The well worn and often used phrase “it’s not over till the fat lady sings” fits a myriad of situations in life. Whether its own roots lie in misogyny, sexism or people (ladies) who have weight problems, seems irrelevant in its overall usage.
Where football is concerned the fat lady breaking into song might be used as a metaphor for the fast approaching season, the ’endgame’ of this summer’s transfer market and the start of real football. On Friday 11th August Arsenal play Leicester City in the opening match of the new Premiership 2017-18 season.
The fat lady I presume will at least be clearing her throat by then. Her voice will be a little louder and clearer for Manchester United supporters on Sunday afternoon when West Ham United visit Old Trafford.
However, her voice will not be in full bloom, at its loudest, so to speak, until the end of August when the transfer window finally closes at least until January. While the window remains open it is still possible that United will add to their numbers, Jose Mourinho is still chasing another one or two. Who they might be is the stuff of tabloid newspapers with the exception of Gareth Bale, where the Welshman is concerned the fat lady has already sung on his behalf. The chase to sign Bale is over for at least another year.
The opening of the Premiership season comes after a pre-season tour of many highs and a few lows. Has this Manchester United tour of 2017 been the best? A look back at recent history suggests maybe not, which raises the question of how much relevance should the supporters put on them.
It is arguable that Manchester United have never had a better pre-season tour than in the early days of Louis van Gaal’s management, season 2014-15.
Then, as now, the preliminary premiership tour took place in the United States. When it was over it left most Manchester United fans with a feeling of great optimism for the approaching premiership season.
LA Galaxy, Roma, Internazionale, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Valencia were all defeated. United scored 18 goals (5 more if you count a penalty shoot-out), and conceded 5 ( 3 more if you count the penalty shoot-out).
Everything looked good for the start of the Premiership season and the home match with Swansea City on the 16th August 2014 seemed a heaven sent opener. However, Swansea’s 2-1 win, their first league win at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground, vanquished the embryonic hopes of the previous summer.
The reality, as they say, set in quickly and the Louis van Gaal era with its baffling philosophy and sideways, backwards football had arrived not to everyone’s liking. Mr Van Gaal’s tenure was going to last for two seasons before the Dutchman was ousted from the job, arguably on the day of his greatest triumph, winning the FA Cup against Crystal Palace at Wembley.
Fast forward to present day July – August 2017, and the latest tour of the USA and Europe under Jose Mourinho has also gone very well, very well indeed.
Wins against LA Galaxy, Red Salt Lake, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Valerenga and Sampdoria with a solitary defeat against Barcelona has one presumed, given the team confidence.
Although a 2-1 defeat against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup on Tuesday evening showed a certain lack of communication across United’s untried backline and sharpness up front, United under Jose Mourinho is improving and look a stronger unit than last season.
As in the days of Louis van Gaal, with the Premiership season only a few days away, all the omens look good. Of the new signings Victor Lindelof has not settled in as well as United fans would have hoped but it is early days and Lindelof must be given time to get used to the club, his teammates and the premier league.
Romelu Lukaku is scoring goals, and missing chances, but he is also getting behind defenders and widening up the pitch for others to exploit. Whilst Nemanja Matic silenced some of the doubters in his first 45 minutes debut against Sampdoria in Dublin.
Matic who also had an excellent game against Real Madrid seems to have hit the ground running in his Manchester United career. Perhaps not such a coincidence having already played under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea. Matic is a player Mourinho called a Mourinho player if that makes sense. Affirmation if it were needed of the value Mourinho sees in the signing of Matic.
Of the younger element in the squad, the stand out player was Andreas Pereira who has surely convinced Mourinho that he is good enough to be part of the main squad thus ruling out another loan move.
After the 2014 tour Louis van Gaal looked forward to what he hoped would be a three-year contract at the greatest club in the world. Alas the fat lady sang in his second year and his time at United was over, all too soon van Gaal would say, but that is football at the top table.
Jose Mourinho now enters his second year in the hot seat but the omens are far more favourable for him. The fat lady’s appointment book should not have her visiting Old Trafford any time soon, except, hopefully, for celebrations in the near future.
Mourinho, apart from being sacked in his second year of his second term at Chelsea, has a habit of winning the league in his second season at a club.
After winning three trophies in his first season the chances of keeping up with that record are good if Mourinho has the players he required to do the job.
Perhaps the fat lady should leave 13th May 2018 open for a guest performance, United’s final game in the Premiership at home against Watford and a possible premiership trophy.
Will United’s good pre-season tour be a foretaste of the season ahead? Or, as with van Gaal’s tour of 2014 will it remain a pleasant passing memory in the next few months? The wait is over and United supporters will soon have answers to those questions.