During one of Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s 20 defeats at Old Trafford, the opponent was amazed when he remained in his place when Manchester United fell behind, and amused himself when one of his staff went into the technical area instead of roar ‘Wakey wakey’.
While the unscientific message was directed at the underperforming United players, it would also reflect how fans feel about the club as a whole.
Cristiano Ronaldo would probably agree as he compares how the club was when he left them as Champions League finalists in 2009, with how they are now, trophies in four years and nine points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea after just 11 matches .
After rejoining Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo can clearly see the club’s decline from grace
Ronaldo’s poor challenge against Kevin De Bruyne at the end of a one-sided Manchester derby on Saturday reflected his personal frustration.
Formerly accustomed to working with Carlos Tevez and an excellent Wayne Rooney up front, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner had 20-year-old ongoing work Mason Greenwood next to him against City.
But it is not only during matches that Ronaldo will have noticed differences in the 12 years he has been away.
No Fergie to put the atmosphere, less quality and experience among the coaching staff, necessary investments in the stadium and training ground, United are no longer fire leaders on or off the field.
There is no doubt that Solskjær is a personal person and knows Manchester United inside and out. But given his own modest management resume, it’s surprising that his coaching staff is also largely unproven.
When Ronaldo won the Champions League in 2008, he saw Ferguson use established and well-respected figures Carlos Queiroz and Rene Meulensteen to run coaching sessions, take into account the latest tactical trends and ensure that players were in top condition.
This allowed Ferguson to focus mostly on its own strengths, crew leadership and create the right working environment at Carrington.
Ronaldo played with an excellent Wayne Rooney before, but now has a young Mason Greenwood
Although he could occasionally pull out the hair dryer, Ferguson actually ensured that his players got into a happy and positive camp. He sometimes deliberately made himself an autumn guy, practicing his French on the overseas players, often to the howl of laughter.
Solskjær also wants to be the big supervisor, but there are doubts from senior players in the squad, especially the expensive import, that the coaches he trusts are up to the job.
First team coach Kieran McKenna is 35 and has a background in academy football. His knowledge is not questioned, but he lacks gravitas to excite some of the biggest names in the game.
“You can not get people to learn at a job,” summed up Sky Sports expert Jamie Carragher
Former United midfielder Paul Ince was more brutal: ‘You have an under-23 coach (McKenna), Michael Carrick – no coaching experience. Mike Phelan, I do not know what he’s doing.
‘It’s Ole’s coaching staff. Compare that to the world-class players you have on the team. ‘
There are concerns at United that Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s coaching team is too inexperienced
Sir Alex Ferguson had people like Rene Meulensteen (left) and Carlos Quieroz (right) with him
Like Solskjær, Carrick won several trophies as a United player. But working with the first team as a coach is the former midfielder’s first job in football since retiring.
Phelan is a nod to the glorious past and he was Ferguson’s last assistant manager before retiring. Although he is a visible presence on match days, Phelan himself admits that his current role is more like a bridge between different departments than the daily dealings with players.
“One of my strengths may be listening,” he says. ‘I have listened to many things, not just to football coaches, I listen to what is going on in the club’s organization and get involved in it.’
For Ronaldo, it is far from learning from Queiroz, who had made it to four continents, including Portugal and the South African national team, before his two seasons as Fergie’s No. 2 at Old Trafford.
He also benefited from Meulensteen working one-on-one to exploit his potential. “He was very talented when he came, but I think he was the player I did the most sessions with individually because he felt it made him better,” Meulensteen recalls.
Special coach Eric Ramsay was hired by Chelsea to great acclaim, but United have yet to score on a corner kick or free kick in the Premier League this season and have conceded three in – the same as Newcastle. Some of the players are still believed to be convinced.
United’s Carrington training ground is outdated compared to other Premier League facilities
Leicester is the latest top club to open a lavish and expensive new training ground
In addition to a decline in coaching know-how, Ronaldo may have noticed that the facilities at United, although still impressive, are no longer worldwide.
When Carrington opened in 2000, Fergie was like a proud parent showing friends and colleagues around the establishment. For him, it was a long-term benefit to the success he had brought United on the field.
Carrington needs improvements and there are hopes of expanding changing facilities, offices, gyms, catering and car parks
But 20 years later, the stadium and even the training facility look a little tired.
Old Trafford has had rats, a leaky roof and rotting paint. Manchester City players can stay overnight before home games at their Etihad Campus facility, Leicester and Tottenham players can relax by playing golf after training without having to get into their cars first.
United spent £ 20m on Old Trafford last summer, where they improved and enlarged the changing rooms, installed new floodlights and distributed the pitch.
But Carrington, which is the players’ daily workplace, needs improvements. Planning applications were submitted to the Trafford Council for a stand with all seats and LED floodlights so seats can be used more often.
There are hopes of expanding changing facilities, offices, gyms, catering and parking to keep up with what Premier League rivals now have to offer. Given that Leicester have spent £ 100 million on a new training facility, it will be interesting to see what Glazers invests.
It is believed that one of the reasons why Manchester United women’s coach Casey Stoney left the club is that her team sometimes had to work out their training plan at Carrington around what the men’s team did, had a 10-minute walk to the nearest toilet and found gym outdated.
Old Trafford has had rats, a leaky roof and rotting paint and is starting to look tired
United fans often complain about the leaky roof at Old Trafford – it was especially bad as there was heavy rain ahead of the Manchester derby (left) in 2019, while fans who watched Olympic football in 2012 (right), also was caught by it
Old Trafford has had problems with mice before and the rodents have been seen on the pitch
Solskjær has fled the madhouse this week to go home to Norway with his family during the international break. There are a number of high-profile United players who are not on guard for their countries, including Jadon Sancho and Donny van de Beek, but after the City disappointment, the manager may have decided that a little time and space was best for everyone.
Commercially, Ed Woodward has kept United in the higher levels of the World Cup despite not winning the Premier League since Ferguson retired in 2013, or the Champions League since Ronaldo’s first round.
This season, they signed a £ 45 million a year deal with software firm TeamViewer to sponsor the team’s jerseys – an impressive amount given the Covid crisis.
Woodward promised to go after the failure in the European Super League, but there is now talk that he should continue in some consulting role.
United estimate they have a billion fans worldwide, but sooner or later a failure will begin to lower that number. If you see a baby every day, you will not notice it growing, but someone who has not seen them for six months will notice it right away.
After 12 years of absence, Ronaldo can see the differences in post-Ferguson United more clearly than anyone else.