I think things are finely poised down at old Trafford? Do people think they will return to their spot as the most dominant club in the country? Or are they the next Liverpool? On the pitch problems: 1. They have their worst squad in my memory 2. They could be left weak at GK, and looking a bit stupid if De Gea leaves. 3. 10-15 years worth of sub-par signings has left them with few players who look like improving much. 4. Rooney is fat, overrated and hasn't performed in a while. 5. Teams haven't feared them for some time now. Off the pitch problems: 1. Rooney (worth a more detailed assessment later) 2. No Fergie 3. Almost inexplicable refusal of the top players to join them. (also worth a more detailed assessment) 4. City and Chelsea muscling United out of the market for the top players in the Premiership. 5. Chelsea and City probably doing everything they can behind the scenes to undermine them (eg. Kenyon to Chelsea) So what's going on? I think the biggest factor is Wayne Rooney. Don't forget that he has handed in two transfer requests, one in 2010 and then again at the end of the 12/13 season. The 2010 request played out as a much greater scandal, with Fergie ruthlessly hanging Rooney out to dry. Rooney's response pissed everyone off, most notably Evra and Vidic who spoke out against him in the media. Less than a week after the request Rooney signs a bumper new deal, and personally I think the after effects of this are still hurting United. The following few seasons Fergie and Rooney were obviously not on great terms. Fergie demonstrated a reluctance to play Rooney in the "star man" role, signing Van Persie, and relegating Rooney to the bench for important CL games. At the end of the '13 season Fergie confirms that rooney has requested to leave. New manager Moyes continues with Fergie's anti-Rooney narrative ("Rooney will be back up for RVP") until September when Fergie does a grovelling interview for MUTV in praise of Rooney. On the surface the issue has been resolved. The first thing I wonder is how have Rooney's insults and subsequent pay rises affected the culture at United? Evra and Vidic in particular were very vocal about basically saying "Fuck off, Rooney." I don't think it is a co-incidence that those two players both left United at a time when they were desperately needed. The second thing I suspect, is the possibility of a growing understanding among players that going to United will mean you are used as an accessory to make Rooney look better than he is. The third thing, and rank outsider in the probability stakes, is that the relationship between Fergie and Rooney was actually non-existant to the extent that Rooney was refusing to play for him. Nobody mentions that keeping Rooney at United could have been a factor in Fergie's retirement, but the way it all played out makes me see it as a possibility. Without Rooney, United lose that "sweethearts of the FA" position, which imo has helped them a lot over the last 15 years. The second massive question mark is over their transfer dealings. United are the biggest institution in the country, can pay huge fees and huge wages, and on top of this have got back into the Champions League. I simply cannot understand why they are having so much trouble signing top players. Depay, Schneiderlin, and Martial, if he joins, may be players that are too good for us, but they are in no way the level of signing I would expect from United. I think something is going on. Has the treatment of influential players like Evra and Vidic caused a belief that United is a bad place to go? Have Chelsea and City paid off agents to try and get players to prefer moves elsewhere? Have they pissed off super-agent Jorge Mendes? Something is the reason and I don't think it is the usual type of reason. Jorge Mendes is the agent who seems to own almost all of the players. Despite being involved in deals all over Europe, United is the only team who has it's own section on Mendes' wikipedia page. If you have a little look, you will see that he has been taking the piss out of them for quite some time now. Bringing Ronaldo to United 12 years ago was the last nice thing he did for them. Since them he has burdened them with Anderson and Nani in 2007, helped Real Madrid sign Ronaldo in 2009, and laughed his head off when flogging them Bebe for £7 million in 2010. He brought them De Gea in 2011 but now seems to have no interest in helping United keep him. Last season in my opinion showed a tremendous failure of United to "woo" Mendes after providing two of his players a lifeline in Di Maria and Falcao. United took a massive financial loss on Di Maria after just one year, and Mendes openly criticised their handling of Falcao, saying he should be starting more (clearly instead of Rooney.) Personally I think United are at this stage now instead of 5 years ago due to mostly to good fortune. Abramovic and Mourinho's relationship became frosty, and bargain basement signings like Ben Haim and Sidwell helped United stay on top of Chelsea just when it looked like they were about to become the dominant force. What United no longer have that they did have in the 90s is: - the best team - the most money - the choice of any Premiership player that they wanted - the status of being "the" premiership destination for top foreign players - A legendary manager - the fear that opposition teams always had when playing them - the favour of the FA due to their core of important English players That is a long, and imo very significant list of factors. I honestly see no signs that United will do anything more than make up the numbers for the foreseeable future. Thoughts? It looks a mess over there to me.