Rome wasn’t built in a day; neither was the fall sudden. For years now, even before Sir Alex Ferguson retired, knowledgeable fans and pundits have been claiming that Manchester United’s off-field processes have been shaking the foundations of the club.
A charge of myopia was levelled at the club, covering everything from a declining youth set-up to a lack of director of football to liaise between the coaching and executive.
However, there was always a sense that United could be fixed, perhaps that a new signing could unlock the team and start delivering sustained success. That sense seems to be gone now, with many experts claiming the club needs to reorganise on the pitch and off it, despite record revenues.
The 2018/19 season hasn’t quite finished yet, but several betting companies listed at Free Bets UK, a site that highlights the best free bet offers and betting analysis, have already released odds for next season.
You can judge below how that has underlined United’s decline:
Manchester City 8/11 (Bet365)
Liverpool 13/4 (SportNation)
Tottenham 14/1 (Betfair)
Chelsea 25/1 (Betway)
Manchester United 25/1 (William Hill)
Arsenal 30/1 (Betfair)*
*odds correct as of 28th May 2019
Odds of 25/1 represent at least a three-fold increase on United’s preseason odds on the start of the 2018/19 season. Under Alex Ferguson, the team never started the season with odds greater than single figures.
Fans demand action off the pitch
That 25/1 might not seem impactful for some readers, but one has to understand that William Hill will have been factoring in United making a big splash in the transfer market this summer. In fact, the price will probably rise if United don’t make any significant transfers over the next few months.
However, it serves as a reminder that Untied are not ‘one or two players away’ from being a good team. To really challenge City, some believe they need an entirely new defence, two central midfielders and a right-sided forward player. Essentially, that’s the backbone of a new team.
We mentioned earlier that it was off the field processes that were hurting United, something that fans hope a director of football will fix. An experienced central defender has long been the most pressing need for the team, yet the board has made bizarre decisions, such as the signing of £400K a week Alexis Sanchez, a player whom United didn’t need and who certainly hasn’t delivered.
City valued higher in study
To make matters worse, the City have overtaken United in terms of value, at least according to one study by the University of Liverpool. The study looked at a wider variety of factors instead of just revenue, including assets, seat sale, debt levels and so on. Having City above United would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.
Outspoken pundits like Gary Neville have been very firm in their assertions that there is a malaise at Old Trafford that will take years to fix – if ever. Commercially, the club has still been reporting record revenues and marketing point man, Ed Woodward, seems to be a genius at getting lucrative sponsorship tie-ups. Indeed, the club can still outmuscle almost anyone in the transfer market.
Yet none of this seems sustainable if United to not get the football right – on the pitch and at executive level. The club is steeped in history, but if they are not challenging – and entertaining – sooner or later those marketing deals will dry up. They will not win the title next season, but they should be looking ahead to future seasons. And, that outlook feels rather cloudy.