Who's Most at Fault for Manchester United's Slide?
Manchester United are seventh in the table. They got knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round after losing to Swansea at home. They lost to Sunderland on penalties in the semi-final of the League Cup. Assuming United aren't going to get far in the Champions League, their season is over.
But who is to blame?
Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson is the greatest manager this country has ever seen and certainly gives anyone a run for their money when we're talking about all-time greats.
His final season for United finished with him winning a record-breaking 20th title, Ferguson's 13th for the club, as the Reds cruised to victory.
There were definitely flaws with the squad and United fans couldn't believe he'd gone yet another season without buying the needed reinforcements in midfield, but his ability was enough to see them win the league easily.
The squad he left United with wasn't good enough to compete this season, though. Even if United had a world-class manager in charge, they wouldn't be competing for the title with this lot, and Ferguson ensured that United wouldn't even have a world class manager, hand-picking David Moyes himself.
Ed Woodward came in for a lot of criticism in the summer when he seemed to make a mess of a ridiculous number of transfer deals.
Having returned from United's pre-season tour on urgent business, the fans had to wait until the transfer deadline day before anything happened.
First Woodward let Marouane Fellaini's release clause expire, only to pay more for him the following month. He then missed the deadline for Daniele De Rossi, per The Guardian, even though Roma seemed prepared to sell.
He offered a derisory amount, the same figure he ended up paying for Fellaini, for world class Cesc Fabregas—reported by the Daily Telegraph's Mark Ogden—when a reasonable sum could have ensured his transfer from Barcelona. He then left the loan move for Fabio Coentrao until the last minute, meaning there wasn't time to prevent its collapse, as reported by Ben Jefferson of the Express. The list goes on and on.
By the time United invested in Juan Mata in January, a redeeming move for Woodward, the club were already 14 points behind the league leaders. Season over.
Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie scored and assisted a combined 56 goals in the league last season in a total of 57 starts.
In contrast to starting three-quarters of United's games last season, they've started in less than half of the games United have played this season. Still, in their 33 starts from this season they've scored and assisted a total of 30 goals between them. Imagine if they had been fit for most games.
After 26 games last season, United were 12 points clear at the top of the table on 65 points. At the same stage this season they are on 42 points and are 15 points behind the league leaders.
Whatever argument fans can put forward about the teams around United strengthening and improving, it's undeniable that they have dramatically declined.
Even if you go back to 2004/2005, which was an awful season for United, they were on 56 points at this stage in the season.
The results aren't the only problem for United though, but Moyes' reluctance to correct the mistakes he is making is costing the team. After United crossed the ball over 80 times in their recent 2-2 draw at home to Fulham, with none of those crosses directly resulting in a goal, Moyes didn't notice a problem with United's approach.
I just keep doing the job because I know that we’re doing the right job. We’ll do the same things, we’ll make sure things are right – prepare the players well and things will change I have no doubt.
What United are doing is not working but the real worry for United fans should be that the manager not only doesn't know how to get results, but he doesn't recognise there is even a problem.
Since taking over the club in 2005, the Glazers have spent £696m on interest fees, bank charges and debt repayment but only £382m on players, per The Guardian. Every week they spend more than £400,000 on interest on the debt, equivalent to the salary of two or three more world class players.
United are the most profitable club in the country, one of the most profitable in the world, yet their net spend over the past five years is closer to Stoke's than it is to Chelsea or Manchester City's.
All of United's failings begin and end with the Glazer family, who were lucky enough to have the greatest manager of all time in charge of the club for the first eight years of their ownership. Ferguson was able to bridge the gap most seasons but every time United lost out on the league title since 2005, it was to a club that had spent considerably more than them.
Ferguson did what he could on a much smaller budget than United's title rivals, but it seems as though the Glazers are just beginning to work out how much money the former manager saved them. There's no excuse for one of the richest clubs in the world not being able to compete for players in the transfer market, but that is exactly the position United find themselves in thanks to the Glazers.
Even the appointment of Moyes, a manager who would be happy with any transfer funds he was given as opposed to a world class manager who is used to spending, is a decision made for financial reasons not what was the best move for the club.