All posts by jim @1211plussubs

A Manchester United follower from Busby to Mourinho.

Jose Mourinho, Part Of The Problem Or Part Of The Solution?

Back in what some Manchester United supporters would call their ‘Golden Age’ when Sir Alex Ferguson ruled the roost there was a certain process when it came to pre-match press conferences. Usually the day before the game Ferguson would greet the press at Old Trafford with a certain banter, then speak about the coming game, then give his thoughts, take questions and disappear.

It would be remiss of me to say that Ferguson’s press conferences were always an uplifting experience for the journalists. At times Ferguson was the pit bull you crossed the street to avoid and if he took a dislike to a reporter, the reporter could find himself barred from the press briefing for a week, or a month or even longer. Ferguson, like the proverbial elephant, never forgot a wrong or a slight to his team or his character or his family.

Fast forward through the David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal era’s, now it is Jose Mourinho’s turn to command the press conferences and in which, for the moment anyway, he resembles a man who would rather be somewhere else entirely. The pre-season tour for Mourinho had been a summer of sulk and misery which the manager has now seemingly taken into the Premier League.

Without a doubt, It has been a really, really bad week for Manchester United and Mourinho. Since their last game, a shambolic loss at Brighton a week ago, the media has been divided about Mourinho’s future at the club. Most of the celebrity media pundits have pronounced the end for Mourinho sooner rather than later, with only the odd voice eg. Neil Custis of the Sun, expressing a balanced argument in Mourinho’s defence. So with the storm clouds gathering, Manchester United faced their third game of the new Premiership season at Old Trafford on Monday night, 27th August against Tottenham.

Mourinho sprang a surprise by playing Chris Smalling and Phil Jones and Ander Herrara in a back three allowing Luke Shaw and Anthony Valencia to play as wing backs in more advanced positions. For the most part, United had a good first 45 minutes surviving a good penalty shout when Jones brought down Lucas Moura clearly in the box. Spurs however benefited when Romalu Lukaku rounded the goalkeeper at the other end and shot wide of an open net.

In the second half United play resembles the shambolic mess they had produced at Brighton the week before. Once Harry Kane had headed in from a corner to put Spurs 1-0 up the doubts and insecurities came back to the United players. A bad mistake by Herrara allowing Christian Eriksen to be onside was punished when his cross was guided in by Moura.

Shortly after Dele Alli should have put Spurs 3-0 ahead after another defensive mistake by Victor Lindelöf. However, it was not too long before a clumsy tackle by Smalling allowed Moura to once again break free and slot the ball home to make it 3-0. Manchester United have now played 3 matches and lost 2 of them very badly.

In a show of defiance or solidarity depending on your point of view, Mourinho made a point of standing in front of the Stretford End for over a minute clapping them for their support. In the press conference afterwards, Mourinho seemingly was so annoyed with the questions asked that he stormed out demanding more ‘respect’ for the achievements and work he has done, not only at United but in football in general. It may well have been a classic Mourinho gesture to deflect criticism from his underachieving team but I doubt that.

Manchester United’s next match is away at Burnley on Sunday 2nd September. This game now seems to have become the latest one Mourinho cannot afford to lose if he is to keep his job. Mourinho may be helped somewhat in that respect because Burnley play Thursday night in the Europa League and may on Sunday be suffering from fatigue.

On Friday Mourinho faces the press once again to discuss the Burnley match but it might take other directions considering how the last one finished up. There is no doubt that there are serious issues at Manchester United on and off the field of play at the moment, however, whether Mourinho is part of the problem or part of the solution, only time will tell.

Manchester United Crumble At Brighton Rock

Brighton 3 Manchester United 2

Sunday 19th August 2018 was a historic day in the life of Manchester United Football Club. Why? Because at 2 pm Manchester United Women’s Team made their bow into the world that is Women’s Football. In defeating Liverpool Women 1-0 in the Continental Tyres Cup they got off to a perfect start.

At 4 pm Manchester United men took the field at Brighton on the south coast of England. After 90+ minutes they lost 3-2 and the analysis and examination began in earnest.

The irony of these two results will not be lost on anyone who follows the club. Manchester United Women have been put together in the last six weeks from scratch. However, they played as a united unit and fully deserved their reward, a historic opening victory against Liverpool.

