Friday 17 January 2020

Paul McGrath: 'Putting the blame on Solskjaer is unfair - the fault for Man United's decline lies with one man'

Ed Woodward is Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman (Martin Rickett/PA).
Ed Woodward is Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman (Martin Rickett/PA).

Paul McGrath

Manchester United were given a chasing last Tuesday night in the Carabao Cup.

And the blame for that rests with one man – and for once it is not the manager of the football club.

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No, it is Ed Woodward, the top executive at Manchester United, who must stand up and take the blame for a disastrous transfer policy that he has overseen for no less than four bosses – David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

In the time that Woodward has overseen the ins and outs at Old Trafford, Virgil van Dijk, Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane have all moved within British football or come into it.

I simply don’t remember Manchester United even being linked with any of them, never mind getting them. What is wrong with their scouting system? Did they not know of these players, or know that the clubs holding their contract might be willing to part with those gifted footballers?

And then, of course, there was Roy Keane’s famous TV stare last year when he suggested United should just go out and get Harry Kane.

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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: PA

Everyone in the studio laughed, but Keane didn’t. Because when he was playing and I was playing, that’s what Manchester United did – they went out and got only the very best players, no matter what it cost.

Instead of continuing down that road, Manchester City showed last week that United have bought players who are not up to it – not up to the challenge of being part of winning a Premier League or Champions League.

Now they worry about a player’s age and his resale value, if any, not what trophies the lad is going to help them to win.

Liverpool’s previous owners tried to import this formula from baseball in America and make it work in English soccer.

It didn’t work, and the current ones have had the savvy to drop it in favour of a policy of buying players who the manager believes will make the team a better one.

Now every team makes a mistake or two over the years in the transfer market.

Manchester City made one last summer when they did not buy a direct replacement for Vincent Kompany.

But United have bought too many bad players for it all to be down to the frequent changes of managers and, with them, football philosophies.

We should have known something was wrong when Mourinho went so public with his wish to buy a centre-half in the summer of 2018.

When your manager is pleading in the media that you get him a dominant defender, and you fail, it is clear that something is very wrong at a football club.

In the days of Alex Ferguson and his then sidekick on the United board, David Gill, that conversation would have taken place in a quiet office.

And would have been followed, two weeks later, by the arrival of a Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic.

To me, looking at the 3-1 defeat to the Sky Blues that could have been 6-1, I saw, at most, three players who could be future title winners with United.

Of the other eight needed, perhaps two will come from United’s production line that is throwing up a few decent footballers.

The rest will have to be bought as world class, ready-made players, and it doesn’t matter how much the Glazer family have to fork out for them – they are going to have to fork out.

Otherwise, their investment will suffer because players will not just be drawn to play for United by the lure of playing for one of the greatest clubs in the world – the top players do want to win things.

Anyone who thinks that the club will be saved by the Manchester United Academy throwing up another ‘Class of ‘92’ soon is miles off the mark.

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Harry Maguire (Mike Egerton/PA)

That group of Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers was a complete once-off.

Indeed, if any club is going to have a 'Class of ‘92' soon it is Liverpool.

Did you see the quality of their young talent last Sunday against Everton? Their kids were a joy to watch.

Imagine being an Everton fan last week? Your first-team was beaten by your greatest rivals’ youngsters in the FA Cup.

Last week on Merseyside was no fun for anyone of a Blue persuasion.

It wasn’t much better for Reds in Manchester as they had to watch City’s fleet-footed attackers rip their heroes wide open.

I know Harry Maguire has his detractors, but I rate the lad, I really do.

And his importance to United was shown up in the semi-final as United’s defence was taken apart with Phil Jones just not at the races.

United fans would have breathed a sigh of relief when they heard that Maguire may be back from injury sooner than expected.

Really, United cannot be looking forward to going to Anfield next Sunday to face Salah, Mane and Roberto Firmino, especially if Maguire isn’t in the line-up.

Yet that clash is not the biggest issue at the club right now, that remains the future, or lack of it, for Paul Pogba.

The one player for whom the club did go all out a few years ago simply doesn’t want to play for them anymore.

United should take every penny that they can get for him and wave goodbye.

Even if it means doing transfer business with some big club regarding Pogba on the last day of this window and then keeping the money received in the bank until next summer, it is what United must do.

They really have to take control of this situation. You cannot have a marquee player in the dressing-room, such as Pogba, whose heart is not in the club. And until he goes, things will not begin to improve for United.

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