Few marriages if any are perfect, no rose garden is without its thorns, and no match, despite the popular phrase, is made in heaven.
Many Manchester United fans were wary of if not fully against the appointment of Jose Mourinho as their club's manager at the end of the 2015/16 season. And, while many more were thrilled to see the Portuguese given the job, even they could probably understand the deep-seated misgivings of those others.
Other than the one about Anthony Martial, none of the worries outlinedin last month's TOP FIVE have really gone away. Manchester United have, of course, won a trophy since then—which was really nice—but have also missed out on a glorious opportunity to apply more pressure to those currently above them in the league by drawing at home with Bournemouth—which was really, really, really, really frustrating.
They say you should never meet your heroes, for therein lies only disappointment. Sage advice, no doubt. So, when I was asked to go and interview Paul Scholes for Republik of Mancunia, did I heed it? No. I cleared my diary and told everyone I knew, and even a few people I didn't know.
The way you feel about some footballers can be difficult to put into words.
As regular TOP FIVE readers will know, I am an optimistic sort, much more inclined to be cheery about Manchester United and their fortunes than miserable. And ultimately, that optimism extends to Jose Mourinho bringing his substantial managerial nous to bear on United over the coming years.
There has been plenty of evidence that things are moving in the right direction—big wins and big moments, the arrival of some of the world's best players and a substantial improvement in some of the squad players, particularly defenders.
There is no right or wrong way to support your football club. It's a deeply personal journey for us all. Yet every club has certain characteristics to which those that love them can all relate. Manchester United is no different.
If every United fan was asked to pick a defining image, a single moment in time, one that summed up what the club meant to them, the images would fill volumes.
The spun-out, cryptic and at times monotonous return of Paul Pogba has finally come to a close. One of the finest talents to come through the prestigious academy is returning back to Manchester in a chunky red Chevrolet.
However this summer's saga pales in comparison to when we first signed the Frenchman from Le Harve, a transfer which ran from July through to October 2009.
The summer is here, and for a healthy chunk of the Manchester United faithful the idea that football can exist without the Red Devils is a tough sell. "Pah, international football isn't the real thing" cry those who can't wait for the season to start up again in August, and plan to spend the intervening months refreshing Twitter hoping for new transfer news.
Twenty-six years ago I sat down with my dad to watch Manchester United play Crystal Palace in an FA Cup final.
We drew 3-3 on that day, a thrilling match that was like water and light to the seeds of support for this club that my dad had sown over the preceding eight years.
United's eventual victory, after a replay -for which I came home early from a cycling proficiency lesson and the sight of that team lifting the FA Cup, sparked my lifelong love for this club and, indeed, the game itself.
It is impossible to escape the air of despondency that has engulfed Manchester United over the last three years. A quarter of a century in the making under Sir Alex Ferguson, the spirit and self-belief he fostered in players and fans alike has been entirely sapped.
That last title win of the Ferguson era seems like a lifetime ago and there is no telling when the next triumph will come.
After getting into the side and actually being quite good for a bit, Juan Mata—apparently realising he was in danger of prolonging Louis van Gaal's Manchester United career—decided to take matters into his own hands and get himself sent off against West Bromwich Albion.
He has kept up the charade that he didn't mean to do it, saying on his blog (Mata has a blog, you know), "I have the feeling that both decisions were rigorous; that, in many occasions, we see more serious fouls that are not penalised in such a way, but at the same time I could have avoided them and I take responsibility.
"You can have too much of a good thing": a lie frequently propagated by joyless authority to limit the pleasure of kids having a better time than them. We knew it then, we sure as fuck know it now, and we also know it because of 2009/10.
Back in those days United were boring and shit, going for a fourth title in a row.
To mark the 10th anniversary of RoM today, there will be several articles remembering some of the best moments for Manchester United fans over the past decade. Paul Ansorge has spoken about one of his favourite memories.
Hindsight is famously meant to be 20/20, though given the filter of nostalgia and self justification we often apply to our past experiences, that is perhaps not particularly accurate.
To mark the 10th anniversary of RoM, there will be several articles remembering some of the best moments for Manchester United fans over the past decade. Andrew Kirby has spoken about one of his favourite memories.
The media love-in with the fairy-story of 5000-1 outsiders Leicester City reached a potentially premature climax in early February when Jamie Vardy scored a searing goal against Liverpool which had most commentators creaming themselves.
