The date is July 26, 2020. United were facing a Leicester side who were favorites to finish in the Top 4 a couple of months prior. Leicester were hoping not only on winning the game, but also hoping results go their way with Chelsea facing Wolves. It was for all intents and purposes looking to be a cup final for many fans, considering that the title had already been decided early. A Bruno penalty and a late goal from Lingard, who looked to have scored his final goal for United, was all it took to dash the Foxes Champions League hopes. What does this prelude have to do with this article? Raising hopes.
It should not be forgotten that United looked like they were not going to be ending up in a champion’s league position. At some point, Leicester looked like they would end up runners up, while United seems as if they would only be travelling to Europe only for leisure, not for games. We had no right to even contemplate a position in the top four as we were performing below par for most of the season. I remember we were at some points 8 points behind Chelsea and it looked to be one of those seasons all over again.
Enter stage right: Bruno Fernandes.
United for most of the season were lacking a creative spark. A player who would look to provide that dangerous pass to set up an attacking play, who was willing (and talented enough) to take risks, a player who could finally unlock Pogba… We found this player in Bruno. I do not know how the magic behind a new summer signing works, but for some reason, we just looked rejuvenated. Like it was still the same team, but with a bit of an extra shine to them. I refrain from saying we looked like the United of old, but it just looked like things click for us. Pogba looked happy, Rashford terrorised defender’s ankles, Robin van Greenwood blossomed out of nowhere, and it just felt good to be a Red Devil. Top 4 no longer looked like a dream. Then the pandemic hit.
We went for months without football. It was a depressing period. People sadly passed on, and lives were disrupted, but football did come back thankfully. It looked like the momentum we had was lost, but somehow, we did the improbable. We finished third. PSG vibes all over again. Again. Vibes. We somehow overcame the odds when it looked like we should not have. Wait, déjà vu? It feels like we had already been here. Had anything really changed?
Changes at United?
First, it was David Moyes. We were buoyed by the fact that SAF had personally handpicked his successor, and he had shown his capabilities by taking Everton to a fourth-place finish even on a humble budget. A new era was set to begin at Old Trafford. A proven manager was going to be at the helm. What could go wrong?
Then it was LVG (technically it was Giggs, but we will talk former players that managed our club later). A manager who received knighthood for his tenure at Ajax (winning leagues and even the champions league against Milan) and managed both Barcelona and Bayern Munich. His philosophy of pushing youth through would definitely be going down with the United faithful. Let us not forget that he did name a young striker on the bench against Midtjylland, who would go on to do wonders not only at the Theatre of Dream, but also in England. A proven manager with experience and titles was going to be at the helm. What could go wrong?
Then it was Jose Mourinho. Hated by many, adored by the rest. You will always find someone somewhere saying something about him. Rent-free. He will always be remembered for that season at Chelsea where they conceded 15 goals. Still outrageous when I think about it.
He won the treble at Inter, disrupted the duopoly SAF and Wenger had on the Premier League (with a little bit of help from Roman of course), and even won La Liga with Madrid. Sure he is no Zidane, but I doubt even Zidane can replicate that Champions league 3 peat era. The best manager that was available at the time. I did not worry if he did poorly the first season because of “Second Season” Syndrome. We even finished second (though faaar behind City), so the only way forward could only be up. One of the best managers this era at the helm. What could go wrong?
Where to now for United?
Let us pivot back to the present day. We have been through the highs of PSG comebacks and the lows of thrashings by teams we should be beating. With Ole at the wheel, it has been a rollercoaster ride of note being a Red Devil.
And this is not an indictment of the former Molde and Cardiff manager; this is an opinion piece on United’s current affairs. “if you want to see how a club is managed, take a look at who is making deadline purchases.” – Gary Neville. Ole has been saying that he needs squad reinforcement, and I would have thought the club would have backed him up. I am not even going to touch on the Sancho saga, you all know what a mess that was. To think that the squad made most of its signings on deadline day says a lot. If Ole genuinely wanted these players, then all should go well. If not, then we shall see what will happen. I know who the scapegoat will become November if we languish in the second half of the table.
The sad reality is Manchester is no longer Red. As I said earlier, there will be scapegoats, and there will be heartbreak. The players look average all over again, the starting line ups frustrate (although granted I am only a tactical whiz on Fifa so obviously the manager knows more than me), and it looks like we aren’t going anywhere fast. I cannot tell you the last time I watched a United game without accidentally cursing. I know comparison is the thief of joy, but Arsenal fans really got a manager in Arteta. It just looks like they have at least a game plan going forward and winning the FA cup might have bought him more goodwill than most.
I absolutely dislike what United have become over the past few years. And to think in a few more we could be knocked off of our perch and there is sadly nothing that can be done about it. Glazers out and the green and gold campaign don’t look like they will amount to much because we will find a purple patch of form that kills off any movement that tries to make the people at the top uncomfortable.
They say that you never choose your club, you just know it from the day you see them playing for the first time. There is something about them you like; perhaps the kit, perhaps the way they played their football that won over your heart. For me, it was seeing that never die attitude right up until the final whistle. Fergie time became magical, and our rivals hated it. In this era, I truly cannot fathom if this is still the time I fell in love with. I bleed red and will forever be a Red Devil til I die. But looking at the club right now no longer elicits the same joy one used to get from it.