Manchester United men, however, have been put together over the last two and a bit years by Jose Mourinho and yet they played at times like they were the ones cobbled together during the summer. In this match the defence could not defend, the midfield was overrun and the attack had very little help from the midfielders.

Speaking later Paul Scholes remarked that the job of a midfield was to get the ball to the forwards, make opportunities for scoring situations. A midfielders job is to win the ball and pass it to a forward, not sideways and backwards.

Scholes added “There’s a lack of leaders in the team. We thought Paul Pogba might be the ideal candidate to be that leader but he wasn’t there today. He had another really poor game. He’s so inconsistent.”

Paul Pogba, who captained United for the second time this season to his credit once again spoke honestly after the match. Saying “his side did not have the right attitude against Brighton.” Which on the face of it is a remarkable admission two games into the new season.

The first half was shambolic with schoolboy defending by Lindelof and Bailly. In a two minute spell, Murray beat Lindelof to flick the ball past De Gea, them Bailly lack of positional sense and mistimed tackle led to Duffy putting Brighton 2-0 up. Young was beaten time and again on United’s right side where the majority of Brighton’s threats came from.

Although Lukaku headed in to make it 2-1, Bailly committed another ill-timed tackle in the penalty box, the resultant penalty was blasted home by Gross giving Brighton a 3-1 halftime lead.

As bad as United were in the first half the expectations were that after a rousing half-time team talk from Mourinho, United would find a way to up their game and perhaps even go on to win it. A pundit on MUTV, the clubs official television channel, said at halftime with United 3-1 down that “if United were to score first in the first half of the second half they (United) would go on to win”. MUTV logic at its best, however, whilst United did score from a very late penalty for a tackle on Fellaini there was no recovery and Pogba’s goal was little more than a consolation.

United now face a must-win game at home to Tottenham next week if the season is to be put back on track. Already football pundits and social media wannabees are predicting the end for Mourinho at Old Trafford. One thing is for sure if there are many more lacklustre performances by his team the end of United’s third manager since Sir Alex Ferguson retired may not be far away.

THE TEAMS
Brighton & Hove Albion:
Ryan (GK); Montoya, Duffy, Dunk (c) (Balogun 20), Bong; Knockaert, Stephens, Propper, March; Gross (Kayal 90); Murray (Locadia 90+3).
Subs not used: Button, Bernardo, Bissouma, Jahanbakhsh
Booked: Murray (66)

Man United: De Gea; Young, Lindelof, Bailly, Shaw; Pogba (c), Fred, A.Pereira (Lingard 46); Mata (Rashford 46), Lukaku, Martial (Fellaini 60).
Subs not used: Grant, Smalling, Herrera, McTominay.
Booked: Martial (45)

Referee: Kevin Friend : Attendance: 30,592

jim mcveney

Surprises And No Surprises As The Premiership Returns At Manchester United

It was apparently odds on that Manchester United would sign at least one new player as the transfer season came to a close, or to use the more modern phrase “slammed shut”. Jose Mourinho only a few days before had said in his televised interview he had given a list of five players to the CO Ed Woodward some time ago. Now he added he would like two but he would be happy with one. In the end apart from an untried youthful defender, an ageing goalkeeper and a Brazilian midfielder with the unlikely name “Fred”, there were no other major recruits.

Whatever goes on at boardroom level that the fans are not privy to, reading between the lines, it seems Mourinho’s choice of buying ready-made stars has now come to an end. In truth, the idea of buying another centre back when there are five at the club seems a bit odd. So Mourinho has to do the best with what he has in this squad at least till January.

In their opening game against Leicester City, last Friday night United huffed and puffed and just about got over the line against a determined team 2-1.
Awarded a penalty if the early minutes Paul Pogba, who has his own narrative going on at the moment, attacked the ball in the style of a man trying to walk up a down escalator, before placing it firmly in the net putting United 1-0 up.

Luke Shaw who has endured a couple of seasons of personal highs and lows but mainly lows scored his first ever goal in the Premiership in the second half. In the end, his goal won the match as Jamie Vardy headed in for Leicester, from a curling cross which hit the post, in injury time. It must have seemed strange for the travelling Leicester City supporters to see Vardy only on the substitutes bench at the kickoff.

