Manchester United - who is to blame?

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There can still be no doubt that David Moyes was always the wrong choice at Manchester United. But whatever the reason, this was no excuse for the players failing to turn up.

Until Saturday it was possible to rationalise the season to some degree as being down to a clean sweep in the management team, dubious tactics and training methods. But if the players cannot even put on a show for their favourite team-mate they should hang their heads in shame.

The manager can do as much as he can to set up the selection, tactics and approach to the game, but if the players play with no heart, guile, energy or passion he is helpless.

There was a false sense of optimism after the Norwich match. Maybe the players, released from the shackles of the previous manager, "looking sharp in training" and "playing with a smile on their faces" could win the remaining matches and put United in the Europa League, after Spurs had lost.

Instead, with a mind-bogglingly wrong team selection by Ryan Giggs, and a lackadaisical attitude on the pitch, the players showed against Sunderland that the first half against Norwich was more representative than the second half.

So who is to blame?

If Louis van Gaal had been watching the match against Sunderland he would immediately sell the entire team, with the exception of David De Gea, of course, and possibly Michael Carrick.

Whatever possessed Giggs to pick a midfield of Nani, Juan Mata and Ashley Young behind Javier Hernandez set United up for failure from the word go.

Nani has been shockingly bad this season and there is absolutely no excuse to keep him; Young may be intelligent and certainly tried to inject pace into the game, but his end product was non-existent. Hernandez huffed and puffed as usual and missed two easy chances. Mata must have thought he was dreaming his worst nightmare.

But by far the biggest problem was exactly the reason why Moyes had to go. There was no pace, imagination, creativity and certainly no passion from the word go. The same ineptitude that characterised the Everton match and led to Moyes' sacking was there in abundance again.

There was a cathedral hush for much of the match from the home supporters who simply could not believe how bad the players were. There were rightly howls of anguish at every meaningless back pass and justifiably boos at the end.

The United players treated it like a practice match. Paid millions of pounds a year and watched by thousands who scrimp and save to buy their season ticket, they were a disgrace to their manager and to the shirt that they should wear with pride.

Which all begs the question whether they are at least equally to blame with Moyes and makes very clear that not only must there be wholesale changes this summer, but also that United need a 'big beast' as manager to kick backsides and deflate a few misplaced egos.

Whatever the doubts about Van Gaal's confrontational personality, he may well be exactly what the mostly complacent, overpaid prima donnas who have worn the United shirt and who survive the axe will need from the get-go next season.

Nobody can be exonerated

The Glazers are of course an easy touch because the hundreds of millions they have taken out of the club could have bought a squad twice as good as Manchester City's. But that would not be the United way. 

In the same sense that the United way is to play pacy attacking football ('brutal' Gary Neville called it), it is also the United way to blend Academy players with top class imports. In that respect Sir Alex Ferguson must take his fair share of the blame.

Of course he can rightly claim that he won the Premier League with the same squad minus Mata, Fellaini and Januzaj. But he left a legacy of tired and aging players that even he would have struggled to motivate into the top four.

But more to the point, he failed to sign any world class players beyond Robin van Persie and David de Gea. He also let Paul Pogba (arguably the best young midfielder in the world, already valued at up to £50 million), Ravel Morrison and Zeki Fryers slip through his hands. So much for United's academy!

His constant insistence when people blamed the Glazers for no signings was that there was no 'value in the market'. Meanwhile, Aguero, Silva, Toure, Nasri and Kompany went to City; Oscar, Hazard, Ramirez to Chelsea; Suarez to Liverpool; Eriksen to Spurs; Cabaye to Newcastle; etc.

But of course, United had Anderson, Cleverley, Nani and Young.

The worst legacy he left was of course a successor who never won anything and had virtually no experience in Europe to manage a team of players earning an average of six figures a week.

That still does not clear the Glazers, or for that matter their own 'anointed one', Ed Woodward. Showing his own ineptitude in the transfer market last summer, he managed single-handedly to make United look like a laughing stock in world football, as one illusory deal after another collapsed.

