MU Versus Barcelona and Chelsea
That Mu was a lost continent of the Pacific Ocean was first proposed in the 19th century to explain the phenomenon of similar symbols, architecture and myths found in otherwise disparate, ancient cultures around the world. The ancient Egypt of the Pharaohs had been founded by refugees from the cataclysm that submerged Mu, while others became the Maya in South America, who produced LDU Quito of Ecuador for MU to defeat 1-0 in the World Club Cup Final of 2008.
Manchester United had beaten Chelsea in the Final of the European Champions League at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia, to qualify for the World Club Cup Finals. A headed goal on 26 minutes, by Portuguese right winger Cristiano Ronaldo, from a cross on the right from full back there Wes Brown, had been cancelled out on 45 minutes. A long-range shot from Chelsea’s Ghanaian right back, Michael Essien, deflected off United central defender, Nemanja Vidić, and then off central defender, Rio Ferdinand. The ball's change in direction caused United’s Netherlands’ ‘keeper, Edwin van der Sar to lose his footing, leaving Chelsea and England midfielder, Frank Lampard, who’d made a deep run, to finish with ease, 1-1. With a further two halves, each of 15 minutes, producing no result in extra time, the game went to penalties. England and Chelsea center back, John Terry, slipped as rain fell, and hit the post when he could have won the trophy for Chelsea, after Ronaldo was the only player to fail to find the net with his spot kick. The penalty shoot out went to sudden death, and Welsh left winger Ryan Giggs’ strike gave United the victory when Chelsea’s France forward Nicholas Anielka’s shot was saved by United’s Dutch ‘keeper, Edwin van der Sar, 6-5.
In the Final of the 2008 World Club Championship at the International Stadium Yokohama, Japan, England center forward, Wayne Rooney, was conserving his strength, like the rest of the remaining 10 Manchester United players, after Serbian center back, Nemanja Vidic, was sent off on 49 minutes, for lashing out at LDU Quito of Ecuador’s Argentine forward, Claudio Bieler, with an elbow. Waiting for the ball, tapped to him by Ronaldo, inviting him to shoot, at the left corner of the LDU Quito penalty area, on 73 minutes, Rooney’s low struck shot duly went inside the left upright and was enough to win the trophy, 1-0.
Manchester United again reached the Final of the 2009 UEFA Champions League at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy. However, the trophy was won by Barcelona of Spain, 0-2. The Spaniards first goal came after Edwin van der Sar cleared the ball downfield. Headed away by Barcelona's defensive midfield anchor, Sergio Busquets, England midfielder, Michael Carrick, was first to the ball for United, but could only head as far as creative central midfielder Xavi, who found his partner there in central midfield, Andrés Iniesta. As United’s defense backed away, Xavi exchanged passes with Barca’s Argentine play maker, Lionel Messi, before playing the ball into the path of Cameroon forward, Samuel Eto'o, in the penalty area. Vidić attempted to shepherd Eto’o away and off towards the goal line, but Eto'o, stepping inside him, toe-poked the ball past van der Sar, 0-1, inside 10 minutes. United's numbers up front in search of a goal left them defensively stretched. When a weak clearance from van der Sar was cut out by Barca right back and captain, Carles Puyol, he played the ball to Eto'o on the right side of the penalty area. The ball broke to Xavi, who crossed for Messi to send a looping header on 70 minutes over the United ‘keeper and into the far side of the goal, 0-2.
