The Acceptance of Mediocrity

Mohammad Y Al Onaizi
5 min readMay 12, 2022


Why did United fans hail mediocre players as World Class?

Why did fans fall in love with mediocre players?

I first fell in love with United in the mid-late 90’s. I loved the Dwight Yorke/Andy Cole strike partnership, and I still remember the brilliantly worked goal between them against Barcelona at the Camp Nou. I loved Beckham’s free kicks and used to always imitate his form (I was never as good). I remember Schmeichel’s red face when he would scream at his defenders, or a hard tackle from Roy Keane that would lift his players and supporters and send fear into their opponents. I used to see that and think “wow, that is a freakin’ group of players I want to cheer for.”

Following that group of footballing greats came another golden era for United. It consisted of old war dogs Scholes, Giggs and Neville, and the addition of new warriors in the form of Ferdinand, Vidic and Van Der Sar. Not to mention the deadly strike partnership of Rooney and Ronaldo. Their leadership value was my favorite part about those players. No matter who wore the armband, you would always see them yelling at each other and wanting to win every game as if their life depended on it. But after that era, something happened with United that made me stop caring for the team. It was during the season they won the 20th league title, I looked at the squad and I didn’t get that same feeling when I saw the late 90’s and mid 2000’s team. There was no player that stood out as a warrior or leader in the team, there was nothing about that squad that made me fall in love with them or made me want to support them. When United had Vidic, Ferdinand etc. I would actually go into depression whenever they lost and not talk to anyone for a few days, because I felt sad for them, they were warriors who poured their heart out on the pitch but it wasn't enough. But when the 20th league winning team lost I didn’t feel sad for them at all, because I saw it as an average squad that lost, and the only reason they won the league was because they had the greatest manager ever.

Lower standards

My drifting away from United can be put down to two players; Michael Carrick and David De Gea. I’ll start off with the former. I was a Carrick fan, and thought it was a travesty that Fabio Capello was not selecting him for the England team when he was in charge. I thought he was the perfect midfielder, that is until the Champions League final in 2009 against Barcelona, where for the first time, I saw a full 90 minute mid-fielding masterclass from Xavi. Watching him made me realize that I had been lying to myself this whole time in believing that Carrick was a great midfielder, and from that moment I was hoping that United buy a world class midfielder that can rival Xavi, because United should be on that level rivalling the best players and best teams, but they didn’t. Carrick remained, was even made captain, and United’s superiority in England and Europe began to wane, because they lowered their standards and accepted having an average midfielder leading them.

“Where would United be without De Gea?” My answer: a lot better off!

Van Der Sar was one of my favorite players, being a goalkeeper myself, I had 2 of his jerseys. I absolutely hated that De Gea was chosen as his replacement, he doesn't have a single quality that Van Der Sar had. No leadership skills; yes he has shit defenders in front of him, but there has been so many defensive rotations this season and they have been a shambles every time… what's the one constant in those defensive rotations? It was the same goalkeeper behind them not organizing his back line, and yelling at them to do their job like VDS and Schmeichel used to do. Another issue I have with him is his frame, he’s too damn skinny! VDS and Schmeichel were massive, them standing in goal made attackers think twice before taking a shot because they are covering such a large area of the goal. But when they look up and see De Gea in goal they think United have a third goalpost, and take the shot cause there is so much goal to aim at. Look at how many shots from distance he faces, they are all trying their luck cause there is a good chance they will score.

He saves not because he’s good, but because he faces so many shots in a game that he’s bound to get some saves.

And don’t get me started on when dives for the ball with his opposite arm… the ball is going to your right side, you go for it with your right hand! Jumping for it with the opposite arm just makes it look more acrobatic, so that United fans can tweet “Dave Saves” and “where would United be without him?” the funny thing is, whenever there is a big game against City, Liverpool or Chelsea, and those same Twitter accounts that laud De Gea do a combined 11, De Gea is rarely picked, but yet, he is still world class!

The season he left Atletico they finished 7th. He was replaced with Courtois and 2 seasons later they won the league! Courtois was replaced with another solid keeper in Oblak and Atletico have been a solid team ever since. If United offered De Gea in a swap for either of those two keepers who replaced him, do you think Atletico and Real would accept? Of course not! Those 2 are solid world class keepers whom you can build a championship team around… David De Gea is not!

Mediocrity United

Like I said earlier, I stopped caring for united once the image of what I knew united was and made me fall in love with them changed. I didn’t support any other team, I just became a Cristiano Ronaldo supporter, I was cheering for him to win and excel in Madrid and Turin. When he re-signed with United I was intrigued by that move, for me it showed intent from United in signing a serial winner, and I had high hopes that Ronaldo would score a bunch of goals and help them win at least one trophy. He did score a bunch of goals like I had predicted, even though he was playing with the worst teammates he ever had in his illustrious career. But this season made me remember all the feelings I had before; CR7 didn’t join Manchester United, he joined Mediocrity United; no leaders, no winners, no passion, just a team full of Carrick’s and De Gea’s, because United fans hailed mediocre players as World Class.



Mohammad Y Al Onaizi

Published author of ‘Retribution’ available on Amazon. Aspiring screenwriter. I write blogs about my life, sports, and politics because that’s what I studied!