Man United becomes a farce amid Musk tweet, transfer desperation

by 24USATVAug. 18, 2022, 2 a.m. 21
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It was almost too perfect.

Who better than to pile on to the social media farce of a summer that has become Manchester United’s existence than Elon Musk?

With a simple unserious statement, threaded into his own unrelated tweet about political parties, the Tesla CEO and billionaire lent a booming voice to the cacophony that is enveloping Old Trafford more and more by the day. “Also, I’m buying Manchester United ur welcome,” he wrote, before replying to another user later on, ”No, this is a long-running joke on Twitter. I’m not buying any sports teams.”

Yet for a club sitting at the bottom of the Premier League table at 0-2-0 with a league-worst -5 goal differential and a date with Liverpool on the docket next Monday, the only long-running joke is the club’s last three months and its precipitous drop in status.

The lack of planning and strategy employed by the club is playing out in real time. Erik ten Hag was announced as manager in late April. It was clear at that point that Paul Pogba was leaving, and it was clear at that point the kind of football that ten Hag would try to play. Even something as simple as zeroing in on the right fit at goalkeeper was fumbled. The club let Dean Henderson, better with the ball at his feet, go on loan to Nottingham Forest, while David de Gea, undoubtedly a loyal steward of the club but one who is not as steady with his feet, remained, despite a system that prefers the goalkeeper be adept with the ball at his feet. A decade on, there’s still no proper midfield engine to provide the coverage and safety net that is so sorely needed. (Musk does know a thing or two about operating without an engine, but the same principles unfortunately don’t apply for Man United’s midfield.)

There is officially a more structured sporting hierarchy in place now, whereas there had not previously been, which makes it all the more inexplicable, then, that the club has been reduced to a late transfer scramble, its pressing issues not dealt with in the months before the start of the season. And that’s to say nothing of the Cristiano Ronaldo distraction. It should have come as no surprise that the player casually referred to as “Mr. Champions League” would want no part of Thursday nights in the Europa League, his affinity for the club notwithstanding. He also doesn’t profile as a forward who fits ten Hag’s preferred way of playing, one who is required to press to fulfill his role in the purported well-oiled machine. He piled on to the social media parade Tuesday before Musk, commenting on Instagram that “the media is telling lies,” that he’s been keeping count of which reports are true and false and, cryptically, that he’ll tell all in an interview in a couple of weeks.

While we wait with bated breath for that, United’s faulty operation beyond how it’s handling Ronaldo is being laid bare. Not every transfer rumor that mentions Manchester United is real, of course, but the desperation and leaks of the last couple of weeks absolutely reek, with links ranging from Marko Arnautović to Adrien Rabiot to Casemiro popping up and falling by the wayside. A pair of U.S. internationals have wound up in the mix, though their fits make a bit more sense from a sporting and squad-building perspective. Tuesday’s reports of Man United’s interest in taking U.S. men’s national team star Christian Pulisic on loan from Chelsea followed weekend reports linking right back Sergiño Dest (he played under ten Hag at Ajax) to a full transfer from Barcelona.

It doesn’t take much to cast an eye on how other clubs of a more successful ilk carry out their transfer plans with precision and intent. And while simply doing that doesn’t guarantee success, it at least indicates a clear and direct strategy. Crosstown neighbor Man City, for instance, zeroed in on Erling Haaland and Kalvin Phillips early, executed their signings and, most importantly, had a full preseason with which to integrate them. It’s true United set out to sign Frenkie de Jong earlier in the summer and even agreed with Barcelona on a fee, but the fact it couldn’t convince the player to reunite with a manager under whom he previously excelled speaks volumes about where the club stands. And the fact that there has evidently been no backup plan is an indictment on the sporting department.

As it stands, Lisandro Martínez, Christian Eriksen and Tyrell Malacia represent United’s only incoming signings, none of whom are emphatic answers to what ails this club. Even if the Red Devils do make a splash over the final couple of weeks of the window, how long will it take to work new signings into the fray—and how much damage will have already been done in the table?

Shares of Man United stock may have risen after Musk’s nonchalant social media activity and other reports of the club actually being interested in selling minority stakes, but as it relates to the club’s on-field fortunes, the outlook is considerably bleaker. And there’s nothing remotely and casually funny about that to anyone legitimately invested in its success.

For more Manchester United coverage, read on at FanNation’s United Transfer Room.

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