The Theatre of Dreams in my opinion, the Mecca of Football is a place that symbolises victory and portrays a journey of rising from the ashes to the pinnacle of success. Manchester United is one of the World’s most decorated football clubs with a record 20 First Division/Premier Leagues, 12 FA Cups, 5 Football League Cups and record 21 FA Charity Shields. Not forgetting 3 European Cups/Champions League trophies and a Europa and Cup Winners’ Cup to complete the set.
38 of these trophies were claimed under the exemplary leadership of Sir Alex Ferguson during his 26 years in charge. Since Ferguson retired in 2013, the club has won a miserly three trophies (4 if we want to count the Community Shield). However, it didn’t appear to buy the managers time, with Louis van Gaal sacked after winning the FA Cup in 2016 and Jose Mourinho getting the boot a season and a bit after winning the Europa League and Carabao Cup. This clearly illustrates that at a club of this stature, an occasional trophy( barring the league and Champions League) with an inconsistent run in the League will ultimately lead to rolling of heads as it should rightly be.
“That’s not the dream though, to be top four,” Solskjaer said in January this year. “We’re Man United, you should always aim to win the league. We can’t do that this year but we have to get back to that.”
Be it due to lack of resources or for the want of clearing out the cobwebs, Ole has packed off a long list of players and a few more are lining up in the queue. Not all the squad positions will be handed out to the scores of youngsters being promoted despite their talent and promise for experience has no substitute. Big name signings are highly anticipated and media is filled with speculation but even a Jadon Sancho will want to move to a club that’s playing Champions League consistently and chasing the league title rather than just say winning a domestic trophy and finishing below fourth. Same goes for retaining the likes of Pogba or enticing other big names to the club.
From a personal standpoint, any trophy will be Ole’s first at Manchester United and it will also give him the experience and satisfaction of winning a competition which is very much essential for a manager at the top level. However, in the current context, the club and the manager need to aim big as only the league position will determine the Norwegian’s longevity at the club. Keeping Michael Carrick as he’s a fountain of knowledge and a very calm person, and also bringing in Mike Phelan who obviously understands the whole culture of the club is a big thing. The most dominant trait of the United’s DNA , one of Ole’s operative words is trophies. So even though the club is on a long term project, a fine balance of steady progress in the league table with the objective of winning it along with consistent performances in the Champions League will be the main gauge.
Prospects for this Season
League Cup – Quarter Final vs Colchester (H) 18/12
This is a competition that United might be targeting as they are already into the quarters against a relatively mediocre opposition.
Although it more prestigious than League Cup, it might throw up the challenge of squad management and tricky away fixtures that might hamper league progress. So Ole will have to carefully strategise depending on injuries and fixtures before and after. United were braved out by Wolves in the quarter final of this competition earlier in January this year
Currently leading the group, United are certain to progress to the next round. This could be a very vital competition as it provides the golden path of progressing to the Champions League. It also gives United the chance to play our youngsters and evaluate who can be promoted up the hierarchy. However, this European Trophy will need to be approached cautiously keeping the league in mind because staying far off the top 4 despite winning this would raise serious questions.
Managers post Ferguson have hardly had the time to focus on trophies with being stuck in an endless rut of revamping the squad and dealing with the instabilities compounded by inactions of the board. Either they weren’t provided the adequate resources or the right players at the right time. However even from a business standpoint I’m sure Ed Woodward will agree that winning trophies can do only good.
So for potential future signings which the team desperately needs, for Ole’s job security, for the team’s morale and from a financial standpoint, trophies are definitely what a team like Manchester United should be chasing year on year. It’s important to build a team capable of challenging for trophies consistently on all possible fronts. As football is a business of results, short term results are also important. A domestic trophy along with success in the Europa League while finishing inside the top four would guarantee Champions League football, illustrate progress in the League and would hand Ole his first trophy as Manchester United manager, which in my opinion should be the goals for this season.They appear to be realistic and can be achieved through critical player and squad management through the thick run of fixtures and injuries with smart business in the January window.
But as a certain Margaret Mitchell rightly said, “Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect” and Ed Woodward firmly agrees.