Before the game, Barcelona players admitted that the player they most feared was Manchester United and England midfielder, Paul Scholes, who’d scored the only goal of the semi-final tie between the two clubs the previous season. The first leg at the Camp Nou stadium had finished, 0-0, and at Old Trafford a wayward clearance from Barca right back, Gianluca Zambrotta landed at Scholes' feet in the 14th minute, and he delivered a trademark rising drive that flew high into the net beyond the outstretched hands of ‘keeper Victor Valdes to send United through to the Final against Chelsea, which was won, 6-5 on penalties a.e.t., when the game had ended, 1-1. Consequently, fans looked with some amazement at a team sheet for the 2009 Final that omitted Scholes’ name from the starting line-up. Paul didn’t come on until the 75th minute, and the fact that he did belies the suggestion that he couldn’t play because he was injured. Scholes’ position in the team was taken by South Korean, Park Ji-sung, a tigrish player, who hustled and bustled, but without the controlled ball playing skills of the England star. Also omitted were the Argentine center forward, Tevez, who’d played against Chelsea in the previous season’s Final, and Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov, who United manager, Alex Ferguson, had signed from Tottenham Hostspur on September 1, 2008, and had gotten 9 league goals that season. Both came off the substitutes’ bench; Tevez in the 46th minute, and Berbatov in the 66th, and both before Scholes, who Barca had said they feared the most before the game.
United returned to face Barcelona again in the 2011 Champions League Final at Wembley Stadium, London, and lost, 1-3, after Wayne Rooney had equalized left winger Pedro’s strike from inside the penalty box, when put through by Xavi on 27 minutes. On 34 minutes Rooney played a one two with Ryan Giggs before curling the ball into the corner from 15 yards, 1-1. Barca regained the lead in the 54th minute, when Lionel Messi, receiving the ball, fired home from 20 yards, 1-2. In the 69th minute, Barca right winger, David Villa, curled a shot into the top corner of the United net from 20 yards, 1-3. United had been English champions, as they’d been in 2009, and again Park Ji-sung was preferred in the starting line up to Scholes, who obviously wasn’t as feared as he had been, because Barca didn’t expect him to be selected. Berbatov, top scorer with 20 league goals, wasn’t even on the bench, so United’s defeat wasn’t any real surprise.
It was no surprise when manager, Alex Ferguson, though he somewhat recovered to win the title again in 2012-13, after an inspirational signing of Dutch center forward, Robert van Persie from Arsenal, who went on to score 26 league goals that season, retired. David Moyes came from Everton where he’d managed to keep the Toffees out of the relegation zone for a few years, and did as much, and Louis van Gaal, left the Dutch national team, to manage a last gasp FA Cup Final win over Crystal Palace, 2-1, in his last days in charge, before the appointment of the self-styled ‘Chosen One’, José Mourinho, the Portuguese manager, who’d won the Champions League with FC Porto in 2004, and again with Italy’s Inter Milan in 2010. Mourinho immediately brought Swede, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, from French club, Paris Saint-Germain, who top scored with 17 goals in the league, and 2 in the League Cup Final against Southampton, from a direct free kick on 19 minutes, and a headed goal on 87 minutes, which United won, 3-2. Ibra suffered a career-threatening cruciate ligament knee injury against Belgium’s Anderlecht in the quarter-final of the Europa Cup, and missed the subsequent 2-0 win over Ajax Amsterdam in the Final at the Friends Arena in Solna, a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden, which was the victorious climax to the start of Mourinho’s managerial reign at Old Trafford.
There were shades of Paul Scholes in the FA Cup Final of 2018. England’s Marcus Rashford was the center forward, a young striker who’d benefited from playing alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and who’d had the striker’s role against Ajax in the Europa Cup Final the previous season, although he’d had to wait until the 77th minute of the 3-2 win over Sunderland in the League Cup Final before coming off the bench as a substitute replacement for England right winger, Jessie Lingard, who’d gotten United second goal on 38 minutes, so doubling the team’s lead, 2-0, with a low right foot shot to the right corner of the net from just inside the penalty area.
