LIKE two boxers at the end of their career, Manchester United and Arsenal reminded everyone they’ve both seen better days when they drew 1-1 on a night of mediocrity at Old Trafford. Of the two, Arsenal looked like they have a plan, but the mighty MU, six years on from the departure of the godfather of football management, Sir Alex, don’t look any nearer to passing the baton on to the right man.
Ferguson versus Wenger, United v Arsenal, was the Premier League’s first big (intense) rivalry and both clubs are now suffering from hanging onto that era too long. The age of big money has left a number of sizeable clubs struggling to swim against the tide and there’s none bigger than these two. Ole Gunnar Solskjær is rapidly running out of time and could be a pre-holiday season casualty if he’s not careful. As for Emery, he’s probably got this season to call for the silver polish at the Emirates. A sad situation? Not really, football is cyclical and both Arsenal and United have had worse times. It’s a first world problem. Both will rise again, but their current plight, if that’s the right word, is most certainly self-inflicted and a result of their own corporate strategies.
Where is the imagination?
VERY rarely, football surprises us and opts for the unexpected. Football club owners and managers work with people they know, people they trust and can easily manage. It’s often “jobs for the boys”, or really, “jobs for the right boys”. It’s not just appointing managers, it’s also acquiring players. At the lowest levels, managers repeatedly go back to the players they know, hired hands that played for the club in the past. Higher up the ladder, club owners and presidents often have a limited range of vision. Real Madrid are talking of inviting José Mourinho back to replace Zinedine Zidane, who himself was a former employee. Is the management pool so lacking depth that people can only think of going back to those that once worked for them?
Thoughts and prayers, yes – but don’t count on us
THERE’S a healthy debate needed about whether Bury should have been allowed to apply for readmittance to the EFL after folding a few weeks ago. When the club was staring into the abyss, social media, fans, club and leading football folk were all sending their “thoughts and prayers” to Bury and their bealeagured supporters. Of course, in this age of virtue signalling, if Facebook had made a Bury crest, it would have appeared as a watermark over profile photos everywhere. The shallow nature of social media aside, Bury’s application to be admitted to League Two next season was unanimously rejected by the EFL’s membership. Why? Because if Bury go, it means one less club to be relegated to non-league football. It’s the old Turkeys voting for Christmas syndrome. It’s all a bit like the re-election voting that took place before relegation was first introduced. There’s an argument that Bury, or their phoenix club, should start in non-league, like others, but this episode has also uncovered the hypocrisy of conspicuous grieving.