Every year we bring out a charity season preview, with all proceeds going to Trafford Macmillan, to get Manchester United fans ready for the campaign ahead.
The country’s top journalists contribute to the preview, discussing their thoughts on transfers, the previous season and how they expect the team to get on in the new season.
To read their opinion and predictions in full, buy the season preview, but here are their takes on who was at fault for the disastrous 2021-22 campaign.
Daniel Taylor, Senior Writer at The Athletic:
Ed Woodward. The buck stops with him and I found it embarrassing how much positive publicity he received when he left. His recruitment, decision-making, the big calls – he was accident-prone, wasteful and hopelessly out of his depth on the football side. Yet the PR machinery around him somehow got him leaving as a hero in some parts of the media. It was pretty weak from my own industry. Woodward’s reign will be synonymous with failure.
Henry Winter, Chief Football Writer at The Times:
Glazers. Bored saying it. If leadership is not hands-on, things drift. Their obsession with money has changed focus at the club. There are many good people at United, hard-working and loyal staff, and your wonderful Foundation saves lives, but the Glazers have changed the culture. The balance needs to shift to football first. Marketing, merchandising, money is all very well, and helps pay the players’ wages, as well as the Glazer dividends, but the centre of the club has to be the dressing room not the marketing department. However warped the culture under the wretched Glazers, players still have to take individual responsibility. Too few did.
Oliver Holt, Chief Sports Writer for The Mail on Sunday:
They’re an easy target, I suppose, but the obvious answer here is the Glazers. Everything stems from the owners and it was them who persisted with Ed Woodward for as long as they did and presumably them who sanctioned the half-baked succession to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The disaster of 2021-22 also includes, as far as I’m concerned, the increasing disintegration of the infrastructure of the club. There are lots of promises being made about investing in the stadium but I’ll believe it when I see it.
James Ducker, Northern Football Correspondent at The Daily Telegraph:
Last season’s chaos felt like the culmination of years of mismanagement and the result was one big, toxic mess. The ultimate responsibility rests with the Glazer family and the former executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who presided over an utterly dysfunctional football operation. The appointment of managers with wildly differing styles of play and approaches, combined with a shambolic recruitment set-up, was always going to be a recipe for disaster and last season was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The only upside of Ralf Rangnick’s calamitous six month interim reign is that the German had no qualms about exposing the scale of the problems. I found the entire Ole Gunnar Solskjaer experiment utterly bewildering, including the decision to extend his contract last summer, but in many ways his appointment underlined how abysmally the club has been run.
As for the players, the way they downed tools was little short of a disgrace but the club are to blame for keeping so many disillusioned, demotivated players and signing far too many players who have neither the character, quality or leadership to represent one of the biggest and most scrutinised clubs in world football.
Rob Dawson, Manchester United and Manchester City Correspondent at ESPN:
I don’t think there was an individual you can point to and say “it was them” because, for me, it was a perfect storm of disasters.
The one thing you struggle to understand is the appointment of Ralf Rangnick. It had probably got to the point where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had to go because performances had dropped off a cliff but hiring Rangnick as an interim just didn’t work. He hadn’t managed a top-level club game for years and there was no way he was going to be able to come in mid-season and get the players running and pressing. The club either needed to appoint a candidate for the long-term or someone who was going to steady the ship but they did neither.
Charlotte Duncker, Football Reporter for The Times:
I think it’s a culmination of a lot of different factors. The board, the managers and the players should all take a portion of the blame for how last season played out.
Years of mismanagement in the transfer window left United with a team that wasn’t good enough to challenge and then there were on and off the field issues to add to that.
Solskjaer lost the dressing room and the players weren’t sold on his training sessions or in game management. After that United passed on the decision to bring in Antonio Conte and settled on Ralf Rangnick. A decision which, in hindsight, was a mistake.
Rangnick wasn’t the right man to steady the ship, which cost them a place in the top four, but ultimately the players have to take responsibility as well. There were some who weren’t happy with the training sessions under both managers and those who didn’t agree with some decisions being made but they still should have had the quality in games to get over the line.
Some of the performances, especially towards the end of the season, were dire and those on the pitch have to shoulder the blame for that.
Tyrone Marshall, Senior Football Writer at the Manchester Evening News:
It was such a disastrous season that it feels difficult to pin the blame on one person. In hindsight, United should have called time on the Solskjaer experiment after the Europa League final rather than going into another season with him in charge. But when he was sacked the season was still salvageable and the decision to appoint Rangnick was a risk, given his lack of recent experience in a similar role, and he just didn’t have the stature to lift the team. Then there are the players, almost all of whom have to take some share of responsibility.
United fans will be protesting ahead of Sunday’s opening game against Brighton. Follow @The__1958 for details.
The RoM Manchester United 2022-23 season preview is now available for just £6. It includes exclusive interviews with Patrice Evra and Kleberson, articles from the country's best football writers about our expectations for the season ahead and our brightest talents, as well as proposed transfer business and which youth players to keep an eye out for. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.