It’d been France’s strong and skillful midfielder, Paul Pogba, who’d scored the first goal against Ajax Amsterdam for the reds from distance on 18 minutes, when his low left foot shot from just outside the penalty area took a deflection off Ajax center back, Davinson Sánchez, wrong footing Cameroon ‘keeper André Onana, looping over him into the net. Pogba had been brought back to Manchester United by Mourinho, for a world record fee of ₤ 89. 3 million, from Italian side, Juventus, where he’d won four consecutive Serie A titles in 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, and 2015-16. Although he’d been a part of the team that won the FA Youth Cup in 2010-11, beating Sheffield United, 6-3, over two legs (2-3; 4-0), Pogba had signed for Juvé, instead of a contract offered by then United manager, Alex Ferguson, at the end of the 2011-12 season.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Armenia’s captain, and right-footed left midfielder for United, bought before the 2016-17 season from German Bundesliga side, Borussia Dortmund, for ₤ 30 million, got the second goal against Ajax on 48 minutes when, with his back to goal, he flicked the ball overhead and into the net with his right foot from three yards out, and after the ball had been knocked down to him by England center back, Chris Smalling, after a corner from the right by Spain’s left-wing, Juan Mata, playing as a left-footed right wing for United, as had become the practice in recent seasons, and would continue subsequent to former Norwegian center forward, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, being appointed manager following United’s failure to win the FA Cup Final in 2018 against Chelsea.
Although United dominated the second half at Wembley Stadium, London, with Chilean center forward, Alexis Sánchez, having a perfectly good 63 minute goal ruled out on appeal to VAR, that is, video assistant referee. Marcus Rashford had been brought down, winning a free kick, which he took himself, and found England center back, Phil Jones, middle of the Chelsea penalty area, whose header to the bottom-right corner, goal-bound, was pushed away by Belgian ‘keeper, Thibaut Courtois, and Sánchez was there to knee the ball into the net. Eden Hazard’s 22nd minute penalty, awarded after the Belgian center forward, receiving a pass from Spanish midfielder, Cesc Fàbregas, made a run into Manchester United's box, where he was fouled by Jones with a sliding tackle. The strike from the spot proved enough to win the game for Chelsea, 0-1. Taking the penalty himself, Hazard put the ball low, and to the right, past Spain ‘keeper David De Gea in the United goal.
Paul Pogba captained France to the World Cup Final in Russia at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, during the close season of 2018, which the French won against Croatia, 4-2, and Paul scored the third goal on 59 minutes. A left-foot strike to the left of the net from the edge of the penalty area, after his initial shot had been blocked, 3-1, following an own goal by Croatian center forward, Mario Mandžukić, who diverted a 30 yard free kick from attacking midfielder, Antoine Griezmann, into the left corner of his own net with a header on 18 minutes, while a penalty by Griezmann had given the French a somewhat fortunate lead, 2-1, after Croatia’s left wing, Ivan Perišić, was adjudged to have handled the ball on 38 minutes. Croatia had equalized on 28 minutes with a left-footed strike from Ivan Perišić to the right corner of the net, after a free kick by Luka Modrić on the right, and center back, Domogoj Vida, had knocked the ball back to him with an outstretched right boot. Kylian Mbappé, right winger, scored France's fourth goal on 65 minutes, with a low right-foot shot from outside the box to the left of the net; the first teenager to score in a World Cup Final since Pelé in 1958. Croatia scored their second goal in the 69th minute from a back-pass that France ‘keeper, Hugo Lloris, failed to dribble away. Mandžukić poked the loose ball into the unguarded net with his right leg, 4-2.
England had failed to reach the Final, losing to Croatia, 1-2, a.e.t., although a long range strike from a direct free kick by Tottenham Hotspur’s right back, Kieran Trippier, on 5 minutes had given England the lead, 1-0. United’s wingers, Ashley Young and Jessie Lingard, started, with Marcus Rashford coming on in the 74th minute, and for a while after Trippier’s opener, United supporters were reminiscing over the contributions of Manchester United’s tigrish defensive midfielder, Nobby Stiles, and the rocket shooting of central midfielder, Bobby Charlton, to England’s 1966 Wembley Stadium, London, World Cup Final win over Germany, 4-2.
