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Manchester United needs to revive its former self now more than ever

Manchester United are the most decorated team in England, with a glorious history since its inception in 1878. The latest Forbes magazine rankings indicate that they are the World’s Most Valuable football club, and for a second year running. In England, they are the most successful club, with 66 major trophies to their name, including a record 20 top-division titles. The football club also boasts being the first team in England to win the European Cup; a momentous feat that came exactly a decade after the loss of Busby Babes in the Munich air disaster.

Sir Matt Busby’s ultimate departure from the scene led to a slump in the club’s performances; United had to endured a 26 year English League title drought as they struggled to find a perfect replacement for the legendary manager. Then came along Sir Alex Ferguson; the Scottish ensured United produced some of the most exciting football the fans had ever seen. His tenure albeit rocky at first ushered in a new era at United. The uneasiness and weariness of the previous 26 seasons was replaced by a more exciting brand of football.

United were once again the epitome of attacking, penetrative football at its best! Ferguson went on to win 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, and two UEFA Champions League trophies over his 26-year reign that ended in 2013. The post‑Ferguson era has seen three managers desperately try to replicate the United the fans had grown accustomed to with much difficulty. Lethargic displays against Premier League rivals, costly signings and disenchanting form of football saw David Moyes and Louis van Gaal both given their marching orders!

Meanwhile, across town, rivals Manchester City continued to flourish, piling more pressure on United with scintillating performances, scoring freely and clinching two League titles within the same time! Jose Mourinho was eventually brought in to make the Theatre of Dreams a fortress once again and take United to the very top. In his first season, however, United finished in an underwhelming sixth position in the Premier League. Nonetheless, ‘The Special One’ won three trophies including UEFA Europa League, a trophy United had never won in their history.

Following a successful pre-season tour of America in July 2017, United went on an impressive form, ripping through Premier League defenses to bag a total of 21 goals in just five games. An atmosphere of belief was starting to build; was this going to be the year they’d win the 21st? Up until that moment, everything was definitely going to plan. A draw against Stoke City and bitter rivals Liverpool, followed by a loss in the hands of newly promoted Huddersfield United saw City leapfrog them to the summit.

From there onwards, United were left playing catch up all season long; it was difficult to believe this was the same team that had began the Premier League season on a flier a couple of weeks earlier. A few people took offense with the manager’s football tactics, terming them too cautious and demanding a more desirable approach to games, ‘the United way.’ Defeats to Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United and Brighton Hove Albion in the second half of the season left United battling to stay in the top four.

Perhaps one of the most embarrassing moments came when United’s Champions league prospects were ‘euthanized’ by Sevilla; it was a defeat the fans will not forget anytime soon. Having beaten Liverpool the previous weekend, you would have been mistaken to think Mourinho’s men would eventually ease past the Spanish side. Backed by close to 70,000 fans at home, United certainly seemed to have the upper hand going into the game. You could even argue they had the better attacking talent.

In the end, it was the perceived underdogs that rose to the occasion, knocking out a lethargic United at their backyard. Though trophyless, United’s season wasn’t all gloom; there was an obvious progress made in the Premier League. They managed a total 81 points, enough to seal a second spot in the Premier League table. Perhaps another positive is the Theatre of Dreams is resembling something of a fortress again; with opposing clubs finding it hard to find the back of the net.

One thing for sure, United seem to have turned a corner! The next step is the fans must now find a way to accommodate the idea that Mourinho isn’t going to alter his brand of football overnight. He’s not the easiest to get on with, but he demands the very best from everyone at the club and no doubt the fans too. On more than one occasion last season, he called out the fans for being too quiet and lacking in enthusiasm in their support for the team.

The United away supporters have been lauded as outstanding, however, there were times both home and away when the players needed the help of the fans to ignite a fire within them and subdue opponents in the Premier League. The team is way off being the best around; a lot still needs to be done, but they’re not in a bad place. Mourinho himself in an interview after Champions League defeat to Sevilla admitted a lot of changes must be made for United to join the ranks of Europe’s top elite clubs.

With the departure of his long-time friend and assistant Rui Faria, Mourinho has shored up his backroom staff to bring in new ideas as he aims to launch an onslaught to the League title next season. There have been great additions already this summer, with Brazilian international Frederico Rodrigues and Diogo Dalotcoming in. Mourinho will surely be looking to strengthen further; however, with the full backing of the fans, the Portuguese will be left with one less thing to worry about!

Written by George Oduor

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