A football club with the stature of Manchester United wins trophies – end of story. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, they were the unrivalled champions of England, waging wars on all fronts, including Europe, to try and write The Red Devils’ name into the history books.
Since Ferguson’s departure, though, opportunities to win silverware have been few and far between. For supporters, this puts them in a tough spot. Fans are used to celebrating major achievements, and they don’t want that to stop, but they also understand the squad is in a transition.
So, will the season be a failure if United fail to secure a trophy?
More Chances at Glory
The Europa League represents Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men’s best chance at finishing the campaign with a confidence-boosting title that will stand them in good stead for next year. This isn’t only because it’s a European tournament with several strong competitors, but also because they are clear favourites as the Europa League odds rank them at evens to see off the challenges of Arsenal and Villarreal.
Still, there is also domestic glory on the line because the club has an opportunity to make it to the semi-finals of the prestigious FA Cup. If they do, they’ll face either Man City, Chelsea or Southampton. Pep Guardiola’s side might be the out-and-out favourites, yet United have proven they can beat them on their day.
Therefore, if Paul Pogba and Co do manage to let a two-nil aggregate lead slip in the second leg, they’ll have the FA Cup in their sights when they bounce back.
Not All Achievements Are Created Equal
As consumers of the world’s most popular sport, we are encouraged to view achievements a certain way, namely through a large chunk of metal lofted into the air by a club captain. But not all incredible accomplishments are rewarded with a medal ceremony at the end.
Man Utd know this better than most sides in recent history after they finished second to Manchester City in 2018 under Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese then went on to declare that finishing runners-up to the team’s eternal rivals was one of his greatest achievements, considering the comparative quality of both squads.
Down the M62, fellow rivals Liverpool also understand a thing or two about not needing to have a winner’s medal to champion their results. After all, Bill Shankly is regarded as The Reds’ most important manager of all time, even though he never managed to do what Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Rafa Benitez and Jurgen Klopp did and win the Champions League.
Considering where the club was a few years ago, it’s heartening for fans to see them almost challenge for the Premier League crown because it’s been a while since they mounted any sort of attempt at regaining the title.
Of course, more important to the fans and the club’s hierarchy is that this season isn’t a one-off. Qualifying for the Champions League is essential due to the money involved, as is recruiting well, which they have done with the likes of Bruno Fernandes. Both of these factors have allowed Solskjaer to cut the gap to the top by a considerable margin, making Man Utd England’s second team in 2021.
Whether they will stay there in 2022 when Liverpool return to form is yet to be seen, but what is for certain is that progress is more important to this young United squad than trophies right now.