As a lapsed Manchester United fan, I sometimes find myself dipping in and out of conversations amongst friends, and recently I find myself asking the same question over and over: what has happened to us?
We once stood proud of our club, pampered by the knowledge that we had the best manager in the world, a man who would never leave us, a man who would lead us into any cauldron of opposition hatred to steal a result. We believed we had the best team, not always the greatest individuals, but the best team. We understood what we stood for. Moreover, we didn’t beat our chests when we stomped on the dreams of the enemy.
However, this all seems so long ago; a past recollection of a bygone era in the modern game where cash is king. In contrast, our eternal rivals on Merseyside are beginning to present a side that seem modelled on the hard working, attack-minded machine that once entertained our masses.
The ethos of our club has changed and it seems that nobody is quite sure how to fix it. Perhaps we need to continue on this course and ride out the storm. Maybe Jose Mourinho is the man, or maybe we need to start again.
Sir Alex Ferguson always had his teams believe the world was against us. Yes. Us. He solidified the bond between club, team and supporters and sent us all out there thinking we were slight underdogs and heroes in the making. He convinced us that we had right on our side and that would make even a moral victory feel like a win. Under Sir Alex, we never bowed our heads or slumped our shoulders. We stood proud and carried on through the storm. How do we get back to that?
There isn’t an answer that I’m sure of, I’m afraid – except that maybe the next manager shouldn’t be the obvious choice. Maybe our next knight in shining armour should be more of a diamond in the rough than a fully formed trophy laden autocrat. After-all, when Fergie travelled south from Aberdeen in 1986, he was hardly the fully formed football god he would become. I’m fairly sure we’ll never see his like again.
So, how do you solve a problem like Mourinho? Personally, I like him, but I have never been convinced his footballing philosophy is in keeping with our club. Furthermore, I think he needs a break from top flight football more than any other manager alive. That cheeky twinkle in his eye he carried around has long been extinguished, and it was that cheeky twinkle that made so many fans love him. Lets face it, any football fan worth their salt would have begged to have him as manager of their club 14 years ago when he stunned European football with Porto in the Champions League. Additionally, Chelsea wouldn’t be the club they are today without Jose Mourinho. Nowadays, it seems he is like the ageing sports star. Long since past his prime, and raging against the dying of the light on his career by making increasing desperate decisions. Marouane Fellaini being a case in point; awarded a new contract at Mourinho’s behest with the club reportedly happy to let him go.
Manchester United supporters have increasingly become more defensive of late, sounding like past Liverpool fans under the rule of Rafa Benitez, defending the clubs rich and glorious past. Like United, the fans are badly in need of light at the end of the tunnel.
Lets hope that light isn’t the oncoming headlights of the momentum gathering Merseyside train.