The scorer of United’s 93rd minute last gasp winning goal in the 1999 European Champions’ League Final, 2-1, and after striking partner Teddy Sheringham’s 91st minute equalizer, against German club, Bayern Munich, who’d taken the lead on 6 minutes from a direct low free kick sent around the United wall by right winger, Mario Basler, Solskjaer wasn’t appointed manager of Manchester United from Norway’s Molde, until the last sixteen teams were known as the participants in the UCL on December 18, 2018, that is, after Mouinho had seen United through to qualify from their group with Juvé, and when United still had a chance to win the FA Cup, but were eliminated under the stewardship of Solskjaer. The club lost to Wolves, 1-2, in the FA Cup quarter final, with Rashford getting a 95th minute consolation goal, and Barca at the quarter-final stage of the UCL, 0-4, on aggregate, that is, 0-1 at Old Trafford, Manchester, and 0-3 at Camp Nou.
United had lost the first leg at home to an own goal from left back, Luke Shaw, who was amongst five defenders on show that night; former left-winger Ashley Young at right back, Shaw, Portugal’s Diogo Dalot, normally a full back, on the right of midfield, England center back, Chris Smalling, and Sweden’s center back, Victor Lindelӧf. Barca defensive midfielder, Sergio Busquets, had released Barca playmaker, Lionel Messi, with a clip over the top from deep, and Messi chipped a cross to the back post, where Uruguayan striker, Luis Suárez, tried to head it back across goal, and it went in past De Gea off Shaw’s shoulder. Rashford, and Belgium center forward, bought to replace incapacitated Ibrahimovic from Everton for ₤ 75 million, Romelu Lukaku, were the strikers, with France’s Anthony Martial on the bench, which confused some fans, because of Martial’s goal stats.
Although Rashford and Martial were joint top scorers, with 17 goals each, when Manchester United finished third behind Liverpool in 2019-20, Martial, who was signed from Monaco in 2015 by then manager, Louis van Gaal, was a more proven goalscorer at United, during Rashford’s development, that is, with Rashford’s goal tallies of 5, 5, and 7 for the 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18 seasons, Martial was statistically a better striker, with 11 goals in his first season, 2015-16, 4 in his second, 2016-17, and 9 in 2017-18. However, no one could deny Lukaku his role that season, when he got 12 goals to add to his 16 the previous season, although Pogba top scored with 13, which perhaps explained why Romelu was transferred to Italian side Inter Milan, because the French central midfielder was getting more goals than the main striker. During United’s 0-3 defeat, Martial was substituted on 65 minutes, and Rashford on 73 minutes, with Lukaku coming on, but the real mystery was Alexis Sanchez coming off the bench for Lingard on 80 minutes, because Alexis managed only 3 goals in two full seasons, 2017-18 and 2018-19, before being transferred to Inter Milan, and he’d kept Martial out of the 2018 FA Cup Final defeat to Chelsea, 0-1. Although Lukaku and Martial came on for Lingard and Rashford on 73 minutes, it was too late to provide Mourinho with the successful cushion he’d need in 2018-19.
Season 2019-20 was Solskjaer’s first season in complete control, and his side duly progressed to the FA Cup semi-final and defeat to Chelsea, 1-3, and similar disputations amongst fans and players as to who should have played. As with Paul Scholes, the England goal scoring attacking midfielder who, after being overlooked for two Champions League Finals against Barcelona in 2009 and 2011, despite being instrumental in United’s 2008 semi-final win over Barcelona, and scoring the only game of the two legs, 1-0, at Old Trafford, before United beat Chelsea in the Final, 6-5, a.e.t., when the game had finished, 1-1, retired at the end of 2010-11, Solskjaer’s and Mourinho’s preference for players other than Martial up front remained inexplicable. United manager, who’d preferred Park Ji-sung, had to beg Scholes to come out of retirement during the 2011-12 season, and his return saw United beat Manchester City, 3-2, in the FA Cup 3rd round on January 8, 2012. However, United effectively lost the title with a 4-4 draw at home to Everton on April 22, 2012, with the red devils 4-2 up, followed by an away defeat to Manchester City, 0-1, resulting in City winning the title on goal difference, when both clubs completed the season’s campaigning on 89 points. Although Scholes’ contribution to the 2012-13 title win was significant, it was his and Ferguson’s retiring season, and the 26 goals from Robert van Persie, center forward, brought from Arsenal at the beginning of the season by Ferguson, that won the championship.
