Life without Sir Alex Ferguson still seems odd, incomplete and the unknown is just too alien for Manchester United fans after nearly 25 years at the top. But since Ferguson’s retirement in 2012, United have not been the same team.
Fellow Scot David Moyes was drafted in by Ferguson, but the ex Everton manager was like a kid at the Ritz, out of his league, even if he had proven himself with the Toffee men by consistently getting the club in the top six. Bottom line and a hint would have been that in his 11 years with the club they didn’t win a single trophy.
United turned their attentions to proven European pedigree and in came Louis van Gaal- who had enjoyed success at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but was much more successful in the Dutch League. Van Gaal spent big but the return was feeble. True he did get United back to playing Champions League football but he also left them without it. An FA Cup in his second and final season was won but a succession of poor to average results and player turmoil was the memory as van Gaal was finally sacked by the club.
The appointment of Jose Mourinho was seen to be third time lucky and it made sense for United to take on the Portuguese since Mourinho had been vying for a decade for the job. Now he had it and now he had what seemed to be a bottomless pit of money to reinforce the squad.
In his first summer in came Eric Bailley, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba, these players alone cost a reported £140m. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a shrewd free capture from PSG.
Mourinho’s debut season with the Reds started slow and cautious but the club started to respond to his methods. Winning a league title was never seen at least this season as possible. Stability and at least one trophy were. In that Mourinho has already delivered with the EFL Cup. Victory over Southampton in the final ensured that Mourinho became the first United manager to win a trophy in his debut season.
United have not lost a game since last October stretching to 23 matches and the belief in the team does remind one of Inter Milan when Mourinho delivered the treble including the Champions League. Whilst Europe’s hottest trophy is off limits for this season United are giving it a great go to win the Europa League. Having reached the semi finals the club will be confident in beating Celta Vigo to reach the final.
Is this it then, have United reached a cross roads where they can move on from the Fergie era? The only way of doing that would be to win the Premier League title, a trophy where Ferguson rewrote the rule book with his 13 wins. And this will be Mourinho’s priority for next season.
He is already talking about spalshing some serious money on players with Antoine Griezmann being tipped to join the club from Atletico Madrid in a transfer that could well brake the world record.
For now Mourinho is wiping away the bitter memory with Chelsea last season and regaining his reputation as one of the best managers in the world. That would have been his own personal goal back in August and he is succeeding emphatically.
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