was no redemption in sight. The recurring theme was every time the team put up a great performance rekindling the memories of old, fans would be led to believe their beloved club have taken a step forward, only to be left bitterly disappointed the following week as their club would immediately take two steps back courtesy a flat, unispiring performance.
From winning trophies at a canter, the club found itself fighting to return back to the glory days. At the heart of this is the mismanagement of transfers - marquee players were signed without analysing their compatibility to the team and were immediately sold following their struggle to met the expected benchmark or not aligning with the next manager's style of play.
The handling of transfers post Sir Alex has been amateurish to say the least. From Moyes publicly courting Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas and ending up with Marouane Fellaini, to Louis Van Gaal signing an injury plagued Radamel Falcao on loan, while famously playing the then club record signing Angel Di Maria at wing-back, the list is endless. Mourinho even bought his trusted lieutenant, Nemanja Matic for an exorbitant price and while he was good initially, time was always going to catch up with the Serbian midfield enforcer, proving unltimately to be a really expensive transfer. The funds were always available, but very few players have justified the huge financial outlay on them and the funds have also not been used on the right players.
Ed Woodward, seemingly the reason behind the scattergun transfer approach seems to be enjoying the goodwill of the owners for reasons which cannot be explained even by science. The end of this decade saw a certified club legend, Ole Gunnar Solkjær appointed as caretaker boss following the widely expected dismissal of Mourinho. He did tremendously well during his caretaker period, with his smash and grab away victory in the Champions League against Paris Saint Germain, the stand out performance.
Solkjær has woken up United fans from a long slumber and provided a brief reminder of the attacking football played while he was at his very best as a fox in the box under Sir Alex. The team suddenly played with more urgency, looked to pass forward and attacked with bodies pouring forward with a menace about them.
Does this ring a bell, United fans?
The board decided to bet on him long-term to bring back the good old times as they made him the new permanent manager. Either this decision or the now jinxed 'Ole's at the wheel tweet', severely stunted the progress made by the club under the Norweigan. The final months of the season saw the players almost down their tools and played poorly with each passing week. The start of the final season of this decade has seen Solkjær's fledglings destroy the fellow big clubs on the counter attack. But when they have the ball against opposition of lesser quality, they have found it nearly impossible to break them down. The next few weeks will tell us if Solkjær is able to beat teams that employ a low block against his team.
The club is in dire need of inspiration and leadership as a Top 4 finish is still within sight. Only time will tell if the current manager is able to bring back the glory days or risk falling prey to the managerial circus in the red half of Manchester. On the plus side, he has a 100% transfer success record as summer signings Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan Bissaka and Daniel James have all settled down quickly while several deserving academy graduates have been handed debuts.
He looks the best man to lead the club forward. However, patience is required and the manager requires more than a couple of transfer windows to get the right players. If results don't improve soon, the Mauricio Pochettino rumours will also begin swiftly.
Best moment of the decade
Despite the gloom, Manchester United players played their part in conjuring more than a fair share of jaw dropping moments. Whether it was Robin Van Persie bringing home title #20 on his own courtesy some sweet left foot strikes, or Anthony Martial's wonder goal against Liverpool on debut, or Louis Van Gaal's now famous touchline antic. But nothing comes remotely close to *that overhead goal* by the club's record goalscorer - Wayne Rooney, against bitter rivals Manchester City. How desperate is the club for a Rooney like leader, warrior and talisman right now!
Worst moment of the decade
While there is no shortage for the worst moment of the decade, losing the title to Manchester City courtesy Sergio Aguero's stoppage winner tops it.
Funniest moment of the decade
While it's genuinely tough to look beyond Van Gaal's touchline remonstration, Moyes apparently asking the legendary defensive duo of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic to study Phil Jagielka's videos saw the Scotsman swiftly lose his standing in the dressing room. The Everton manager despite being widely respected was out of his depth at the club and this moment proved it.
Best signing: Robin Van Persie
Worst signing: Marcos Rojo.
Team of the decade: (4-2-3-1)
David De Gea
Antonio Valencia - Nemanja Vidic - Rio Ferdinand - Patrice Evra
Michael Carrick - Paul Scholes
Marcus Rashford - Wayne Rooney - Ryan Giggs
Robin Van Persie