Repetition is one of the greatest foibles in this occupation. Balancing such thoughts is a sense that if a point retains relevance it’s worth another gallop. In some cases, though, points lose their punchline – if they ever had one – in a situation when they are the sole explanation and/or defence in a given situation.
The continuing dominance of the Dublin footballers in GAA is, in some quarters at least, continually written off to the financial advantages those in the capital enjoy over their suitors. Apart from the fact the whole debate is getting extremely old – it is what it is and it’s up to every county to make best use of their own resources – such a stance is a great insult to possibly the finest group of players ever to play the game.
Something else that’s becoming tiresome is use of the galactic nature of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City squad as reasoning why certain other entities don’t seem to be able to compete with them. Not only because Liverpool debunked the theory last season and were surely unlucky not to blow it apart altogether.
Also, mind you, because teams who have spent voraciously in recent seasons have not only failed to keep up but actually fallen further adrift. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the defending champions own city.
At this juncture it has to be said that life after Sir Alex Ferguson was never going to be easy. Anybody in his wake was going to be on a hiding to nothing. Similar sentiments applied to Mick O’Dwyer and Sean Boylan and will very soon to Joe Schmidt. The difference between the latter named three and those who have followed at Old Trafford is that war chests have been spent for their benefit, largely to no avail.
That may seem a little harsh given that Louis Van Gaal garnered an FA Cup success before being defenestrated and with Jose Mourinho having collected two trophies before the dream marriage ended badly. However, when the amount that has been invested in players in the last few seasons and some of the names brought in are considered, the return has been paltry. Worse still has been to see also-rans of their Old Trafford time going on to prosper elsewhere afterwards.
They say if something looks too good to be true it generally is. Thus, while the beginning of Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s reign was a blaze of positivity, you now wonder how much of that was attributable to the bounce factor which often takes hold when a new boss takes over. Especially when the individual is as beloved as the Norway native is in the red half of Manchester.
Now, it would’ve been wholly unrealistic to expect the whirlwind start the former striker enjoyed to his tenure on the sideline was going to continue, however, the good vibes and good will can only be expected to last so long. No, I do not think he should be replaced and recent Arsene Wenger quotes regarding the United job aren’t helpful. But there are problems.
Different ones to before, but no less troubling. In fairness to Solksjaer, he seems to have negated the defensive malaise which has weighed on the club since Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic left. In Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire they finally seem to have a central pairing to afford them needed stability. What wouldn’t have been foreseen, though, was David De Gea’s form taking such a nosedive. Clean sheets have gone from the norm to a rarity and that has as much – if not more – to do with the Spaniard than those in front of him.
It hasn’t been all doom and gloom. The blossoming of Dan James and Mason Greenwood do offer windows of hope for the future. However, when one thinks back to the days of Bryan Robson, Paul Ince, Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, it’s difficult to countenance a team being so bereft in central midfield as is currently the case.
Debate surrounding Paul Pogba and where he’ll ply his trade appears to be never-ending. His value to his current employers scarcely needs further underlining than an examination of results generated in his absence. Suffice to say Fred has been about as useful as his namesake Fred The Red!
With the Frenchman in situ, though, there is still scope for United to be a force. To a degree at least. Title contenders? Not by a long stretch. But at the very least it’s surely a minimum requirement that they be playing their European football on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening. Not only because of the tardiness that seems to afflict teams domiciled in the Europa League in ‘domestic’ fixtures following their Thursday outings.
Mention of all that leads one to wonder what would be regarded as a successful season for the Red Devils. Personally speaking, qualification for the elite European competition is a must. A good run in either Cup competition could also be deemed salvation. Of course it’s disappointing that they’ve lost two games already, but, disappointment is often best gauged by expectations.
What I mean by that is, if expectations are unrealistic – as they could be forgiven for being after the beginning Solksjaer made in charge – the sense of disappointment will be more acute. Champions League qualification would, to my mind, represent a good season’s work. On current evidence, mind you, it could be a case of a bit done, a lot more to do in that regard.