Mourinho in his press conference after the match explained that because of the World Cup and the subsequent lack of training due to late holidays some of his players were not ready. Pogba however, he said, “was a monster” to last as long as he did according to Mourinho at least.

Interestingly David DeGea who had returned from the World Cup showed once again on a couple of occasions why he should be classed as the finest goalkeeper in the world. He left the blunders he sometimes shows when he plays for his national team, Spain, on the field in Russia.

For a brief moment on Friday night Manchester United sat proudly on top of the Premiership table. Of course, it did not last long with rivals Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea all winning over the weekend. The consensus from football pundits is that at the end of the season City and Liverpool will finish ahead of United while some ‘experts’ predict United will finish out of the top four.

Predictions can make fools of us all and after one game nothing is set in stone. However, Mourinho is a serial winner and while he may not have gotten the recruits he craved a few months ago he still has an ocean of talent to pick from. Whether he has the way of it all to win the Premiership after finishing second last season is open to debate. If anyone can do it, he can, whether he will it is too early to call.

jim mcveney

Jose Mourinho To Enter His Third Season At Manchester United: Is It Now Or Never?

In America right now Jose Mourinho and Manchester United are playing friendly games and slowly building up to the start of the 2018/2019 Premier League season.

United, Mourinho and their opponents, Leicester City, have the honour (if that is the right term because of television demands) to kick off the new season a day before all the other Premiership teams, on Friday 10th August 8: 00 pm at Old Trafford. Mourinho, however, does not come across at the moment as someone happy in his job and it could be argued there are extenuating circumstances for this.

Firstly for the first two friendly matches in America, the United squad was a mix of first team, reserves and youth players on the fringe of their careers. With some of Mourinho’s major players/ stars having extended late holidays after their excursions in the FIFA World Cup.

Secondly, with the transfer season in the UK closing the day before the Premiership season kicks-off, Thursday 9th August, there is a sense of urgency around strengthening the present United squad. However having already added three new recruits to the United roster you might think Mourinho would be happy. The new recruits it could be argued are hardly marquee signings destined to get the supporters pulses racing.

Of the three new men the Brazilian ‘Fred’ is the most high profile, but as he was an unused substitute for Brazil in the World Cup, his signing seems hardly overwhelming. He may in time fulfil the Michael Carrick role but as yet the jury must be out. Rumours persist of specific new signings destined to come to the club, the most interesting being the approaches for England’s centre-back Harry McGuire and Chelsea’s Willian, but as yet there is nothing concrete with either of these speculations. Given then the situation, in one sense Mourinho”s demeanour is very understandable, however, there is also the personal ‘X-factor’ to throw into the current situation.

On joining United from being sacked from Chelsea, Mourinho signed a three-year contract. As he enters his third season in charge he must be aware that there has to be a significant improvement in his results if he is to be around for the start the fourth season.

While finishing second last season, a marked improvement on his first season in the Premiership, United were still so far behind Manchester City it was little short of embarrassing. Add to that an inept display in the FA CUP Final at Wembley last May resulting in losing to his former club Chelsea, and it all meant a season of discontent and discomfort.

It must be argued that when Mourinho took over from Louise VanGaal the club was in a mess. Both Van Gall and the manager before him David Moyes had collaborated to knock the heart of the clubs attacking philosophy, known by many as the ‘United Way’.

Under Mourinho, there has been an undoubted improvement in style and results however United are still short in particular areas. Mourinho’s outbursts and criticisms about some United players have also not gone down well with lots of clubs supporters.

The stakes then for Mourinho, United and the coming Premiership challenge could not be higher, and to an extent are very much tied up to the next few days. If there are no new recruits then Mourinho will have to get more out of the squad than he did last season. If there are new recruits then Mourinho’s job will be to blend them into a more productive unit and hope that as far as the Premiership is concerned, United will be able to challenge Manchester City or the team which sits at the Premiership summit in a more exciting and consistent way.

jim@1211plussubs

Manchester Utd Trail Manchester City by 11 Points-But Is It All Over?

