Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton
As another disappointing week on the pitch passes by, Manchester United have drowned their sorrows by announcing yet another international signing—a sponsorship deal for a global spirits partner.
It is clear that commercial deals must continue to be made to ensure steady revenue streams, but it is events on the field that supporters are truly concerned about at the moment.
David Moyes is carrying the can for the poor start to the season, but legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson must also shoulder some of the blame.
Moyes cut a forlorn figure on Tuesday night against Sunderland as United slumped to a third straight defeat. Strong vocal support for the Scot was in evidence from the travelling fans, but much was made of the post-match reaction of Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alex, two figures who were apparently instrumental in his appointment.
Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton sum up Man Utd's night with one look - https://t.co/C164jxSXXG— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 7, 2014
The Guardian suggests that there is player unrest at the club over the current state of affairs. Although the snippets are collected over a few months, evidence of players apparently questioning or contradicting their manager does not make good reading.
Moyes, then, is bearing the brunt of the pressure as questions over his suitability for the role are raised. Closer scrutiny of the squad he inherited tells a more complex tale.
At around this time last year, Sir Alex offered the opinion that the current squad was stronger than his treble-winning side, as reported in the Guardian.
Of the treble-winning squad, he commented:
It's nice to look back at these things and how it was done with the squad of players I had, which is not nearly as strong as the one I have now.
Undoubtedly, Ferguson is the man who woke a sleeping giant. He was also a steady guide as the club rampaged through the financial maze of the last 20 years when football changed immeasurably and United became a global institution.
At the age of 71, with a massive haul of 38 trophies and a whole stand at Old Trafford named after him, Sir Alex was well within his rights to retire last season. He could sit back and reflect on a job well done. It would seem churlish to begin to question a manager who took the current squad to its 20th league title with 11 points to spare.
But questions are now being asked. Did he really leave the squad in as good a position as he would have us believe?
In the earlier 2000s, after being dumped out of the UEFA Champions League, Roy Keane made comments that the side had stood still following the 1999 victory. He thought that they ought to have continued to recruit from a position of strength, not rest on their laurels.
David Moyes inherited a side that had won the English Premier League with ease in 2013, but a farcical transfer window made his own "building from a position of strength" impossible. He will still have felt confident that he had a side more than capable of retaining its title.
With each poor result, though, another chink in the armour appears. United are vulnerable to attack at the moment—from both opposition sides and the media. The much-touted "fear factor" seems to have been drained out of all areas of Old Trafford—on and off the pitch. Moyes is no longer the only target.
Brian Reade at the Mirror pulls no punches on the issue of where he believes the blame lies for the Red Devils' current problems.
As the only footballing men on United's board of directors, Reade states that Sir Alex and Sir Bobby's football knowledge informed the choice, which was a straight shootout between David Moyes and Jose Mourinho.
As per Bleacher Report recently, the reasons given for choosing Moyes in Sir Alex's autobiography read as comments on the man's character as a human being, not as a winning football manager. They are certainly very different character traits to Mourinho's.
The difference in cost will also have been a factor.
It must be said, though, that the current position must be very far from that which was envisaged when Sir Alex pleaded with the Old Trafford faithful last season to "get behind our new manager."
It is hard to imagine that he would have needed to do that if the new manager had been Jose Mourinho.
Detractors still say that the fall-out from the dispute with Irish racehorse owners J.P. McManus and John Magnier, which precipitated the sale of the club to the Glazers, can possibly be traced as the source of United's current failures.
That is a lot of history to rake over, but large debts and interest payments do still hang over the club and will affect the amount of money available for transfers. The popular football blog, Andersred, which looks at the financial implications of the Glazer's ownership, recently commented on the amounts spent pre- and post-Glazer.
Unable to match the very highest fees and wages that Manchester City or Chelsea might be able to offer, this could have prompted Ferguson to speak about there being "no value in the current transfer market," back in 2010, per breakingnews.ie.
Pair those comments with a glance across the city of Manchester, however, where you can see a midfield that has since been stocked with the likes of David Silva, Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas—it makes the eyes water.
This was still a side that had made it to three UEFA Champions League finals in four years, though. Perhaps that record was enough to convince that no major overhaul was required.
Losing the title in 2012 to Manchester City on goal difference was Ferguson's biggest nightmare. It did prompt a major dip in to the market.
Who is to blame for United's troubles?
Robin van Persie arrived, much to the amazement of many. At 29 years of age, not only did he not represent the usual policy of buying younger players with potential, who would have a sell-on value, he also did not satisfy the need for a midfielder.
A year later, that signing looked vindicated as United won back their crown. Only now can we see that the longer-term prospects have been affected by ignoring the elephant in the room.
The squad has a number of ageing players and those bought "for the future" have failed to cement regular places in the side. In just one transfer window, David Moyes has not had enough time to make the required changes to a situation that is not of his making.
The horse affair and Glazer takeover, the neglected midfield and the choice of successor: Moyes may be taking the flak for the current form of Manchester United, but people are now also daring to point the finger in another direction.