United should have swapped managers with Brighton at full time.

Abdel Rahman El Beheri
6 min readSep 18, 2023
ETH gets booed after taking off Højlund in 3–1 loss to Brighton.

And we are back here AGAIN. I honestly expected it to last longer than this. United, with yet another manager, have reached that point in the cycle where some sections of the fans are either comparing the manager with other teams’ managers or they had enough and want him out — granted not a huge section yet. However, if United were to get humiliated at the Allianz stadium vs Bayern Munich Wednesday night, you can be absolutely certain that the noise will be louder.

I will be saying things here that people will not agree with. The truth usually hurts and it has to be said regardless.

Brighton have toyed with United on Saturday. The Brighton that United used to put 4 and 3 past when Potter was in charge of them — yeah that Brighton. At the time, the media and all the tactical analysts were raving about Potter and his superb coaching and how he changed Brighton’s fortune. What has changed? A clue; It was not Potter’s coaching or de Zerbi’s. Had it been Potter’s coaching that was the reason for Brighton’s success he would have been able to emulate that at Chelsea and Brighton would have suffered for a bit. Yet Brighton moved on from him quicker than falling asleep and Potter was sacked at Chelsea faster than Brighton was able to notice he was gone. Remember, Chelsea hired Potter’s entire coaching staff not just Potter. But in general, nothing really changed at Brighton except that they kept moving forward as an institution and United stood where they are.

A few have woken up to the reality of how football actually works but while the rest are still shouting over the rooftops “A different managers gets better results”. It was never the manager. It has never been the manager and in cases where the manager was actually “A PROBLEM” it was obvious.

As a United fan, the only manager I sincerely wanted removed from his position was Jose Mourinho. I have my reasons for it but other than him, the rest I knew the problem didn’t reside with them. It was with the way club operated. Even Mourinho later on, I actually understood the way he acted towards the end and I grew some sympathy for it.

If you think “ANY” manager is capable of changing the fortunes of United with the way the club is functioning, then I urge you to please rethink that. Let’s for instance say United sacked ETH and got De Zerbi. What do you think would happen? He’ll have to deal with the same crop of players ETH is dealing with and the same gaps in the squad.

In no way shape or form am I saying ETH has no faults. He has many faults and playing Fernandes at CB on Saturday only screamed desperation and lack of ideas — and yes I get the options were limited but still. In addition, I find it laughable that some people have not caught on to the similarities between him and Solskjaer. The one labelled as incompetent and clueless. In fact, I go far as to say Solskjaer understood his team’s strengths and weaknesses better.

The similarities that both share for example are in their substitution habits and the style of play is relatively similar due to the squad available. They both had fumbles in adapting in game but it was mainly due to squad limitations than anything. Pushing players to their absolute limit like for example Rashford playing more minutes last season under ETH than any season under Solskjaer. Eriksen the same until he got injured. All managers do these things. I guess the irony is just in the double standards. They were a problem under OGS but no one is batting an eye now because the one doing it is the chosen one.

The press conferences are empty and by that I mean; ETH really doesn’t say anything that is very informative in his press conferences — sometimes he does but by enlarge the same buzz words. He, unlike, Solskjaer uses jargon and the fanbase clap for it. Solskjaer used to say a bunch of nothing but with a smile and emphasized the “good feeling” rather than the jargon.

The ruthlessness is actually quite similar and I find it hilarious that everyone is shouting “Standards and discipline”. The difference; One is publicly open about what he is doing with the players and the other kept it in house. Remember the “jogging/running” punishment last year after being thumbed 4–0 by Brentford. Where is that now? De Zerbi won’t be any different if he was in ETH’s shoes.

Now let’s talk margins. I’ve seen the “fine margins” posts and I can’t help but laugh even further. Remember the guy that used to talk about “fine margins” and he’d get abused for it. Yeah that guy Solskjaer again. “Fine margins” is a good excuse now cause it is coming from a Guardiola lite.

Why do we need fine margins every week? Why can’t we control games? or have control for 70% of the game? If the goal vs Arsenal stood and Højlund’s goal vs Brighton stood we’d be talking about a title race, no? No.

In each of those matches we were setting up to stop the opposition more than playing our game. If we had won those games it would have been that luck was on our side not because we were actually good. You’re either good or wobbly. It’s fine to blame margins if it happens once in a 7–8 game stretch not every week. Fine margins can never be the excuse every week. It was not alright when Solskjaer used it and it is not alright when ten Hag is using it.

So now what? Where do we go from here?

I’ve discussed before the reason why managers fail at United. The support system and foundation that the managers come to complement is massively flawed. If you are going to say “X spent this amount or X chose this player” then I’d suggest you read my article on that specific issue in Recruitment, managers and backing them.

Why am I blaming everything but the manager?

Read the second sentence in the previous paragraph. I’ll explain more though. The reason Brighton and City and the likes are flawless is because the manager complements a well oiled and working machine not because the managers created those machines. United’s manager has to deal with a soap opera, uninterested owners, the recruitment, the actual managing, and the coaching.

Managers at other clubs only have to do the overseeing of coaching and managing the personnel under them. However, the biggest asset a club can provide a manager is knowing the manger’s ideas. Well run clubs identify managers for their ideas and whether or not it complements the squad currently available. Liverpool had a 60 page dossier on Jurgen Klopp and how they’d recruit to implement the same style Klopp was using at Dortmund. They developed further from there. United hire the manager and tell them: “Off you go, do everything because we have been messing up in the last 10 years.”.

Well, Some would say, most of the players that ETH bought were his choices though; Martinez, Onana, Malacia, Antony, Eriksen, Weghorst, and Amrabat. Maybe Only Mount, Højlund, and Sabitzer weren’t his choices and he didn’t get FDJ. I would say sure you are right, however, making the manger choose his targets is the problem to begin with.

A manager isn’t going to be the one to find you unearthed gems and young talents that can break the PL and lead United into a new era. It has never been the manager’s job. I see fans saying ETH’s talent ID is garbage. Well, every manager’s talent ID is very much so. Those that succeeded had a team behind them that were doing that job for them. Go ask Klopp and Guardiola.

I think ETH will be the manager to last till the end of the rope. This is not because he’s the best manager in the world or because he’s “elite”. It’s because United have already come full circle with managers. Arnold and Fletcher have seen the mistakes made by Woodward and Judge. Although given the soap opera we saw from United since the beginning of summer, it doesn’t fill me with much confidence. I still do think United will persist with ETH to the last breath and I doubt he will have a bad enough run that could get him sacked. The team despite the holes is good enough to be around 4th-5th. It will take some outside factors to be in United’s favor for them to overachieve a little though.

United have to stick with ETH until they fix the recruitment strategy but they must strip him from the complete control of recruitment he has and let him just focus on coaching the team.

Abdel.

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