In the ebullient cauldron that welcomed United in their first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League two weeks ago, one flag stood out from the many that adorned the away end. It read “All the scenes I saw, left me wanting more”, expressing the thoughts of different generations of Reds, from the older heads to the younger fans who are old enough to remember the Treble.
As ever when it comes to Manchester United, moderation is a luxury fans can’t afford, don’t want to afford and aren’t afforded, as the team this season has gone from being the worst United squad ever (for the third year running, I believe) to the point where is now touted to be in a position to emulate the side of ’99.
As I’ve written before on this blog, talking about the Treble now is cheap, non-sensical and, considering the ordeal we put ourselves through last season, just plain daft. I, for one, would be more than happy to trade the Champions League for the Premier League title, for domestic domination has to be the priority this season, a timely medicine to prevent the blue virus to spread any further.
With Chelsea (and hopefully Rafa) due at Old Trafford in the FA Cup, you’d fancy United to progress, particularly as the team is desperate to win the trophy for the first time in almost a decade and while Tuesday’s clash will be glamorous and crucial, there’s still the small matter of other two rounds to negotiate before reaching the final.
Snapping away from these dreams (which, by the way, I believe to be extremely counterproductive), and regardless of how many pieces of silverware Fergie will have got his hands on by the end of May, there are enough reasons to consider this season as the one that is likely to shape our club’s future for the next decade.
The squad is far from being the finished article, a couple of quality signings would undoubtedly improve the overall stature of the team but, for the first time since the Ronaldo years, United have regained an identity of their own, just as they had done between 2006 and 2009.
United didn’t have a Roy Keane in midfield, but nobody cared as the sharp counter-attacking that Sir Alex had decided to use didn’t require a midfield general. In fact, it didn’t require a traditional striker either.
This season, for the first time since Ronaldo’s departure, and despite the success achieved since, United seem to have successfully matured an identity of their own, despite their league position and progress in other competitions drawing inevitable comparisons with the ’99 and ’08 sides.
United don’t have a midfield enforcer or flying wingers, nor do they have a superhuman like Ronaldo, and nor they should have, for this club’s greatest success has always been the ability to evolve over the years.
The signing of Robin Van Persie has provided them with the most technically-gifted player Old Trafford has seen since the Portuguese departed, Rafael has morphed into the best right-back in the country, Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick have developed an excellent understanding, one that offers rosy prospectives, and in Shinji Kagawa United have a great talent on their hands.
Jonny Evans can now be considered on the same level as Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, while Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have continued their development with excellent results.
Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck have added goals and options up-front, David De Gea has shown his many critics that he’s as good as JoeHartEngland’sNumberOne and after a slow start Wayne Rooney has proved to be his usual crucial self.
United might win the league this season, they might even win the Treble (in which case, good luck to you all with the following hangover) but whatever the outcome, this season will go a long way to shape our success over the next decade.
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Tags: Opinion Piece