The 2019-20 FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea saw Solskjaer again play five defenders in front of De Gea in a must win game; England right full back, bought before the beginning of the season from Crystal Palace for ₤ 50 million, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and England left full back, Brandon Williams, and three central defenders, Ivory Coast’s Eric Bailly, England’s captain, Harry McGuire, who’d arrived from Leicester on August 5, 2019, and Sweden’s Victor Lindelӧf, while Martial came off the substitutes bench on 45 (+ 2) minutes. Chelsea’s French forward, Olivier Giroud, met Spanish right back Cesar Azpilicueta's cross on 45 (+ 11) minutes and, from five yards out, squeezed the ball in off De Gea to give the Blues the advantage at the break, 0-1. That lead was doubled on 46 minutes when England midfielder, Mason Mount, running forward, drilled a low shot at goal. It shouldn't have troubled a ‘keeper of De Gea's caliber, but the Spaniard parried the ball into his own net. United lost a third goal to a McGuire own goal on 74 minutes, before their midfield playmaker, Portugal’s Bruno Fernandes, whose purchase by Solskjaer from Sporting CP (Lisbon) on January 29, 2020, had resulted in definite improvement, got an 85th minute consolation goal from the penalty spot, 1-3.
United had been 7th in the league when Fernandes made his debut in a 0-0 draw away to Wolves, and finished with 8 league goals for his necessarily limited season’s contribution, as the club ended in a creditable 3rd position in the English championship to qualify for the UCL with 66 points, behind Liverpool (99), and Manchester City (81), which was mainly due to Fernandes’ inspiration and attacking qualities from United’s central midfield. The rest is mystery.
Disastrous United Season
Finishing sixth in the league, and sacking the most successful manager in European soccer, Portugal’s José Mourinho, Manchester United saw all of the 2018-19 season’s winnable trophies go to the five teams that finished above them in the English championship. Having won the Charity Shield, 2-0, with goals from Argentine center forward, Sergio Agüero, against Chelsea in the season’s opener, Manchester rivals City went on to win the FA Cup and league double, a feat that had only previously been achieved by United themselves in 1993-94, 1995-96 and 1998-99; Preston North End in 1888-89; Aston Villa in 1896-97; Tottenham Hotspur in 1960-61; Arsenal in 1970-71, 1997-98, and 2001-02; Liverpool in 1985-86, and Chelsea in 2009-10. The 2018 Charity Shield was won by Agüero, who collected the ball on the edge of the area after a surge forward by City’s central midfielder, Phil Foden, and fired into the bottom corner on 13 minutes. After the break, on 58 minutes Agüero latched on to City central midfielder Bernardo Silva's pass to beat Chelsea’s Argentine ‘keeper, Willy Caballero, with another precise low finish. That Manchester City became the 8th club to win ‘the double’ hurt, but to see Chelsea and Arsenal vying for the Europa Cup in a Final that ‘The Blues’ won, 4-1, after going in at the closing of the first half , 0-0, hurt some more. French center forward, Olivier Giroud, opened the scoring for Chelsea in the 49th minute with a low header to the left corner from 12 yards out, after a cross from Italian left back, Emerson Palmieri. Spain’s right wing, Pedro, made it 2-0 in the 60th minute, when he steered a low shot into the right corner from 12 yards out after a low pass from Belgian center forward, Eden Hazard, on the left. Five minutes later, Chelsea were awarded a penalty after a foul on Giroud by Arsenal’s right midfielder, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, which Eden Hazard rolled into the left corner, sending Chelsea’s Czech ‘keeper, Peter Čech, the wrong way. Although Arsenal pulled a goal back in the 69th minute from a powerful right-footed shot from Nigerian substitute forward, Alex Iwobi, outside the penalty area, Chelsea made it 4–1 three minutes later with another goal from Hazard, a side-footed shot into the right corner from eight yards out after a pass from Giroud.
