BY SAMUEL SOLADOYE
Sunday is potentially a momentous and historic day for Leicester City as a win in their 36th league match of the season would secure them the Premier League title for the first time since their election to the football league in 1894. Without doubt, it has been some stupendously tremendous effort by Claudio Ranieri’s wards this term. Same cannot be said about the campaign of their opponent on Sunday; Manchester United
The Red Devils are inarguably the most successful club in the history of the English Premier League but on Sunday, they would file out, not as champions or contenders but as a side hoping to play the
‘spoiler’ to what seems inevitable when the boys from the King Power Stadium visit the theatre of dreams. And Ander Herrera shares the sentiment. When asked about the possibility of a win for Leicester City, he said
“…we don’t want them to win the title at the Old Trafford. They deserve to win the league but I hope they can do it at home.”
Manchester United’s Premier League success story can be traced to a certain Alex Ferguson who was at the helm of affairs until his retirement in 2013 after 26 years in charge. Although the Scot believed the squad he left behind “bodes well for continued success”, the reality has been nowhere close to such belief. The “Chosen One”, David Moyes managed the side during the larger part of the 2013/2014 season could only guide the side to a 7th place finish.
CHANGE was necessary and that came in the mould of Louis Van Gaal. The Dutchman, coming off an impressive World Cup Campaign with the Dutch team was seen as the man with the requisite credentials to see the side through its transition.
On Friday, the Dutchman was quick to point out his perceived view of the club’s situation:
“…you have to see always the situation of where the club is, and we have seen that we are in a transitional period, and when I was mentioned as the coach, it was about that we discussed.” While there might be some truth in his assertion, it is only an excuse. LVG remains the bigger part of the reason why Manchester United have stayed in transition and the fortunes of their visitors on Sunday best explains this view.
The Dutchman’s comments on Friday must be towards ensuring that he is given more time. But at a club of Manchester United’s calibre, transition cannot go on forever. If it were to be otherwise, then Claudio’s success this season would be premature. The Italian was faced with the task of keeping the top flight status of a Leicester City side that managed a 14th place finish in the Premier League last term. His task wasn’t made any easier by the atmosphere at the club created by fans disgruntled by the sack of Nigel Pearson. Ranieri has exceeded all expectations in his first season.
The Italian spent a total of 26.9 million pounds in the transfer market during the summer compared to 115 million spent by his Manchester United counterpart. Manchester United managed a 4th place finish last year and are currently outside the top four while Leicester City are guaranteed of a top two finish, an unimaginable improvement from their last campaign. The Foxes have recorded 22 wins and 10 draws totalling 76 points at this stage of the season compared to 41 points managed throughout their entire campaign last season (17-point improvement thus far) in which they suffered 19 losses (they have only lost twice this term). Manchester United lie 5th with 59 points with four matches yet to be played. With a hundred percent record in their final four matches (quite unlikely), they will only be able to manage 71 points; a 1-point improvement on their last campaign under the Dutchman.
The number of goals scored by the Red Devils this season is particularly disturbing. They own the second to poorest stat for goals scored by a team in the top ten with only 42 (only Stoke with 37 has lesser) while the King Power Stadium side has powered an impressive 63 goals past opponents this season. There might be debates over the possibility of ever replicating the feat but it doesn’t conceal the fact that so much can be changed within a short time if the right hands are at work.
Though a LVG faithful would point to a number of first team regulars being out injured for a large part of the season, same can be said for other sides. Even though their city neighbours have not had the best of campaign either, they have suffered injuries as well to the likes of Kompany, Toure, Silva, De Bruyne, and Aguero amidst others.
Manchester United have suffered embarrassing exits from the Champions League, Europa League and dismal domestic campaign. If Leicester City have flown this high in “transition”, in my opinion, a FA Cup win would not be enough to atone for the failings; I believe it is time to explore some other transitional alternatives.