Why on earth such a successful corporate machine allowed Sir Alex to dictate who the next manager would be without any proper recruitment process is beyond belief. And if it is true that Sir Alex appointed Moyes on condition that he kept the key members of the backroom staff (including especially Rene Meulensteen) then how did Woodward and Ferguson let Moyes bring in his own completely inexperienced team of coaches?

So what does the future hold?

Sometimes in business and therefore in football you need a crisis to precipitate change, then things happen much faster.

Be under no illusions that Manchester United are right now a club in crisis. The evidence was there beyond doubt on Saturday. Ryan Giggs was the fans' choice and the players' choice by all accounts, but he showed very clearly that he is not ready to manage Manchester United.

Unless Woodward is telling him to put certain players 'in the shop window' his team selections so far have been bizarre.

He says he wants to give everyone a game but why? With Spurs losing to West Ham before the Sunderland match started, United had a cast-iron chance to take the final Europa League place. So unless the US tour is more important, why wouldn't Giggs pick what he thought was his strongest team for the three remaining matches?

Instead he made two fundamental errors in both the Norwich and Sunderland matches: he let sentiment influence his choice in defence; and picked the wrong midfield in both matches. Against Sunderland he could only have done worse if he had put Fellaini in instead of Mata.

Whether or not he had a chance of being the next manager, wouldn't you want to start planning for the future if you don't pick your best team? Young, Nani and Hernandez are on their way out; Vidic is already leaving, probably with Evra joining him and even if Rio Ferdinand is given another one-year contract there is no way he will be first choice next season.

So sadly Giggs shot himself in the foot on Saturday and the end product was a performance as lacklustre as anything United have dished up all season: disjointed; riddled with errors; and an insult to the 75,000 fans who had dared to believe the club had turned the corner last week.

So what happens now?

Things are so bad right now that Pep Guardiola is the wrong choice. In any case we don't want 'tiki taka' football. If he loses his job at Bayern it will be because he tried to change a machine that wasn't broken.

Their toothless performance against Real Madrid, just like Chelsea's against Atletico Madrid and even Liverpool's Under 21s against United's last Friday, showed everything that is wrong with this new faddish footballing style. Just like United's performance at Everton, boring 65 percent possession with no end product is not the United way.

So as we have said before, United need a 'big beast'. Van Gaal definitely fits the bill; someone who can stand on his track record and is fearless in taking on prima donnas to the point that they can leave if they don't toe the line.

Carlo Ancelotti would also be a good choice; he may not have had as much managerial experience but he is arguably the best coach in the world and not to be underestimated in his single-minded determination.

Jupp Heynckes also has the right DNA but may have burnt his bridges when he told Toni Kroos to reject United's approaches.

The trouble is, as with Moyes, because Van Gaal is not available till after the World Cup, once again he may be coming in too late in the day. Yes, he can approve the transfer targets so that Ed Woodward can get on and sign them, but somebody needs to get a grip right now.

Giggs is not that man. He is the worst kind of caretaker manager: no prospect whatsoever of the long term job and simply minding the shop in what has now become an utterly meaningless season.

Meanwhile the supporters, who deserve far better for the way they have continued to turn up 75,000 at a time, are being insulted yet again by the type of pathetic showing on Saturday that is an insult to the name of football.

And of course the other side of the coin would be if once again a new manager wants to assess the squad before deciding who is let go.

It's a pity that there isn't a right hand man like Gary Neville who could come in immediately and, on behalf of Van Gaal, decide who is immediately dispensable. After the showing since the New Year that would include the majority of the squad including:

Lindegaard, Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Buttner, Cleverley, Fletcher, Fellaini, Anderson, Nani, Young, Hernandez, Van Persie and Welbeck for starters.

Many people have cited Van Gaal's willingness to give young players a chance, especially at Ajax and Bayern. In that case James Wilson, Andreas Perreira, Saidi Janko, Guilermo Varela, Ben Pearson, Marnick Vermil, Joe Rothwell, Reece James, Tom Thorpe and Michael Keane couldn't do much worse than those above have this season.

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