We’re Manchester United, we’ll never die

The equation ahead of the Manchester derby is clear: avoid defeat and delay the title confirmation. Easy isn’t it. But with Manchester City in the form they have been, it won’t be a surprise if the title is wrapped up at the final whistle today. But as humiliating the situation for Manchester United fans this can be, we have seen worse days and been back stronger each time.

Let me take you back a decade or so. Remember Chelsea under Jose Mourinho in his first spell there? Chelsea threatened United’s stranglehold on the Premier League and Sir Alex’s side ended up giving them an honor guard at Old Trafford. That is arguably one of the most embarrassing moments in United’s modern history. What followed is also history. While Chelsea won the title the coming campaign in 2005-06, United came roaring back in the 2006/07 season and won the title at a canter.

United’s closest rivals were naturally, Chelsea and United were so dominant that campaign that they had the title wrapped up before the visit to the home of the reigning Champions. United ended up receiving the honor guard as the Champions of the Premier League when they walked onto the turf of the deposed Champions Chelsea. The incident in the 2004-05 season was paid back in kind two seasons later. That is the United spirit.

Chelsea of those years were threatening to establish a dynasty with the quality and deep pockets they had in those days. This is exactly what the City team are threatening to do. United ended hopes of a dynasty then and there is no reason as to why they can’t do it again.

The squad that gave Chelsea the honor guard was in a state of transition. Players like Ronaldo and Rooney were recruited but they were at the level they hit a few seasons later. They were still inexperienced players with sky-high potential. The same can be said of the current crop of United players. Eric Bailly, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and to an extent even Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba.

The players in the current squad have to take lessons from this campaign for obvious reasons and look up to the team of 2004-05 for their mental power. It is a hugely sadistic way of motivating the current crop of players, some of whom have been criticized for being disinterested but it is essential that the team takes it as a shot in the arm rather than a shot in the head like that Liverpool team did against Arsenal back in the old First Division.

United in 2004 were under a rebuild like United are right now.In fact, the current squad arguably is in a much better position with only a few reinforcements needed here and there.

If that example isn’t enough let’s go back to the 2011-12 season. Yes, the “Agueroooo” season. Remember the scenes at the Stadium of Light with the home fans laughing at the squad as City pipped United to the title on goal difference? Sir Alex told them: “Remember this day.” And boy, did the squad use that as motivation to reclaim the title emphatically the following season.

That is the United spirit and for one, I am sure Jose Mourinho will use today’s result as a stinging reminder to restore status quo in English football next season if things go awry. Sir Alex ensured that the incident was a shot in the arm not a blow to the head that would kill the club.

Let me reassure you that I am not suggesting United toss the towel even before kickoff. I expect the eleven that come out of the tunnel at the Etihad to play their hearts out, to play for the badge and for the millions of fans around the world. I am sure most fans will share the sentiment that a fighting defeat will be easy to digest than one where we barely tried.

For sure, Mourinho will be setting his side up to foil City’s title party and there won’t be a single United supporter whether he backs Mourinho or not, who would be upset if Mourinho parks it. But it is important to understand that whatever the result from Derby Day, we’re still Manchester United Football Club and we’ll never die.

Written by Vivek Menon

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