The figure that attracted me to Manchester United was Sir Alex Ferguson. I saw a United game in 1991 and couldn’t help but notice a certain manager screaming at his players and chewing gum by the sidelines simultaneously. I mean, how many of us can scream and chew gum at the same time? No mean feat, I tell you.
Manchester United of the modern era became both notoriously famous under the Scot. His passion for the game and club rubbed off on the players, crew and fans. Under him, Manchester United became a belief system. Sometimes we were even tempted to believe that teams visit Old Trafford believing they would lose. Why? It’s Manchester United.
The sly Scot retired and United found it difficult getting their rhythm. David Moyes came and found the club bigger than him. Fans angrily flew a helicopter over Old Trafford protesting his continued stay. He was fired. Ryan Giggs took over the remaining games for the season and the ‘Giggs effect’ appealed to fans. Management however, had other plans. Louis Van Gaal arrived. Man, he was neither here nor there. His team lacked direction. Players kept running around like headless chickens. He was fired and José Mourinho came.
United won the first three games and after that, took a moonwalk. For two months, United struggled. The team suddenly looked to lack cohesion. José himself didn’t seem to know his starting eleven. Results just weren’t coming. The long run of bad results saw United land in their 6th place heaven, making the position theirs. From early December however, the team rose. Zlatan started scoring crucial goals, Phil Jones blended well with Marcos Rojo in central defence, Herrera started to look like the guardian angel of the back four he has since become. What changed? Belief.
Manchester United isn’t just a football club. It is a belief system. The team needed a manager who would make the players realise this fact. Moyes was never United material. LVG tried but his passing game with no goals was an eye sore. José Mourinho reminded himself that he is the manager of Manchester United, the most successful English football club. He realised he was actually wearing a shoe left by Sir Alex Ferguson and adjusted. The players too. The old United players picked up the United spirit and belief again while the new ones clearly saw that this wasn’t just another football club. Their senses opened up to the fact that they had joined a football fraternity that demanded top performance week in and out. They believed again. For the fans, they were the only ones that never stopped believing. Every match day they sang their hearts out believing they will see their darling ruthless United again.
The belief was the difference. The mentality and spirit rekindled. The difference between playing for United and any other club is that for another club, you may for a second forget your club. But for United, even in your dream, you are playing for Manchester United. The thought never leaves you.