Sir Alex Ferguson Deserves Blame for Manchester United's Poor Form

United are the best story in the country for people who like their stories to come with a side order of not having a clue whether what they're reading is actually true. It's football news on the edge. Well, on the edge of losing all credibility, at least.

Well, aren't Manchester United in quite a state? It's not quite a Chelsea-style fall from grace, but it's still been pretty spectacular to watch - if you can keep your eyes on a match for more than five minutes without nodding off.

It's tricky to know what's going on behind the scenes at the club, with the last month or so proving that it's absolutely impossible to trust anything coming out of the club at the moment. First Van Gaal was being summoned for a good dose of firing just before Christmas, then he was being given the club's full support. Jose Mourinho had written a six-page letter applying for the job - except he hadn't. Reports flew around thoroughly reputable outlets that Van Gaal offered to resign after the Southampton game, before they were quashed barely 12 hours later.

United are the best story in the country for people who like their stories to come with a side order of not having a clue whether what they're reading is actually true. It's football news on the edge. Well, on the edge of losing all credibility, at least.

For all the chaos off the field, the main problems are coming on the big green patch. When they win, they're bad. When they don't, they're worse. The games against Swansea and Newcastle were seen as signs of progress, winning one and scoring three in the other, but even those were laced with more than one 'but'.

'But' Swansea were one of the worst teams in the league on form. 'But' their previously tight defence conceded four goals in those two games. 'But' those three goals against Newcastle came from just four shots on target - the attack still isn't fixed, they were just lucky.

Van Gaal's system has something to do with that, it's true. But the issue of personnel is one that's come up time and again this season, with a number of players misfiring largely of their own accord. There are a whole load of new faces in that squad - and that's not just because Van Gaal likes to spend. This is the bit where we mention the unmentionable, and question how much of this is down to Sir Alex Ferguson.

Fergie left the club just two and a half years ago. That's all. The playing staff, though, is almost unrecognisable. There's not been an anti-'Fergie player' conspiracy or anything, but the players he left his successors with were either distinctly average or on their last legs. It's possible that he really had just finally had enough of management - or it's possible that he saw this nosedive coming and got out at the perfect time to keep his (well-deserved) reputation intact.

13 players started 15+ games in Fergie's final title winning season. Ferdinand and Vidic were both gone by the time Van Gaal arrived at the club, having passed the end of their useful playing lives, while Patrice Evra was well into his 30s and on his way out. Robin van Persie was on the wrong side of 30 too, his form clearly teetering on the edge of the precipice from which his fitness had already jumped head-first.

Among the others were the hopeless Rafael, who never played 20 games in a season before or after that title-winning year, Jonny Evans - possibly actually worse than Rafael - and 'cut-price Michael Carrick' Tom Cleverley.

The only remaining names on the list? David de Gea, an aging Carrick, Wayne Rooney, and the wing pair of Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia - never more than fringe players at the best of times, never mind when nearing 30. Oh, and he let Paul Pogba go less than 12 months before retiring.

The backups for the aging, departing players? Nani. Anderson. Alex Buttner. An undercooked Chris Smalling. Massive upheaval was absolutely necessary - and David Moyes farting about and signing one midfielder per transfer window and nothing else only made the issue worse.

Van Gaal has spent big, for sure. But Angel di Maria aside, none of those buys have gone horribly wrong. The club lost a net £15m on the Argentine, but the likes of Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera and Daley Blind have proven themselves very valuable at various times, and shown just how good they can be if fit and playing - and put in a team who aren't all either young or arriving new to the club.

As for Memphis and Anthony Martial - players barely in their 20s being thrown into a new team, country, and league, under the Manchester United microscope? They'll take time. Given the situation, they've not performed any worse than a reasonable person would expect, and they're only going to be better off in a year or two for being persevered with through their rough starts.

Have Louis van Gaal's team been bad? Yes. But it's a team in transition - and that's almost entirely on Ferguson for leaving the bare bones of an average and aging squad for his successor. If you want to blame Van Gaal, that's fair, but some of that has to splash onto Ferguson too.

Some legacy he's left, eh?

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