There are few things less predictable in life than sport. A sure fire win for any team or individual can become a bad day at the office and inject a sense that ‘certainty in sport’ is an illusion. While it is true that favourites are well backed because they have an edge on their opponent, the edge can become dull in a one-off occasion and unusual and unexpected results can occur.

When Manchester United played Manchester City on Sunday 10th December at Old Trafford it was difficult to place your bet on either side. Although Manchester City were eight points better off and top of the Premiership table, United were second in the table and had come off a good away win at Arsenal the previous week.

The talk before the match was that United would be at a disadvantage because of Paul Pogba’s red card at Arsenal making him unavailable for the game. That was one of the more obvious predictions on the day. In a match where both teams were trying to set their own record clearly one team was going to be disappointed.

Jose Mourinho after two successful matches against Watford and Arsenal playing three at the back reverted to a four at the back and this was clearly a mistake.

What was also difficult for the United fans to accept was the almost casual way the team approached the game. There seemed little passion or desire to close City’s points total and no overriding sense this this was after all derby day.

As the match progressed City outplayed United who could not seem to string three or four meaningful passes together and rarely hurt City. It was the blue half of Manchester who turned up with desire and passion aplenty and who eventually took the lead.

From a corner on the right, the ball was swung in and in the confusion, David Silva hooked the ball in past David De Gea in the 43rd minute..

With a greater sense of urgency, United equalized five minutes later when a cross from the left found out the City defenders and Marcus Rashford thumped the ball in past the City goalkeeper.

Fans hoping that the second half would see United carry on the fight were disappointed when again there was little to cheer and less to get excited about in the ensuing 45 minutes.

Whatever Mourinho said in the halftime team talk had little effect as City demonstrated their desire to increase their points tally to eleven by the end of the game.

In the 54th minute, that desire was rewarded by a shambles of a goal for City when in trying to kick the ball away from danger Romelu Lukaku hit a United defended. The ball fell invitingly for  City defender Nicolás Otamendi who was up in the United penalty and guided it past DeGea.

The end of the scoring was not the end of the chances but United had the best when the ball fell to Lukaku a few yards out but his shot hit the City goalkeeper Ederson in the face. A quick follow up shot from Juan Mata saw the goalkeeper pull off a double save to keep his team in front till the final whistle.

United had a strong claim for a penalty when Ander Herrara went down in the area. The opinion was divided later on MUTV as to whether it was a penalty or not.

Lou Macari speaking on the clubs television channel argued that penalty or no penalty the team were just not good enough and that the best team on the day were the winners.

The top of the premiership table now has an ominous look to it unless you are a Manchester City supporter.

played       goal difference           points
1 Manchester City            16             +37                               46
2 Manchester United      16             +25                               35
3 Chelsea                           16              +15                              32
4 Liverpool                        16              +14                              30
5 Arsenal                           16              +10                              29
6 Tottenham Hotspur    16              +14                              28

United supporters and those from other clubs clutching at straws might argue that there are still twenty-two matches to go in the 2017/2018 Premiership season and it’s never over till it’s over.

While there is a grain of truth in that it is difficult to see City dropping that many points and other teams picking them up to challenges their position at the top of the table.

As I said however, there are few things less predictable in life than sport at least that will be the hope and wish of all Manchester  United supporters. Their collective  New Year resolution might still be to go to the nearest bookmakers and back United to win the Premiership Title with any Christmas monies they might have left over from the coming season of good will and cheer.

jim@1211plussubs

 

Manchester United: A Time For Reflection During The International Break

The International break brings with it a chance to look back over the season so far and possibly gain insight into where the rest of the season will go for Manchester United.

At the moment a quick glance at the Premiership table shows that all is looking good for the red half of Manchester. Coincidentally it even shows the blue side of Manchester doing slightly better.

United, like their opponents, have played seven matches in the Premiership, four at home and three away. United have won six and drawn one, scoring twenty-one goals and conceding two. United are behind Manchester City on goal difference by one goal. An extra goal against Crystal Palace would have had United still second but only alphabetically.

United have made an excellent start on the European front where a similar story is unfolding. Played two, won two with seven goals for and one against with six points already in the bag.

United have also progressed to the next round of the EFL Cup with a fourth round tie away at Swansea City on the horizon.

Marouane Fellaini has silenced many of his critics, but not all, with his displays this season. Add to this the form of Ashley Young which over the last few games has been outstanding and the less popular players have come and delivered.

