With the new season upon us, Manchester United fans are finally embracing authentic optimism for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired three years ago.
In the summer of 2013, when the greatest manager in football history decided to call it a day, his last decision could well be regarded as the greatest mistake in the club’s history.
To put David Moyes’ appointment into perspective, he boasted a single second division title with Preston North End on his CV and was replacing one which included 38 trophies in 28 years at United.
Moyes, of course, isn’t as bad a manager that portrays, though he was certainly ill prepared to take over from Ferguson at the biggest club in the world. Instead Jose Mourinho should have been pursued.
The Portuguese can go on and on about how he wouldn’t have taken the chance if he was asked, but we all know that’s a lie. The hot seat at Old Trafford is a job Mourinho has dreamt of, with reports even suggesting he cried when it wasn’t offered to him. It wouldn’t be a surprise if that was true.
Maybe he’ll admit it now as the ambition becomes a reality and the blunder has been rectified before the most competitive Premier League ever. Eight league titles in four different countries and two Champions League trophies since 2003 shows why he is the most successful manager in the modern era. United have finally found the perfect match.
Mourinho is a man that will be up to the task, unlike the last two failures. He possesses the same influence, mentality, drive and confidence of Ferguson. He is a winner. His players know he is in full control and will enjoy working in the midst of his conviction and leadership. They’ll want to win silverware not only for themselves, but for Mourinho too.
With being the best comes dislike from others. The 53-year-old’s arrogance and over-protection of his squad will wind rivals up and in the long run United will be hated again. It may seem strange to think that’s good, yet that’s what United are all about; not getting laughed at for finishing seventh, getting embarrassed by the so-called minnows of the league, playing the most dire football that could send you to sleep and missing out on the chance to play in the Champions League which used to be a formality.
They’ll be hated for doing all things right once again, restoring the compelling fear factor to the most famous half of Manchester.
Finally no more of trying to make it difficult for Newcastle United at Old Trafford — which would be quite an achievement considering they’re in the Championship but you get it — and ridiculous philosophy talk. More of “we will” rather than “we might.” Winning is an obsession for Mourinho, it’s supposed to be the same for United.
United’s support, especially away, with Mourinho will bounce off and revel in each other’s presence. There has always been respect between the two, even when Mourinho came to Old Trafford looking to take points off their side. It’s as if they both knew that they would once be together through the magnitude of their capabilities.
Mourinho has conquered every club he has managed and built a great authority. In contrast to his two anxious predecessors, he has not been scared to make his mark immediately. Already firing digs at the nemesis is something the Manchester-based journalists have missed spilling in their papers.
His moves in the transfer market have been undoubtedly superb. Mourinho has always been brilliant at identifying the spots in his side that needs strengthening and the signings have represented another justification of that. Eric Bailly, who has impressed with his composure in pre-season, is the only defensive recruitment which may worry some, though this defence conceded the fewest goals in the league last year.
Henrik Mkhitaryan will provide the type of pace and creativeness from out wide that’s been lacking at Old Trafford. If he starts like he finished his last campaign United will be seeing the special talent that helped the Armenian conjure 23 goals and 26 assists in all competitions for Borussia Dortmund.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic needs no introduction, neither does the return of Paul Pogba. Two exciting mega deals . One on a free, one for a world record transfer fee — though both their dexterity and prowess will prove equally important and provide a huge part of Mourinho’s masterplan.
Luke Shaw’s return will also feel like a new signing, with his fitness proving essential to the dynamism of the style his manager has in mind. He had emerged as the team’s most compelling player in the early weeks before his horrific injury in 2015-16 and has already shown signs of being back on the road to his best.
A trip to Sweden for a friendly against Galatasaray and another to Wembley Stadium for the Community Shield with league champions Leicester City helped erase some memory of a frantic pre-season tour in China. Special strikes, free-flowing football, youth impressing and a thrilling seven goals scored with the first piece of silverware secured, finally under a manager with the pedigree to challenge for everything.
It all already sounds a bit like the old United, doesn’t it?