I was never really one for sports, played some basketball at junior varsity level, but that was about it. Coming from the second most, soon to be the most, populous country in the world, where its people, divided by several factors but united by their common undying love for cricket, I was never drawn to that either.
My father and his father were ardent football fans. My dad being an avid supporter of Argentina and my grandad being an equally vocal supporter of Brazil. Every four years there would be catcalls, boos, whistles , jeers and all-in-all a raucous atmosphere as the FIFA world cup was being played out. I tried cheering for either side but with not much success. I wasn’t enthralled by what was being played out and gave up. I decided that when the next edition of the World cup rolled out , I would be ready to cheer on with the national team of my choice.
It was the year 2014, when the germans mowed through the opposition like they were made of straws and in particular, decimated the brazilians seven to one. I switched alliances half a dozen times, going with the reigning champions Spain, then Italy, then Germany, then the Dutch. I switched teams based on their performance and whenever the performance faltered, i’d jump ship. Nonetheless this experience made me realise that football is the sport i wanted to watch.
During the formative years of university life was when I came across Manchester united. Throughout my schooling all my friends had supported either Real madrid or Barcelona, very much owing to the fact that arguably the two best players of all time played for those teams.
Manchester united , was in stark contrast, veering towards being another AC Milan, a former superstar leaning on past glories, while fading away into obscurity. I became a fan in the post fergie era, which is intriguing to say the least. Now i’ve asked myself numerous times as to why, why this team in particular and to this day, I still don’t have a definitive answer. Perhaps it’s because of the emphasis on youth which has been a recurring theme, in some of the greatest united squads, perhaps it was due to the manager(Jose Mourinho at that time) or perhaps it simply was down to the fact I’m a gloryhunter myself. Managers have come and gone, but the one constant has been my undying love for my club. Each win savoured like its the last and each loss worse than physical pain.
Jose Mourinhos tumultous reign, was quite boring to say the least. However, the special one won us a couple of trophies and gave us a few hilarious interviews (who could ever forget football heritage?) before succumbing to his very well documented third season syndrome. While he was certainly a pragmatic coach, his brand of football was quite dull. Gone were the days when united used to have fast free flowing football. Mourinhos style involved intricate defensive mastery , drawing the opponent to you in numbers, before unleashing a devastating counter. While the latter half was fun, the former was a snoozefest, which he employed even against lowly opponents. As soon as we had scored a goal or atmost two, he employed his world renowned park-the-bus tactic. Masterclass to his fans, boring to the eyes of the many, impossible to penetrate in the eyes of the opponents.
At the end , he left behind a legacy of a dressing room divided, pogba waxing lyricals about madrid and all the players regressing. The thrashing by liverpool, proved to be Mourinhos last stand; as he was fired hours after the match, a few short weeks after he was criticizing the united board and the Glazers. I shall be writing a whole another piece on how precociously the club is being taken care of (heavy use of sarcasm for the dense), so look out for that.
Stepforth club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was the wildcard entry into the caretaker position. He needed no second invitation and left the managerial position at Molde, the team he guided to the top of the Eliteserien, the Norweigan top football league. I had my fair few doubts and was initially disappointed in the decision to bring in a club legend turned manager in the hopes it would satiate disappointed football fans. Even the though the initial run of games were won easily and we played fast free flowing attacking football, it still wasn’t enough. I started believing in miracles after that night in paris, which will soon be an iconic night for us down the lane. Call it bad individual mistakes from PSG or simply luck, that win was massive for both the club and just increased the calls for Ole to be appointed head coach. He soon was made coach and that somehow coincided with us, just winning a handful of games till the end of season.
Fastforward to the current season (2020/21)and as we are heading into yet another needless international break, during the pandemic, the results are still mixed. We lie 14th in the premier league, getting beaten by the likes of brighton on match day 1, which was shortly followed by a abysmal defeat to spurs , in a game we conceded six goals and scored none. We have found success on the european stage however, beating the likes of PSG (last years finalists ) and RB Leipzig (last years semi finalists), but lost to Baseksehir, which after the game made me question if defending is an unknown art to united. Inconsistency has been our biggest hurdle so far, one step taken is infact 2 steps taken back after the next game. The best thing that we, as united fans, can do is expect the worst; victory under these circumstances tastes all the more sweeter. The incompetent board has been just that,incompetent.In a summer where a couple of proper signings might have had us challenging for the title, we do the absolute opposite and leave all the negotiation until deadline day and as usual, panic buy. Atypical united fashion. This is what happens if we delegate player negotiations to bankers. They treat player negotitions just like they treat united, business venture first, football club as an afterthought. Perhaps by setting us up to fail, Lord Ed Woodward and His holiness, Matt Judge might be onto somthing here.
Ole might not be the right manager to make us compete for the title or be champions of europe, but he has a solid vision; practise attacking football, promote youth and develop players, rightly following the words of SAF “If they’re good enough, they’re old enough.” All the decisions he has taken so far has been with an eye towards the future, all of his goals are long term and that started with a cultural reboot. Gone are the days of marquee signings , now the emphasis is on players who want to play for the club and literally wear their heart on their sleeves. Gone are the days of players coming to united to earn a big fat paycheck while doing nothing (sigh, sanchez ,oh the hopes i had). Hopefully better days are on the horizon. It’s time for the baby faced assassin to be just like how he was a player;ruthless.
Trust in the process. Believe in Ole. I’m united til’ I die!