Death of the Old Trafford Fear Factor – Explained

The last year has been torturous for Manchester United fans around the world as we have had to suffer watching our side perform at a mediocre level whilst our nearest rivals, Liverpool and Manchester City, competed for the Premier League title.  Pundits, journalists and supporters have all tried to establish the reason for such a poor slump in form although there has not yet been a consistent, prevalent opinion for this. This is not to say that some opinions are incorrect, I just believe that there is no individual reason for United’s inconsistency and their unacceptable performances at Old Trafford in the last 12 months. I would like to share my own thoughts on just why United have been, to quote Sir Alex Ferguson, “knocked off our perch” over the last year or so, with my views on the death of the fear factor at the Theatre of Dreams.

First and foremost, the big players just have not performed. Robin Van Persie was on fire during his first season with the Reds in 2012-13 but looked a shadow of that player during the last campaign, although he picked up a fair few injuries and niggles throughout the campaign. Also, there have been top players leave the club. Players such as Nemanja Vidic, who has been a stalwart in that United back-line for many years, announced he was leaving midway through the season. I believe that this will affect Phil Jones, as I would have loved to see Jones progress as Nemanja’s defensive partner at the back for a full season. Issues such as these have only fuelled the discontent and lack of confidence that have flooded into Old Trafford in recent times. Rumours of training ground rows and arguments have done nothing to help the gloomy atmosphere that has surrounded United in the last 12 months, fuelling visitors optimism and expectations of picking up a good result when they have visited Old Trafford in this period. The good news is that we have a new manager now, bringing a new system of player, a new coaching set up and some new players in to make the team his own. If players such as RVP, Juan Mata and Valencia cannot regain their form from a couple of years ago they will be replaced due to the vast amount of quality that has been brought in to the club.

Secondly, did the club prepare well enough for the departure of both Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill? This is aimed specifically at last summer and the abysmal performance in the transfer window. After we had reportedly obtained links and made enquiries for Thiago, Gareth Bale and Cesc Fabregas, United ended up with Fellaini, a rejection from Everton for Leighton Baines and a much-up in the Ander Herrera deal, who we signed 12 months later. Okay, we signed Juan Mata in the January transfer window but the damage was already done by then. Also, I’ve always questioned the motives of Ed Woodward and Moyes in the Mata deal. Did they buy him because they believe we needed him? I don’t think so. I believe that Woodward and Moyes felt under pressure from the supporters to buy a world class player, which at the time Mata was.

Referees have often been criticised for giving in to the big teams at home, and none more so than at Old Trafford under Sir Alex Ferguson. Officials now come to Old Trafford and, although technically correct, have nothing to fear and I believe in some cases to even up decisions from the past. Unlike the years under Sir Alex, when referees have mentally pictured the post-match interview of Sir Alex Ferguson grilling their decisions before the game, the officials slightly favoured the away sides a little more at Old Trafford under Moyes, with no match more evident than the home defeat to Liverpool who were awarded 3 penalties during the game. As an honest guy, I can admit that United have had our fair share of dodgy penalties awarded over the years but that is no excuse to try and even up the numbers now that the Fergie years are over.

Finally, the opposition just aren’t as worried about facing United nowadays. For me, visiting sides know what to expect from United at Old Trafford, we are just far too predictable and it is just too easy to defend against. Players like Ashley Young and Tom Cleverley, before his loan move to Aston Villa, should not be used in home games as they slow the attack and are not attacking enough. Opposition full backs must relish the chance to play against Young as he doesn’t have the confidence or ability to attack them. This also allows the opposition winger on Young’s side the freedom to attack rather than being required to double up and help his full back if another winger, for example Adnan Januzaj, was on the field. In turn, the opposition has an extra attacking member to go at our young, often rash, back-line who look shaky at best. I rarely see the United starting XI and believe that we will definitely keep a clean sheet. This coincides with the point on the performance of the big name players. Gone are the days when United have hosted sides obtaining players such as Rio, Nemanja, Patrice, Carrick, Ronaldo, Giggs, Scholes and Rooney during their peak years. This summer transfer window of 2014 has changed that on paper, and we will see whether or not the team will gel this season given time.

There is no doubting that the Premier League has been Manchester United’s era. We have been the dominant force in English football for two decades now and one disappointing campaign does not change this. 7 home defeats out of 19 matches in the Premier League last year shows just how far United have fallen and although we lost our opener to Swansea at the Theatre of Dreams, it is not all doom and gloom just yet. The players that Louis Van Gaal has signed have the capabilities, the confidence and the skill level to help Manchester United regain that fear factor and if so, I have no doubts that the mighty Reds will be back on our perch at the top of the league in the future.

About Alex 8 Articles
Alex is a lifelong United fan who has enjoyed regularly attending games since a very young age. He has recently graduated from Aberystwyth University with a BA Hons History degree and is looking to enhance his portfolio in sports writing with Red Mancunian. A passionate United fan with a realistic and honest view to all MUFC business.

