What constitutes a ‘good season’ to you? One asks, because José Mourinho raised the question after United’s efficient and occasionally rousing victory at the new Wembley on Saturday.
“Lads, it’s Spurs,” we may have chuckled, in memory of Fergie’s famous denigratory teamtalk, but it was undoubtedly a good win against a talented and well-managed side.
It was thus clearly a good moment for José to pursue the query; in the space of a few days, in both Bournemouth and Brent, he’d resoundingly knocked back his harsher critics. The West Brom result, as I suggested last week, did indeed prove to be just a “one-off car-crash”.
He’d got back into the patched-up vehicle and continued to his destination: Silverware City. (Erm, one hopes.)
A majority of Reds would accept that winning the cup and coming second in the league to the decade’s best British team would indeed fulfil the requirements for a ‘good season’, if that is what we do end up achieving, but José, to some raised eyebrows, said he’d had a text from Ed Woodward going somewhat beyond; the Veep had supposedly told him the season was already a success, because of the progress and professionalism displayed. Hmm!
One could almost hear the cynics snorting in the background, but I think he was actually telling the truth.
A few days earlier, before the Bournemouth bounceback, my Camp Mourinho contact in Lisbon mentioned that Joel Glazer had been in direct touch with José to slap him on the figurative back and tell him was pleased that the “season’s targets” had been achieved. (One assumes that was being said on the understandable presumption that Chelsea won’t close the 11-point gap with United.)
You can see the argument from the Glazers’ point of view. José has been filling the stadium, has got us into the Champions League, and has halted what had threatened to become a decline under Van Gaal. Off the back of that, Glazer Inc can continue to shift their lucrative TV and tie-up deals, and thus take their cut of the profits, fees and equity growth.
Those are the ‘targets’ that matter to them.
None of that is to seek to diminish United’s achievement in getting to the final. Saturday was a great day out for the flag-waving Red Army, which basked in the heat and the thrill of another comeback.
Still, will this all be looked back upon as ‘a good season’? For a large minority of Reds, no season will ever be looked upon as ‘good’ until it’s played in the manner of which they approve. Mourinho’s team does not yet perform in the approved style, or anywhere near it, while some think it never can The ‘targets’ would require resetting, and the Glazers have no incentive to do so.
Moreover, all Reds can surely agree that they don’t want this season repeated, however ‘good’ they might argue it has been. Living under City’s thumb and alongside a Kloppian Liverpool resurgent in Europe would be no-one’s idea of ongoing happiness.
We have four games before the final, wherein two conflicting syndromes will come into play: There’ll be the slacking off and holding back of players who have one eye on staying fit for Russia, set against the extra energy and commitment of players who need to stake a cup final place; while there’s also the handful of players who need to give José more reasons not to sell them next month.
I am told he’s adamant there’ll be a significant outflow, especially of defenders; in the other direction, I hear Southampton’s Cedric has been added to the lengthy ‘possible purchases’ list.
Whatever the results in points terms of those conflicting forces’ interplay, one hopes that if there’s a decent display to be had, it comes next weekend. Farewell, then, Arsene Wenger. Sigh. They don’t make great managers who can endure like that anymore.
Thank God for that, too; imagine 22 years of Pep in charge, or worse, of José?”
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