Romelu Lukaku is loving life at United and scoring the goals he was brought into the team to do. Whilst Nemanja Matić has left most supporters wondering why Chelsea sold him, and especially to one of their rivals with his sterling displays in midfield.

The form and displays of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and of course David de Gea has also been outstanding leaving the feeling that Jose Mourinho’s second season could not be going much better.

With all the positivism around the club at the moment, there has only been the odd negative to dampen the spirits. The injury to Paul Pogba is the most obvious one which will come to the mind for most fans. However, the non-appearance of Victor Lindelöf has been frustrating and while the form of Phil Jones has been good the sense that another injury could be just around the corner never really goes away.

After the International break, assuming there are no other injuries, United probably face a tougher schedule than they have had so far. Liverpool away, always a tasty fixture on October 14th is followed by three more away fixtures. Benfica in the Champions League, on the 18th, Huddersfield Town in the Premiership, on the 21st, and Swansea City away in the Carabao Cup on the 24th.

With Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford in the Premiership and Benfica at Old Trafford on the 31st in the Champions League, October will prove a testing month for the entire squad. The fairly imminent inclusion to that squad of Zlatan Ibrahimović hopefully will add more options to the team rather than confuse it. There might also be possible arrivals in January but that option seems less likely.

Mourinho is shaping his team the way he wants it even if that means being more defensive (parking the bus) in some games especially away from home. It would not be too much of a surprise if this tactic was used at Liverpool too at least secure a point. What is different from last season is that United are beating the middle order teams who took points off them especially at Old Trafford and that for the moment is a sign of maturity under Mourinho.

jim@1211plussubs

 

 

 

Jose Mourinho’s New Mantra’s ‘Happy Football’ and ‘Horses Running Free’

Never one to let the Queens English get in the way of a good quote Jose Mourinho summed up both in the pre-match and post-match interviews this particular match. Pre-match Mourinho said he wanted “Happy Football”, post-match Mourinho summed up the game and said he was happy “just to let the horses run free” and they were.

Mourinho, however, is also a pragmatist and does not take lightly to journalists who, sometimes in glowing terms, pronounce what they think this United side can achieve this season. His default position at the moment is to counter high hopes with the fact that last season United won their opening two matches but finished 6th in the premiership.

Yet the journalists have a point this Manchester United side looks stronger than they were last season. It is not just the fact that three new players, Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matić and Victor Lindelöf have arrived at the club adding speed, height and aggression but also that two of the mainstays of last seasons team are no longer in the squad. Although in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s case there may be a reunion if the Swede proves his fitness in the next few months. Rumours are rife that a new contract will be signed sooner rather than later with Ibrahimovic returning for the second half of the season.

With Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney, last season the build up was slower and more measured. This season so far there is more pace, with Paul Pogba being allowed to move up from midfield now Matic is commanding it. Pogba has scored a goal a game so far this season with his second and United ‘s third being an exquisite chip over the Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.

It was Pogba’s powerful header in the first half which hit the bar that led to United first goal. Eric Bailly forcing the ball over the line to net his first-ever goal for United. With eight goals scored and none conceded at least United’s goal difference is in a healthy situation.

There will, of course, be tougher games ahead, West Ham United and Swansea City are not Chelsea or Manchester City, but as the old saying goes you can only beat those put in front of you.

What these two wins will do presumably is give confidence to the team at a very important time of the season. You might not win the premiership title in the first few games but you can certainly lose it. Or at the very least be always playing catch up to the teams ahead of you which is always a disadvantage.

Whether there will be any new signings added to the United squad before the transfer window shuts on August 31st only time will tell. However, Mourinho does not seem overly concerned at least in his public pronouncements. Privately there may be more of a concern because of the one area, on the left side, which while manageable, does need addressing. While Ivan Perisic has been the name in the frame all summer to fill that position it is looking less likely now that the deal will happen. However, there may still be time for the surprise signing Mourinho hinted at when the transfer window opened.

Leicester City next Saturday at Old Trafford should offer more of a test to United than what has gone before. Whether the football remains ‘happy’ and the ‘running remains free’ as the matches come thick and fast after August, it will be, I suspect, an exciting ride for all concerned, manager, players and supporters alike.

