Eleven years ago this week, Manchester United were victorious in the Champions League final, defeating Chelsea on penalties, in a rain sodden Moscow. Having just shed a tear from watching the highlights of that night on Twitter, its clear that I am either still feeling under the weather, or that its so upsetting, at how far away we are as a club right now. To be competing on all fronts again like that, could well be a long while off. At present, this has to be the first summer as a United fan that I can think of where I honestly don’t think we can compete for the title next season.
When Liverpool were dominating during the 1970’s and 80’s, league and European cup success was like an everyday occurrence. Throw in some FA and League cup triumphs for good measure, and all in all, it was a good time to live on the Mersey. Everton, with their short but sweet attempt at shifting power in the city, took on their own mini spell of success. The mid to late 80’s proving very fruitful for the men from Goodison. The end of that decade, would see Liverpool, again become top dogs in the city.
Meanwhile, Manchester United would embark on a run of 26 years in which their efforts to regain the ‘ Division One ‘ title, would see them fall short on a number of occasions. So much so that in the 1973/74 season, United would fall so far short that they would fall out of the league itself! That fateful relegation just five seasons after securing a League and European Cup double in 1968, must have felt like the end of the world to the older generation of supporter. What happened next? A change of style, fresh blood and a record attendance at every home game for a Second Division game, was set to follow, as well as promotion as champions.
Now the point I’m making is this. No team in England has the divine right to be champions. I am of course missing out any cup wins during this as we all know what a fine cup side United had become during those 26 years.
United will head into the start of the 2019/20 season looking to end a run of seven years without a league title. My thoughts are that I don’t think we have the capabilities at present to compete next season, I hope I am wrong. As it stands, a lot of squad unrest with contracts and ego’s, seem to unsettle the ship. The last six seasons have heralded a total of just one title challenge. To even call that a challenge is laughable. United’s hopes were quashed in the Christmas of 2017, when home draws with Burnley, Southampton and an away draw to Leicester, effectively handed Manchester City the momentum, in which they took with both hands.
City would go on to win the league and with United needing binoculars to see them in the distance, somehow managed to finish second, in Jose Mourinho’s last full season in charge.
Since United’s last title, the following league positions have been achieved:
2015/16 5th – FA Cup
2016/17 6th – League Cup, Europa League
2017/18 2nd – FA Cup Runners up
Is the pattern re emerging as United again becoming a cup side for the foreseeable future?
Arsenal, having won the Premier League trophy in 2003/04, as invincibles no less, are still waiting for a podium moment at the now Emirates Stadium. Moved from Highbury soon after the invincibles season to attract bigger crowds and more revenue, yet the Gunners are still waiting on another day in the sun.
Manchester City are on the crest of a wave at present, although a billion pound investment will always do that for you. Before such money was ploughed into the Blue Mooner’s, the banner at Old Trafford read 34 years. The period in which City had spent pot less and trophy less, until 2010.
Liverpool, so close to claiming their first top flight title since 1990, head into a 30 year period. Granted a couple of Champions League appearances and domestic cups along the way have helped ease the burden… slightly. Ask any punter on a Saturday afternoon, and its the league that’s your bread and butter.
City are going to take some shifting. Liverpool and Spurs are also looking like they will be long term challengers. Here’s to hoping that we are not at the beginning of another multi decade of so near, so far stories. Always keep the faith, but can also be a realist. Leicester City came from nowhere just a few seasons ago, to upset the footballing top order. For United to do the same next season, would be something short of magical.
Ole’s at the wheel!