Being one of the biggest and richest sporting franchises in the entire world, a lot is expected of Manchester United. While the performances have been down since Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho’s CV and the spending sprees of United suggest that they should return to the top. Mourinho’s first season was a mixed bag, but another summer of spending and a year for the team to sort itself out should result in at least a top two finish, but should United perform poorly again we can expect a lot of things.
Jose Mourinho will deflect the blame to external forces
For as much of a managerial genius Mourinho has proven himself to be, he certainly has never been shy of deflecting the blame away from himself and onto either his players, or factors away from whatever club he is managing. He has never been shy of throwing players under the bus if they are lazy or in a bad patch of form notably throwing Luke Shaw to the hounds throughout his debut United season, and he is definitely unafraid of placing the blame on club stuff or as many of us do, the referees.
Look no further than during the beginning of his disastrous 2015-2016 campaign with Chelsea, when he had no shame in lambasting the medical staff as they tended to Eden Hazard, placing the blame of a 2-2 draw with Swansea City on their shoulders, leading to a messy legal battle with former club doctor Eva Carneiro. You can even find montages online of Mourinho’s excuses, particularly on the referees, he seems to have mastered an “us against them” mentality which has led to many of his detractors loathing him and wishing for him to fail.
Should Man United go out early in cup competitions, or should they suffer yet another poor finish in the league, we can expect Mourinho to whip out a barrage of excuses for his losses, be they his players, his medical staff, the referees, or even the FA and their tight scheduling.
David De Gea may finally end up moving to Real Madrid
A fax machine was all that prevented Spain’s No. 1 from becoming a Madrid player on the 2015 Transfer deadline day, as both United and Real Madrid pointed the finger at each other as to who was at fault for the dealing falling through. Shortly after, he had signed a contract extension, seemingly securing his future in England for the foreseeable future.
However, anyone will tell you that it’s very hard to reject Real Madrid’s advances, in fact United fans will tell you that as they have lost superstar players such as David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo to the Los Blancos, and David De Gea may follow suit. With Real Madrid being by far the best team in the world, another subpar season in England might be the final straw for the Spaniard, and he may finally force a move back to his hometown.
He is only now entering is prime and has a claim to be the best keeper in the world, he wouldn’t want to see his prime wasted at a club still trying to get back to the top. Real Madrid are only getting stronger and always look to shore up any “weaknesses” in their squad, and Madrid President Florentino Perez loves a high profile signing. David De Gea certainly ticks all of these boxes. It is a case of the rich getting richer, but that’s the way football is currently. At least this time Manchester United can ask for more money.
Big players may no longer want to join
Despite the lack of success over the last few years, United’s global and commercial appeal has allowed them to still be able to be linked with and sign some of the game’s biggest superstars. The likes of Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Falcao and Angel Di Maria (we all know how those last two worked out) are some of the big name players that have joined United despite the lack of big success and inconsistent presence in the Champions League.
They have also been linked with a bevvy of players, some true and some false, but it shows the power of the club that linking them with a big player will generate media traffic no matter what. Sergio Ramos, Neymar, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Cesc Fabregas, Antoine Griezmann have all been linked with a move to United in recent seasons. Whether or not United were actually after those players is irrelevant, as those stories were widely discussed in the footballing world. However, if United continue to fail and under perform then they may go the way of other fallen giants in football and fail to attract big players, losing their commercial appeal and prolonging the transition longer than anyone had ever thought.
The fact that they still have had a strong squad is what has allowed fans and other onlookers the high expectations of the club, but if they can no longer have a strong squad and key players want out, United may end up like the Milanese clubs, who have taken years to somewhat return to relevance.
Mourinho will be on a massive managerial hot seat
He is no stranger to scrutiny and sackings from his previous clubs, but Manchester United is by far the biggest challenge he has ever faced. Context plays a big role here, as once upon a time United won trophies for fun and dominated England and Europe like few have done. Now, they lose and draw games to relegation battlers, and Mourinho has been expected to return the club to its lofty heights seen under Sir Alex, especially when factoring in the money spent on transfers and wages.
Anything less than lengthy cup runs, getting into the final sixteen of the Champions League and at the very least a top two spot in the Premier League can be considered a failure, and doubts will hang over Mourinho’s ability to lead a team, and United’s ability to match their glory years.
Should these events happen and these doubts surface, Mourinho’s name will be thrown around as a potential sacking, as a second poor season in a row may be enough for the United chiefs to pull the trigger, especially if another one of his tangents sets them off and makes them look a laughing stock. It’s success or bust for Jose this season.
Their rivals will have a field day
No matter what sport it is, rival fans will love to go at each other. While violence and hooliganism is a stain and a thing that should remain in the past, mockery, jokes and just pure disdain of a rival team is always going to be a part of football whether we like it or not. A club like Manchester United has many rivals, and their size and the expectations placed on them puts them in the firing line for all sorts of banter from rival fanbases.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and United went downhill, the memes were in full force making fun of whatever failing the club was going through. David Moyes ineptness as manager, Louis van Gaal’s boring style of play or most recently during Jose Mourinho’s first season where United seemingly drew every game they played, and were perpetually in sixth place for majority of the season and never found a way out.
If Mourinho has a subpar season again, then expect Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City fans to flood the internet with jokes and memes about Paul Pogba’s and Romelu Lukaku’s fees, Marouane Fellaini just being Marouane Fellaini and whatever ridiculous thing Mourinho inevitably does or says. Failure is not an option if the club wants to spare its fans from another year of being mocked by their rivals.
It will further prove how far English teams are behind Europe’s elite
It seems so long ago that English teams matched up with the best in Europe, and won. Liverpool’s miracle in Istanbul in 2005, Chelsea doing battle with Barcelona during Mourinho’s first tenure, Manchester United always competing for the ultimate prize and Arsenal’s shock run to the final in 2006 (and had it not been for Manuel Almunia being a poor keeper they may have stolen it from Barcelona). Over the last decade, aside from Chelsea surprising everyone including themselves in 2012, Spanish teams and Bayern Munich have dominated the Champions League.
Since 2009, every final of the Champions League has featured one of either Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich, and those three teams have consistently been the favourites to win it all. Atletico Madrid and Juventus have thrown their hat in, but they haven’t matched the power of the big three teams. Since English teams began to decline in Europe, United under Ferguson carried the weight of the Premier League in Europe, reaching the final in 2009 and 2011. But the way they were dismantled in both finals by Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona was a sign of things to come, that England’s best were nowhere near the level of Europe’s best.
Following Chelsea’s magical run in 2012, England’s elite teams have flat out been poor in Europe, best described by consistent exits in the Round of 16 (looking at you, Arsenal). Manchester United are the only club that can match the Barcelonas and Madrids of the world through sheer size and power, and with the money spent and the deep squad that they have acquired, they’re expected to muster up a respectable run. England has five teams this season, but it’s generally expected that none of them will succeed. If England’s biggest and richest club can’t carry the load, then it’s only going to further prove that while the Premier League is the most lucrative and entertaining sporting league in the entire world, their teams pale in comparison to the rest of the elite European clubs.
In all fairness to Mourinho, he is taking on a monumental task. He is seen as the true successor to the greatest manager of all time, who oversaw three decades of constant success. That’s irreplaceable. Yes Mourinho is held in high esteem, but most will place Ferguson above anyone, so it might be fair for those around United to understand this and let Mourinho forge his own legacy and leave his own mark, rather than try and replicate something that is historical. Manchester United are always expected to be good, and that is a fair expectation to have, but it may be more fair to let the past be the past and create a new future, otherwise they will be a club that simply cannot let go of years gone by.