Manchester United Are Where They Want To Be With Only 37 Games Left To Play

After the opening weekend of the new Premiership season, Manchester United sit top of the league with 3 points. The reason they are top is that United scored 4 goals, 1 more than Huddersfield, who sit in second place.

The very fact that Huddersfield Town is in second place should point to the fact that this is more the silly season rather than the real season. With one match played and 37 to go to every team will have its false start. Whether it was Chelsea, the champions losing to Burnley 3-2 at home or that Huddersfield result, a 3-0 win away at Crystal Palace, the silliness of the results will change.

In their 4-0 defeat of West Ham United showed an energy and enthusiasm rarely seen since the days of Sir Alec Ferguson. With Lukaku taking over the main striking role from Ibrahimovic and Matic commanding in centre midfield allowing Paul Pogba more freedom to express himself, and score, the hope is there that Jose Mourinho’s team have what it takes to be at the top of the table after another 37 games. That eventually there will be a chasm between United and Huddersfield there is no doubt, exactly how much of a chasm remains to be seen.

With goals from Lukaku (2) Martial and Pogba Manchester United achieved what they rarely achieved last season, a home win against one of the lesser powerhouses of the Premiership. It could have been more than 4 which is encouraging but perhaps that is being greedy.

One of the problems last season for United was that while Ibrahimovic managed to get 20+ goals, other members of the team did not do so well. While Lukaku is not as skilful as Ibrahimovic he has the pace to run behind the defence, stretching the play for his teammates.

There is a lot of talk about formations these days, 3-4-3, or 4-4-2 or the Chrismas Tree formation etc, etc, but in the end, the game is simple. There is modern tendency to overcomplicate the simple game, perhaps in an attempt to look more knowledgeable or just to confuse others, it is difficult to say, maybe people pretending to know more than they actually do. Perhaps it is time to boot the complex terminology out of the game, break down those complicated statistics and give more of the heart and less of the head to the game we all love.

One thing is certain there will be no fairytale ending for Huddersfield Town this season, but perhaps, after their opening match, Mourinho’s second season syndrome ( winning the title) is only 37 games away.

 

Are Good Pre-Season Tours A Sign Of A Good Premiership Season?

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.

Manchester United History : 1999 “Football Bloody Hell ”

When the then plain and as yet not knighted Mr Alex Ferguson proclaimed the words “football, bloody hell” after the final three minutes of extra time in the Champions League Final of 1999, he summed up the feelings of a football loving nation.

Manchester United had in that extra time transformed a seeming 1-0 defeat into a 2-1 win with the faces of the Manchester United supporters reflecting joy, unbridled pleasure and rapture.

Unfortunately other words such as despair, disaster and whatever goes for ‘football karma’ in German could be witnessed abundantly in the faces of the opposite Bayern supporters, their team, and probably the nation.

Those three exasperated and exasperating words, proclaimed in almost staccato style by Ferguson in the post match television interview, were seemingly born out of the Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunner Solskjaer extra time heroics, the footballing equivalent of the old 1-2 to use a boxing phrase.

However no matter how dramatic that night was I also suspect those three words had their roots in Manchester United’s winning of the Premiership Trophy and the FA Cup in the previous ten days. Three words, three trophies, the historic treble, forever bonded in football folklore and most likely a never to be repeated part of United’s history, although you never know.

As the blood drained from German faces like snow melting in the morning sun, there seemed at least for me a connection with past United defeats and former glories.

The phrase, “football bloody hell”  itself is ambiguous, in that it can be uttered in victory, as on that night in Barcelona, or in defeat, the FA Cup Final of 1976 and the 1-0 defeat to Southampton comes to mind.

What is really at the heart of those three words, which on the night in Barcelona sounded like one of Stanley Baxter’s “Glaswegian phrases”  is the unpredictably of the game we love, of football. in which it is not always the best team that wins.

These words sum up the vagaries of any sport especially football and they are true for any supporter of any club at any time. Manchester United supporters, without doubt, have had their fare share of “football bloody hell” stories over the years.

Football fans in general will identify with those three words, and ultimately, whichever team you support, as a football fan, they will always I believe have a home within you.

jim@1211plussubs