Technically, we’ve been here before. Nervy cum heart stopping situations are synonymous with the history of Manchester United. The territory should therefore be familiar. Except that whilst these situations have largely been about making a daring assault in a moment of adversity, this campaign has generated the same emotions out of a need to preserve the stats-quo.
As such, United have endured a season in which they’ve ‘fought’ to simply keep within margins. For instance, there is nothing spectacular that came out of United’s 25 game unbeaten premier league run but it did keep the club’s season alive domestically, until late April when the manager decided to tank the drab of the domestic season for Europe.
In doing so, Jose Mourinho narrowed the margin for error so much so that United were a sitter away from having their season turned upside down last night in the second leg of the semi-final.
Whilst the problem has been comprehensively diagnosed, the antidote remains elusive. Goals. Indeed, the narrative of last night fell perfectly within the narrative of the season. A failure to kill off an opponent resulting in a draw. Last night marked the club’s 11th truce at Old Trafford alone.
On this occasion though, the draw was enough to see United through to the final, but only just! Nobody will remember that though if the club lifts UEFA’s secondary competition for the first time at the Friends Arena in Stockholm a week on Wednesday. Indeed, few will care if United turn out as bad as they did in the EFL Cup final in February but emerge as winners over an Ajax side full of youthful exuberance.
Whilst the manager at the club has a huge job on his hands to make his side much better for the new season, it is what it is at the moment and you cannot begrudge him chasing silverware when the opportunity is there to claim it. Why? Because IF United are successful in Sweden, they’ll have collected more trophies this season alone than Liverpool and Tottenham have collected combined in the past decade.
Victory in Sweden will also be a third major trophy in the 4 seasons since Sir Alex departed. The argument here is that whilst the club is ordinarily expected to be successful, 3 trophies in your worst period for more than a quarter a century is also not too bad.
The solemn reality is that winning a trophy is any kind in England is no longer the easy-peasy business of days gone by. There’s up to six clubs now with genuine trophy ambitions every year and only three domestic trophies available. Indeed, at the start of the season, there were only four trophies that United could possibly win. They are on the brink of claiming 2 out of the 4 available. It’s not been a great seaso
n but it could yet be the best since the fiery Scot was still around.
And yet, because the club has walked along margins all season, the season remains equally on the brink of disaster if somebody puts a foot wrong….or a fist wrong as was the case with Eric Bailly last night who will now miss the final. Against he fearless youthful attack of Ajax Amsterdam, United will play the final without their most consistent and, by far, best defender of the season.
It’s all set for another nail biting affair in a couple of weeks in what will be the last game of our season. Incredibly, the past 8 months and 63 games will come down to those final 90 minutes. How’s your nerve?