A lack of leadership at Man United is the reason behind their mediocrity

“United were a shambles,” said Scholes, just after the Europa Cup defeat at Liverpool.

“When you are at Man United there are certain standards to live up to and I think they are falling well short. When we were coming through there were great examples in Robson, Keane, Ince and Bruce setting standards, and we had to live up to those standards.

“The last thing I want to see is United being happy with finishing fourth and winning the FA Cup. Arsenal do that.”

A club legend describes from the heart how he feels about his team almost to the point of tears. The team that he joined as a schoolboy and worked his way up through to the first-team and to glory in the revered shirt of Manchester United, just isn’t the same anymore.

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Sadly for Paul Scholes and other legends associated with the club, an era has now passed where the team, until lately, has largely been foreign players with no idea about what it actually means to play at Old Trafford and for England’s most successful club side. These players are dragged through the door often knowing nothing about the heritage and therefore the passion that Scholes et al showed when they played is missing. It’s just another team – another pay day.

Rio Ferdinand also commented on the lack of fight shown by United: “To see the lack of fight, lack of urgency, lack of cohesion, there’s going to have to be a lot better in the second leg. There’s no excuses. You’ve got to show some sort of fight, but we didn’t see enough of it.”

Van Gaal was told about Rio Ferdinand’s comments and exploded: “You use Rio’s opinion? Very strong of you. I give my opinion,” said the Dutchman. “We did not cope with the high pressure of Liverpool. We expected the pressure. For me it was a surprise we did not cope because they did it the same way in the home match this year. Liverpool created an atmosphere that was fantastic. They played well and we could not cope with that pressure.”

Why not? Playing for Manchester United is pressure. United as a club and its fans expect. They expect much more.

So it comes down to leadership, on and off the park. Off it, Van Gaal has tried in his usual deadpan, strict, disciplinarian way to get the team playing his way. However, within the English league, his way doesn’t appear to be working and once the players see and feel that, they will lose respect for him and will start to drift away from a playing style, the tactics and play as individuals rather than as a team.

On the pitch, they seem clueless and devoid of organisation and that is where players of the past like Bruce, Ince and Keane would have been instrumental.

For a man who played with distinction at the great club, Roy Keane made his feelings clear: “I’m saddened by what I’ve seen from United over the last year or two. It’s like a bunch of strangers have been thrown together.

“When you play for Man United and you put that jersey on, I always felt 10 foot tall but some of these players look like they’re shrinking with the jersey on.”

With Rooney as club captain, but out injured, Mata has been one player to take the armband, but whilst he is a good player, he is most certainly not a leader.

Have the days gone when players like Billy Bonds at West Ham, Tony Adams at Arsenal, Roy Keane at Man United and the many others that lead by example, once played and cajoled, joked and bailed out their teammates?

Where are the leaders, the characters, the men that have the ability to lead and that other players around them look up to and look to for advice and help? Are players now just happy to let a poor performance slip by unnoticed and collect their money?

As The Stranglers once said – No More Heroes anymore.