THE sight of Old Trafford’s new transfer guru sitting in a boozer hosting a strategy meeting with the Red Army confirms what many already suspect.
Manchester United are now a pub team.
Fledgling chief executive Richard Arnold was tipped off about the presence of a mob of p****d-off supporters planning yet another anti-Glazer protest, so dashed to his local to get them a round in.
The secret filming gave it a Panorama-style sense that this was a meeting that shouldn’t be happening.
A modern-day Roger Cook covertly recording a drug deal or talking tactics with a secret swingers’ sect in the Cheshire suburbs.
If Arnold’s contacts in the transfer market were anywhere near as good as his hoolie spotting mates, then things wouldn’t seem so bad.
But Arnold’s impromptu pow-wow has been the only talking going on at the self- appointed ‘biggest club in the world’, which also seems to be winning the title of ‘worst run’.
Arnold’s predecessor Ed Woodward kept as far away as possible from the hoi polloi, eventually in fear of his safety.
But it’s hard to imagine Peter Kenyon, Martin Edwards or legendary boss Sir Alex Ferguson dropping everything at home to dash out and quell a baying mob with two dozen bottles of WKD and some packets of pork scratchings.
That is how low United have sunk under the detested ownership of the Glazers.
The botched transfer policy, which looks from the outside as if it was regularly drawn up on beer mats, came to an embarrassing climax only recently.
Just watch how midfielder Pogba, in particular, is suddenly reborn as a world-class player wherever he rocks up next.
Matic is embedded already under Jose Mourinho at Roma and Lingard is wanted by West Ham and Newcastle.
Arnold, we’re told, is a dyed-in-the-wool United fan.
Coming from Chelmsford that stands to reason.
To his credit, he is said to be an ordinary fan who is just as much at home in the snug as in the VIP boxes.
Fair play to him for fronting up to the angry mob that are fed up with watching their once titan of a club slip quietly away from any sense of belonging to the elite of the game.
But there is a feeling that United are already staring at another wasted year, with the new season still six weeks off.
It’s not unusual these days for Old Trafford to be as quiet as a church on matchdays but the silence on transfers is even more alarming.
AJAX THE HUNTING GROUND
When Christian Eriksen, 30, a man who suffered cardiac arrest on a pitch, is torn between signing for a club with a 75,000-seater stadium or tiny Brentford, then something is wrong.
Incoming manager Erik ten Hag has, so far, shown only limited imagination in how he wants to rebuild a squad in need of urgent renovation.
As the hipster’s choice, we were expecting a lengthy list of cultivated playmakers, ballers, and little-known stars in the making, known only to the Dutchman and his intricate network of contacts.
Instead, United seem to be limiting themselves to chasing after former Ajax players who, like Eriksen, don’t appear keen to play for a club that is wallowing in past glories having not won the league since 2013 with no end to that in sight.
Frenkie de Jong, Antony, Lisandro Martinez, Jurrien Timber. All either still playing for, or former players of, Ten Hag’s old club.
Sam Allardyce conducted a managerial tour of England employing the same tactic for years with Kevin Nolan.
If Ten Hag doesn’t pull his finger out and find someone willing to play for the 13-times Premier League champions, then those fans will be back down the pub every weekend.
And Arnold is going to end up with English football’s biggest beer belly.