Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson gallantly retired from professional football management, there’s been something missing at Old Trafford – an edge to the atmosphere that has been dormant, but soon to return with the arrival of Jose Mourinho.
For decades Manchester United fans have boasted a number of banners from the terraces that reference the side’s collective strength in being ‘hated’ by those outside the club – but recently, that hasn’t been the case at all.
United have become less of a collective vision of hate over recent years, rather a national laughing stock. Once relishing in the envy of their rivals, Manchester United fans have watched for three seasons as the likes of Newcastle, West Brom and Norwich arrived unfazed at Old Trafford and left with three points in tow. The once passionate hate from opposing fans had transformed into side-splitting laughter.
The series of comical mishaps have tallied together a narrative reflective of a Shakespearean farce: missing out on the Champions League, complemented by cringe-worthy manager quotes and topped off with a fake bomb scare, just for good measure.
There is a famous extract from Roy Keane’s autobiography, regarding Sir Alex Ferguson’s team talk ahead of a Premier League match with Spurs:
“Lads, it’s Tottenham.”
Sir Alex Ferguson
United won that match 4-0, playing with an arrogance that only success can bring. But since Ferguson departed in 2013, inadvertently taking the success with him, Manchester United supporters have grown accustomed to an wholly alien approach from their managers.
After grinding their teeth listening to David Moyes remark that he intended to ‘make it difficult’ for Newcastle at Old Trafford and that United should ‘aspire’ to be like Manchester City, it was a welcome relief when Van Gaal reassured them they were still the ‘biggest [club] in the world’.
But after finishing fourth and then fifth in the Premier League, the Dutchman later decided that expectations inside the club were ‘too high’.
But it’s all about to change under Jose Mourinho.
The former Chelsea boss is set to be announced as United’s new manager imminently and is the perfect man to bring the hate back to Old Trafford. In many ways, Mourinho epitomises Manchester United: the Portuguese coach is not only successful, but he’s also arrogant with it.
Critics may well judge Mourinho’s performance in Manchester based on statistics, but in reality hate will be the real measure of his success. If the hate returns, United and Mourinho will know it’s worked out for them both.
It is the reputation for securing success that both United and Mourinho have forged as their cornerstones – that’s the feature that has made them both magnets for the hate of rival fans.
Mourinho and Manchester United are the perfect example of a symbiotic relationship in football.