Gordon Hill Column : Time To Play For The Club

So Manchester United are heading into the international break with a win. I’m afraid that I remain unconvinced that things will get better in the short term at the club.

The problems at Old Trafford are far deeper than to be solved with a win; no matter how thrilling a comeback win is, especially with a late goal. You watch those moments and wonder what is going so wrong that these occasions are now one-offs.

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Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, United fans have been more used to periods like the first half than the second. I have long since given my opinion about feeling Jose Mourinho is ill-fitted to be the manager of such a club but the issues at United don’t start or end with him.

Mourinho won two trophies in his first season at United. We all hoped that the team would kick on in the league. I for one didn’t hold my breath that the style of football would change but I can understand why fans would hope it might. I was very interested by Gary Neville’s comments the other night but when I look at what reasons the club have for the possible change of manager, their motivations concern me.

It is obviously going to take time to see if anyone can come close to delivering success like Sir Alex did. So one year without trophies is not a complete disaster even if it seems like it is. But if that was the case then Jose Mourinho could have been sacked in the summer.

This is a football-wide problem, but at Manchester United, where they are back page news even, and especially, when they lose, that pressure is greater than anywhere else.

I feel sorry for the fans who are wondering what to make of all this nonsense. They were brilliant on Saturday and then you watch the first few minutes of the game and all those comments about the players playing for the manager come out again.

What happened to pride? You play for yourself first and foremost, and coming in a very close second is playing for the team. At least that’s how it was for me. Maybe that’s what we saw in the second half. What I do know is that you can’t just turn it on and off; confidence breeds consistency and it is obvious to see that United, as a club, are low on confidence.

I never want a manager to lose his job, even if I have never thought Mourinho was the right man. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t lose any sleep if he goes, but I do think it’s not quite right to call for his head. Things have gone wrong but in football today the answer is to make a change at the top, and not give the manager time and patience to see if he can turn it around.

Maybe I don’t think he can. I certainly don’t think Saturday was evidence of it. Were those players playing for him or were they playing for pride? I hope they were playing for pride, because I look at the recent games and it makes me very concerned indeed.

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What happened over the weekend was a circus and a joke. But if Jose Mourinho wants a sign of long term commitment from the club, why doesn’t he make one too? He’s still living in a hotel, two years into the job, having decided not to put down roots. What message does that send to the fans – to the players?

I played in a United team that I feel were just about to challenge for the biggest trophies in the club game, when Tommy Docherty was sacked. We had won the FA Cup and were one or two players from a team that could win the League. We would have had a good go without those extra one or two players. It took ten years to turn it around from the glory days under Sir Matt Busby but we were there.

We’re closing in on six years since United won the League and you have to wonder how far away they are now. It’s not an easy task for any manager. It’s made much easier for a manager if his first commitment is to attacking football. Much easier for him, much easier for the players and much easier for the fans.

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