United toil in Fergie’s shadow

MANCHESTER. — Nine years, five permanent managers, US$1 billion spent on players and zero English Premier League football titles.

That adds up to a whole lot of bad decisions made by Manchester United as England’s grandest club approaches a decade since the retirement of their greatest manager, Alex Ferguson.

And the big concern heading into the new season? United appears to be further away than ever from reclaiming their status as the top team in England.

Just look at last season. United finished 35 points behind champion Manchester City in the English Premier League, and 34 points behind Liverpool, to cap a campaign when they had as many managers — three — as matches in the two domestic cups.

Off the field, there was rising anger and resentment at the ownership of the Glazer family, leading to end-of-season protests at matches.

On it, there was the growing realisation for Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba — United’s two biggest names and marketable assets — that this was not the team which would be winning trophies and competing at the summit of the European game.

Pogba has run down his contract and left United for a second time to join Juventus.

The latest news on Ronaldo is that he wants to leave to play for a team in the Champions League, but there are currently no takers. There was always likely to be a comedown following the departure in 2013 of Ferguson, British football’s greatest ever manager. After all, he won 49 trophies in his coaching career, comfortably more than any other European manager, and had that knack of getting the best out of players with his man-management skills and constantly renewing the United team every few seasons. But few could have predicted how bad it would get for a club which, according to Forbes this year, is the third richest in world football and valued at US$4.6 billion. — AP

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