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How Old Trafford united the nation

OPINION: Man United’s short-lived struggle – and green and yellow scarves – appears to be over, showing that it is possible for a big club to rebuild fairly quickly

28 September, 2017 — By Richard Osley

THE David Moyes, and then Louis Van Gaal management years of Manchester United were fantastic, weren’t they?

For a golden glimpse, the bullies who had won everything, every season, got to feel what it was like for the rest of us, who begin each season with hope rather than expectation.

They started losing all sorts of matches. Old Trafford became a place where clubs felt they could win – and now often did.

The last minute of injury-time goals dried up. At last, the dragon had been slain. The mystique had gone. The people’s game was for all again. And the United fans panicked and rang radio phone-ins in search of a salve, and, quite comically, took to wearing green and yellow scarves – that’s the scarf they dress up in when they’re losing. You don’t see that colour code much anymore, for it’s red when they are winning.

We all look back on golden, yesteryear summers and remember them as warmer, sunnier, more idyllic than they really were, but those seasons in which United were beaten every other week were genuinely good times, so good that even the banter on Match Of The Day suddenly seemed like the wittiest repartee you’d ever heard.

People shook hands with strangers on the tube, the elderly were helped across the road. Come to think of it, that would have been the time to call a snap election – a nation stood united, it was never rainy. And yet that circus era in Manchester was obscenely short. The nation waited a generation for the wall to come down, and all we got was a couple of seasons of shared joy.

Now, they are good again. Better than your team.

The petty positive of this is that in the cheap game of one-upmanship Arsenal and Chelsea have with Spurs, it may mean Tottenham have now missed their best chance to finally be champions of the land… i.e. the three seconds during which United were awful.

The bigger plus for Arsenal fans here, however, is that it should put pay to the “look what happened to United” argument when discussing the future of their own club.

Wins against Bournemouth and West Brom mean that the Arsene Wenger in-out hokey-cokey lies still for the moment, and isn’t it funny how much better the team seems to do without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain puffing about? But the debate is never going to be far from the surface.

United have shown that, providing it acts decisively, a club can rebuild fairly quickly after an era-defining manager makes way.


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