Wednesday 16 October 2019

Barry-Murphy's big chapter in the decline and fall of Man Utd

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

The strange and terrible decline of Manchester United is fascinating for students of decline in general - and when the definitive volume is written, perhaps even by myself, it may stand alongside Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as a major work in this domain.


There will be a chapter entitled "Rochdale", who were seen last Wednesday night drawing 1-1 at Old Trafford in the old League Cup, only losing on penalties. Rochdale's manager Brian Barry-Murphy is indeed the son of Jimmy Barry-Murphy, who has seen the odd bit of decline in his own field, but nothing of this magnitude.

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They couldn't beat Rochdale at home in 90 minutes - even if they weren't trying because it was only the old League Cup, it was still Rochdale. And they still weren't beating them at home.

Yes, there will be many learned dissertations on the way that a great club can become chronically dysfunctional, how their once imperial sense of self can be corroded until they can't stand up for falling down. But we will look at one specific moment where they clearly made the wrong decision, for the wrong reason.

It was all down to the video assistant referee (VAR) - no, it wasn't United conceding a vital goal from a penalty given by the VAR, that would be too normal. It was United scoring from a penalty given by VAR, in the last minute of their Champions League game against PSG - a penalty which was given for the kind of microscopically visible handball that would not have resulted in a penalty in any game of football ever played before the VAR.

Inspired by the events of that night, United decided to make Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the permanent manager - they responded to this completely ludicrous penalty as if they had won the game gloriously, when in truth they should have regarded it as a defeat, and proceeded accordingly.

I knew this at the time, but decided to say nothing, for fear that any words of wisdom might somehow find their way towards Old Trafford and penetrate the great fog of ineptitude which has settled on the grand old stadium - which itself, in recent years, has been visited by infestations of rodents.

I, who do not work in football, as such - at least not on an executive level which pays me £20m a week - knew this. I could see that one as big as a basketball - just pretend that you lost to PSG, and take it from there, and get a proper manager. I could have saved them at least another year of horror and some absurd amount of money, with that one message.

No, I do not work in football, as such - but I'm thinking that maybe I should start to consider it. And you know… I would even be willing to let my name go forward for some sort of a role at Old Trafford, because I'm under no illusions here.

I know you have to start at the bottom.

Sunday Independent

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