To mark the 10th anniversary of RoM, there will be several articles remembering some of the best moments for Manchester United fans over the past decade. Alex Shaw, the General Editor at ESPN, has spoken about one of his favourite memories.
The 2006-07 title winning season ranks as one of the best in Manchester United's Premier League history.
Having watched Tottenham's enthralling Premier league victory over Manchester City the other day on television, I caught sight of City's assistant manager Brian Kidd at the end of the match. He was ruefully shaking the hand of the victorious Spurs manager and an oddly trivial memory popped into my mind.
Juan Mata @mango_carrot
In 2015, Juan Mata's form and fortunes have mirrored those of the team, there's a visible downward trajectory and has been since "those three games" in the 14/15 season, which for Mata, peaked with a goal against Liverpool that will forever be remembered by the United faithful (and the scousers).
Over two years after Sir Alex Ferguson's departure, Manchester United remain in uncharted territory. Louis van Gaal has steadied the ship after nine disastrous months under David Moyes, but the Dutchman now appears to be lost at sea, unable to plan a route to success for his team.
Having got knocked out of the Champions League in calamitous fashion, United proceeded to lose back-to-back games against newly promoted sides, showing their mental solidity and attacking intent are directly proportional to each other.
The day after Jose Mourinho was sacked by Chelsea, before we had lost to Norwich, I wrote 600 or so words on the precisely contrary headline to the above for my regular gig over at Bleacher Report.
For those wanting to save 10 minutes and just read this article instead, my three primary arguments against United signing up Jose to replace Louis van Gaal are, in essence:
- Tendency towards miserable anti-football
- Doesn't play kids or think long-term
- Is loads of aggro off the pitch.
Three weeks ago, as news broke that Paul O'Connell's rugby World Cup and test career with Ireland had come to an end after a serious injury, a famous clip of the former Munster captain reappeared across social media.
In the video, filmed before a Test match against France, O'Connell rallies his team mates in the dressing room, demanding they deliver "manic aggression" for "every minute of the game" and exhorting them to lay down a marker from kick-off.
Andrei Kanchelskis is a Manchester United cult hero. The Ukrainian winger played a huge part in United's marvellous mid nineties team – Ferguson's first great United side. Alongside Giggs, Cantona, Hughes, Ince and the rest, Kanchelskis lightening quick, direct performances down the right flank ensured his place in United folklore.
It's February 7th, PSV 1 – 0 FC Utrecht, the 51st minute of the game. Memphis Depay, who only minutes earlier pre-assisted the opener in a tough fixture for the Eindhovenaren, receives the ball on the edge of his own half. A pass to Luuk de Jong, on to Georginio Wijnaldum, who attempts a through ball that just falls short of the waiting Luciano Narsingh.
The heat was fierce and the humidity strong, but Matteo Darmian just kept on coming. Claudio Marchisio and Mario Balotelli were the goal scorers as Italy ran out 2-1 winners against England in the pair's opening game of the 2014 World Cup in Manaus, but the marauding full-back was arguably the man who made the biggest difference.
The transfer window prior to the 2015-16 season has been an unusually fruitful one for Manchester United fans.A club that professes to be the biggest in the world has rarely gone about addressing its weaknesses with such undoubted pedigree. The likes of Depay, Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin and Darmian are the calibre of player that the fans have always deserved.
Watching football, and United in particular, is a visceral experience, a sharp, intense mess of bodies, noise and smells. So it's not surprising that the majority of fan favourites are linked by a single trait: they are men with whom it is deeply unwise to fuck. In my own lifetime, that includes Remi Moses, Bryan Robson, Norman Whiteside, Mark Hughes, Paul Ince, Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Jaap Stam, Wes Brown, Ruud van Nistelrooy – sadly, in theory only Nemanja Vidic, and though, Rojo shows promise, none of the current ponces.
Although the season has seen a marked improvement in league performance, there's no doubt that it's been a long way from a perfect season. We ought to have challenged for the title and didn't. We ought to have finished ahead of Arsenal and didn't. We ought to have seen the best of players like Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, and we didn't.
The rise of David Beckham through the Manchester United youth system was, in some ways, a curiosity. He was not one of the fiercely humble local lads that have come to symbolise the famous Class of 92 of which he was a member. He was a Londoner, a little bit flash even then with his sculpted hair, among the no-nonsense crew dominated by Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers.
