The way the season is going at the moment reminds of when Howard Kendall took over from Dave Bassett just before the halfway point of the 1995/96 season. In Bassett’s final days, United had no confidence and were playing badly, losing horribly at home to Derby County and Huddersfield. Most of David Weir’s time was the same.
In Bassett’s final days, United had no confidence and were playing badly, losing horribly at home to Derby County and Huddersfield. Most of David Weir’s time was the same.
When Bassett was asked to leave, Kendall was installed so quickly he must have been approached beforehand. Nevertheless, it was an inspired appointment by new chairman Mike McDonald.
Kendall’s first aim was to give his wobbly team a stronger spine. He did this in an unusual way – by selling leading scorer Nathan Blake. The man Kendall brought in as part of the deal was Mark Patterson, the Michael Doyle of the day. Patterson provided both backbone and bite.
Kendall began with a spate of draws, which were gradually turned into 1-0 wins. From the New Year to the end of March six goals were conceded in 18 games, and United played some sparkling stuff.
Nigel Clough has not had the benefit of being able to deal his players as quickly as Kendall did - no transfer window in 1995 - but Kendall did a lot of business in the New Year (Don Hutchison, Gordon Cowans, Adrian Heath, Gary Ablett and Andy Walker). Clough’s plan is the same as his predecessor’s - shore up the team from back to front, get them organised and knowing what they are doing. So far it has worked - to a degree.
Like Kendall, Clough has cleared out many of the previous manager’s signings. In Clough’s case it is five out of eight (including Simon Lappin). He has kept the two most ‘solid’, in Stephen McGinn and Conor Coady, and allowed himself just one ‘luxury’ - Jose Baxter.
Pragmatism rules, but it has to.