And so Manchester United marked the end of its 2016-17 campaign with yet another trophy success, completing the only missing piece of the jigsaw in the club’s illustrious history, and adding to its already burgeoning trophy cabinet.
Winning the Europa League not only helped United gain automatic qualification into next season’s Champions League, but it also ensured the club landed a double in the process, having earlier won the EFL Cup this season (I refuse to call it a treble, we may have won 3 pieces of silverware, but it hardly compares to the real success of the 1999 treble season).
The victory sparked scenes of wild celebrations and excitement among United fans the world over, only proving how starved we have been of any success in the past 4 years, with last year’s FA Cup triumph under Louis Van Gaal the only real occasion the club has had to savour since Sir Alex’s retirement in 2013.
Members of media promptly drew a line through the word “failure” and replaced it with “success” as their stories about United’s season went to print, such is the extremity, dramatisation, and polarising nature of the industry when it comes to selling stories particularly in the area of sport. It is almost somewhat laughable at times.
Yet while I do not wish to discredit the hard work Mourinho and our United boys put in, in what was an immensely challenging season and in which we had little luck on the injuries front; when all is laid bare it is obvious there is still much work to do before the current crop of players can call themselves a successful team, or for that matter, label this season as a real success.
It is public information that United are a club in transition, and only the most hardcore and stubbornest of United fans would claim otherwise and carry any sort of false expectations of the team challenging for the title.
Yet success in the league always remains the top priority at a club of United’s stature, and in spite of what he told reporters in the immediate aftermath of the Europa Final, deep down Mourinho knows that too.
Being the mediatic personality that he is, and a true master of psychology with a track record of messing with the minds of opposition managers, Mourinho no doubt knows the influence he still carries in the game, contrary to what some may think.
More often than not his deliberately picked choice of words is capable of shaping public opinion in his favour. And the times he does polarise opinions? You can bet your house that it is not by chance or a mere slip of the tongue. He knows how to use media to his advantage – to buy time and to ease off the immense pressure that has seen his two predecessors given the boot in less than handsome fashion.
Probably the only honest words that were true to Mourinho’s self in his post Cup Final match interview versus Ajax was that he was in need of a holiday after a gruelling season, and that for the time being he doesn’t want to see anything football related.
Next season will be one to benchmark United’s progress under the Portuguese, as the second season is always one with greater expectations than the first. And Jose only needs to look to the last four seasons in which United have failed to break into the top four to come to terms with the mammoth size of a task on his hands in his project to rebuild a former giant to compete well in an ever evolving modern day Premier League.
In the mean time, thanks to the hard work of United’s master tactician and our boys in red, the anthem below is something we can look forward to hearing with regularity next season!