Terrace Talk: Man United - Not just turkeys nervous in run-up to Christmas

Terrace Talk: Man United - Not just turkeys nervous in run-up to Christmas

I’m sure you thank the good Lord every morning, dear reader, that he made you an Irishman.

But imagine for a moment you were the kind of John Bull-ish Anglo United fan who wears St George’s Cross underpants to bed. It would certainly have been a gutting week for you.

No Octotber 31 Brexit Day to celebrate; defeats for both the national rugby union team and the League Lions; the cricketers beaten by New Zealand; and, of course, United embarrassed at Bournemouth. What next for our flag-waving Brit? Spain to annex Gibraltar? Or, worse; no Eurovision Song Contest invitation?

Boris Johnson and Eddie Jones may have been getting their fair share of flack, but Poor Ole — yes, he’s now permanently earned that title — has surely had it worst of all.

United’s travelling Indian Summer of three wins on the bounce came up miserably short in the wind and rain of the south coast, and suddenly we all feel like we’re back at square one.

That possible flicker of light I spoke about last week? All but lost in the gloom following the clocks going back, mateys. The knives are being sharpened for Christmas, and it’s not just the turkeys feeling nervous.

Is this fair? It is, after all, arguably just a single one-goal slip-up; had that late United chance hit net instead of a post, creating classic last-gasp awayday-escape euphoria, what would the papers all be saying? ‘Plucky United emerge unbowed from four-match Valley of Death’ and so forth, I daresay. Goals change games, and headlines.

Instead, we’re back in crisis mode. The latest historical echo is provided by autumn 1986, which is apparently the last time we had so few points after 11 games. But at least we knew back then we had a manager with a rack of solid successes behind him — not that it helped him when the axe fell, of course.

Whereas today...

So, yes; Poor Ole is coming under renewed fire for his selections, and for the fact that the coaching he oversees appears to be bordering on the woeful, and for apparent problems in player motivation. But we’re now in danger of heading into the same old discussion. Which boils down to: is he basically any good as a manager or not?

Daft?

Sounds daft, doesn’t it? This is something we didn’t have to discuss with Moyes, Van Gaal and José, all of whom could point to long track records of basic competence and clearly recognisable modes of management style. But with Ole, we’re essentially talking about a beginner. Neither of his brief escapades in Wales or Norway really counts for these purposes.

Obviously, many Reds are starting to suspect he’s just not up to it, much in the same way that we all gradually realised Theresa May was entirely unsuitable to be prime minister. Older heads may think back to Bobby Charlton; to general amazement, he just couldn’t cut it, and Preston buried his post-playing career.

These things happen. Experience brutally strips naked the most unexpected of victims.

Yet others stand firm behind Ole and cite the blessed Fergie himself, a failure in Scotland at the outset, and who took his sweet time learning the ropes.

But of course, the good ship Old Trafford is no place to be studying knots, especially in the midst of an autumn shitstorm.

Gary Neville had been prescient, then, in his warning before Bournemouth that we were all still just one bad game away from being back in cracked-badge territory.

Yet he and most of his fellow ex-Red pundits also seem equally uncertain about Ole’s essential job- worthiness. They too seem to get mixed messages from inside Carrington.

We are watching something play out here that those too young for Wilf McGuinness have never seen before, and probably won’t again; a manager more or less being trained on the job.

It’s fascinating, but I can’t say it’s much fun.

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