Reports in most newspapers at the moment claim that Manchester United are lining up a deal with Real Madrid that would see David de Gea leave the club with Gareth Bale signing for us.
Adam Crafton, who is a journalist for The Daily Mail, has written several articles on De Gea and has a good insight to player's past, as well as his potential future, and has answered a few questions on the player.
Following on from Part I, which documents Eric Cantona's thoughts on joining Manchester United, kicking the hooligan, his best goal, among other things, part II looks at our hero's life post-football.
Q: Do you miss football?
E: I don't miss it. When I retired, I wanted to do something else.
Paul Scholes had a reputation of shying away from the camera when he was a Manchester United player. Following Scholes' 500th game for United, where he scored in our 2-0 win over Liverpool, Sir Alex Ferguson laughed when he was asked whether Scholes would be following him for an interview.
Since retiring, Scholes has become a pundit for BT Sport and has beenvery critical of the managers that have followed Ferguson, particularly Louis van Gaal.
Manchester United supporters have seen so many players come up through the ranks at the club and make it in the first team. Fans of other clubs can boast the same but none of these supporters have seen their youth team products claim the success our academy products have. Teams at the top of the table in this country rarely bring through youngsters yet United have always relied on their own players, either as the stars or valuable squad members.
Adrian Doherty was from Strabane in Northern Ireland and played for Manchester United's youth team during the 1990's, although his name isn't one you will have heard mentioned too often. Despite once boasting talent equal to or surpassing that of Ryan Giggs', a cruciate injury ended his career days before he was set to make his debut for the first team, and he tragically died a few years later after falling away from football.
Ahead of Manchester United's game against Leicester City, Louis van Gaal attended the press conference in a very defensive mood.
Leicester could win the league if they beat United on Sunday, which prompted a journalist, Nick Collins from The Telegraph, to ask Van Gaal whether this was a strange position for our club to be in, given our players are so used to winning titles.
To mark the 10th anniversary of RoM, there will be several articles remembering some of the best moments for Manchester United fans over the past decade. Daniel Taylor, Chief football writer for The Guardian, who has just won journalist of the year and brought out the excellent book I Believe In Miracles, has shared some memories from the past decade from reporting on United.
70 years ago today Sir Matt Busby was given the job as Manchester United manager and the history of our football club was changed forever. His dedication to giving young, local players a chance set him apart from all other managers at the time.
To mark the anniversary, RoM has brought out a PDF which looks at some of the greatest players who have graduated from our academy.
In the summer of 2003, Ronaldinho was set to sign for Manchester United from PSG. The Brazilian was tipped to be the best player in the world so to lose out on him was hugely disappointing. The blow was softened by us signing Cristiano Ronaldo although at the time we obviously didn't know what sort of player he was going to develop in to.
I remember walking in to the ground full of nerves on the night we played Barcelona. We were so close to our first Champions League final since 1999 and it felt long overdue.
While the immediate stress came from having to beat Barcelona, it was also very prevalent in my thoughts that if we did manage to beat the Spaniards, we'd have to overcome Liverpool or Chelsea in the final to lift our third European Cup.
Rumour has it that Louis van Gaal has got one game to save his career and, if he is sacked, Jose Mourinho might end up getting the job he has always wanted.
Before looking at the reasons why he shouldn't get the job, read about why Mourinho should get the job.
Style of play
Three weeks ago, Manchester United were one point off the top of the table, yet our fans weren't happy.
United scored 62 goals this season, which is our second worst tally in Premier League history, only beaten by the 58 goals we scored in 2014-15. Wayne Rooney is our top goalscorer with 14 goals, which is the lowest record for our highest scorer since Frank Stapleton's 13 goals in 1981-82. All in all, it's safe to assume our attack hasn't done too well this year.
Yesterday, the defenders were rated for their performances in the 2014-15 season, and now it's the midfielders' turn.
After years of frustration at Sir Alex Ferguson's refusal to buy new midfielders and improve this area on the park, we finally now have a half decent midfield. In fact, the midfield is now our strongest position.
RoM will be rating the performances of our players a position at a time, starting today with the defenders. For all the criticism they have received this season, it's worth pointing out that only Chelsea (32), Southampton (33), and Arsenal (36) conceded fewer goals than United (37) this season.
However, when you consider that David de Gea has proven himself to be one of the best, if not the best, goalkeeper in the world this season, the defence has certainly had a helping hand.