13 Comments

  1. It’s a good article, Alex.

    This would be as good a time as any to switch allegiance and start supporting another team. With the way Arsenal, City, Chelsea, and Liverpool are strengthening at every turn, it might be very difficult, or almost impossible, for MUFC to get back into the top four in the near future. Most of the United players are only there because of the huge wages, and that well will dry up eventually as sponsors will not continue to pay silly money to a team that keeps deteriorating.

    Sorry to be so blunt, but the earlier you will embrace the truth the less it will end up hurting.

    • I would never turn my back on United. I agree with you about many players on extortionate wages but that kind of thing can be fixed. I wouldn’t say we were on an unavoidable downward spiral just yet.

  2. As a Liverpool fan it am delighted in this demise, but your financial clout will enable you to at some point bounce back. The issue is why are the top players LVG has so far bought attackers? Especially given the clear fact that most of your issues are in defence -at the back as well as in midfield.
    If you miss out on CL qualification again the ramifications are obvious.
    You will increasingly have to pay quite ridiculous fees and wages for new additions, Falcao being the obvious example.

    • Thanks for your response John, even though you are a Liverpool fan!
      You speak a lot of sense. I wrote a piece recently on the lack of defenders that United have signed this transfer window, although Rojo, Shaw and Blind all have the ability to play at the back. As everybody is well aware, Champions League qualification is imperative for a club like Manchester United and there is no doubt that we will have to up our game in order to achieve the goal of finishing in the top 4.

  3. “As an honest guy, I can admit that United have had our fair share of dodgy penalties awarded over the years…….the officials slightly favoured the away sides a little more at Old Trafford under Moyes”

    You then add “but that is no excuse to try and even up the numbers now that the Fergie years are over”

    Even up what exactly? Your “fair” share of dodgy penalties under Ferguson? How honest is that Alex?

    • Thanks for your comments Mike. I shall address your question now.

      Firstly, I’m openly admitting that United had a reasonable amount of 50/50’s go our way under Ferguson and then also stating that officials have became weaker and tended to favour away sides at Old Trafford now that Sir Alex has left. That shouldn’t be the way. Referees should never try to ‘even’ up past decisions. As an FA Level 7 referee, I know better than your standard football fan. And as for your honest reference, I feel I’ve been very honest and open in even admitting that United have been awarded dubious decisions many times over the years.

    • Alex that doesn’t address my question. You seem to infer that Ferguson had an ability to gain nothing more than a fair share of decisions, and that under Moyes your team were at a disadvantage at home last season.

      Your article seems disingenuous in that you fail to acknowledge United ever recieving anything more than a fair share of decisions under Ferguson but seem certain that referees have been unfair to your side last season.

      There is no proof that officials have evened things up from a pre existing “fair share” whatsoever and this is specious nonsense.

      Being honest, you maybe should have said United have had “more than their fair share” rather than implying there was never any favouritism or psychological weakness on the part of officials. Maybe you should look at your fans as the reason the team fails to perform at home.

      Good luck with your career Alex

    • Thanks for your support on the matter Bill. I think Mike has had a few issues understanding the article but I can’t understand why he is reading such a piece on a Manchester United fans-page when he isn’t even a United supporter. Bizarre…

    • Hey Bill if you want to make ad hominem attacks then please remember that it will always reveal more about you than anyone else.

      I am pointing out that the author of this piece claims he is honest and yet fails to acknowledge that under Feguson United received much more than a “fair” or “reasonable” share of dodgy decisions. When I challenged him on this comment after claiming he is an honest guy, he replies “I’m openly admitting that United had a reasonable amount of 50/50’s go our way under Ferguson”. This is not an honest assessment when Alex infers that the referees last season were motivated to even things up as according to Alex there was never any imbalance to correct at all. United had a fair and reasonable share of 50/50 decisions apparently.

      The piece is contradictory and thus logically flawed. You can’t have it both ways here lads, either United were favoured above and beyond others in past seasons or they weren’t and in the latter case there is nothing to even up. Get it?

      Feel free to make your point respectfully in future Bill, thanks.

    • Alex, perhaps you could try to address my point rather than alienate your readership? Do you have to be a United fan to have a valid opinion? Get a grip. Your response to a valid question is bizarre pal.

      I have followed football for years and if you really want to know where the fear is coming from, it’s from the playing staff when they perform at home under the pressure and expectations of the fans. The crowd used to be a huge asset for United now they can be frustrated and used against their own team. Every groan at a misplaced pass makes that ball a hot potato that gets passed backwards, counter attacks are slower and the defence is under more pressure.

      Try to take criticism constructively, i’m trying to help you improve your opinion pieces OK?

  4. The next few United games will be the most interesting for years. I’m not predicting the outcome of the matches but it’s certainly going to be an enthralling time. So many new faces, such an opportunity for change.

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