For Manchester United, Liverpool’s defeat of Spurs, 2-0, in the European Champions’ Cup Final was salt in the wound. Ahead after 2 minutes through Egyptian center forward Mohamed Salah’ penalty after a handball by Tottenham’s French midfielder, Moussa Sissoko, Liverpool kept Spurs at bay until, following an 87th minute corner kick that Spurs failed to deal with, Belgian forward Divock Origi pounced inside the penalty area and scored, so giving the Anfield outfit their 6th European Champions’ Cup. Not enough salt apparently for 3 x European Champions’ Cup winners United, because in the 2018-19 season’s campaigning Manchester City became the first team to win the English treble. The FA Cup was won, 6-0, against Watford. The contest was effectively over from the moment Spain’s left midfielder, David Silva, finished from close range after 26 minutes, and Brazilian center forward Gabriel Jesus’ doubling of the advantage on 38 minutes, after a sublime pass from Bernardo Silva. Belgium’s midfielder, Kevin de Bruyne, on as a substitute for Algerian right winger, Riyad Mahrez, scored on 61 minutes from Jesus' pass and the Brazilian raced clear for another goal on 68 minutes. England’s left winger, Raheem Sterling, turned in Bernardo Silva's perfect cross on 80 minutes, before bundling in another on 87 minutes, 6-0. Manchester City won the title narrowly with 98 points from European Champions’ Liverpool, who finished on 97 points. The League Cup had been won by City on February 24th, 4-3 on penalties after extra time when normal time and time added on failed to produce anything more than a goalless draw. Chelsea didn’t recover from Italian central midfielder Jorginho’s failure to score from their first penalty. German midfielder, İlkay Gündoğan, and Sergio Agüero had given City a 2-1 lead despite Chelsea captain and right back, Spain’s César Azpilicueta’s successful spot kick. When German winger Leroy Sané failed to find the net, Italy’s left back, Emerson Palmieri, stepped up to make it 2-2. However, Portugal’s Bernardo and England’s Sterling didn’t miss, and Eden Hazard’s success with Chelsea’s fifth penalty couldn’t redress Brazilian center back David Luiz’s failure with their fourth, 4-3. While United fans looked to blame Mourinho for having gotten them only as far as the last 16 of the European Cup and through to the FA Cup 4th round, he was sacked and replaced by ex-United striker, Norway’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, famed at Old Trafford’s ‘Theater of Dreams’ for scoring a last minute goal to give ‘The Reds’ victory against the German side Bayern Munich, 2-1, in the European Cup Final of 1999 that gave ‘The Red Devils’ the treble of FA Cup, league title and European Cup.
The only bright spot in the 2018-19 season was that United qualified for the group stages of the 2019-20 Europa Cup competition. It hadn’t even been possible for Manchester United to cheer on an ex-player because no former members of the team were present within the ranks of the successful clubs above them in the English league with the notable exception of Arsenal’s center forward, Danny Welbeck, although he finished the season without a winners’ medal. However, he still managed to stay ahead of his old teammates, after being deemed surplus to requirements by Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal, who sold him to Arsenal for £ 16 m on September 2, 2014, while returning a highest season’s tally of only 5 goals since. Welbeck left before Gaal’s only noteworthy success with the club in the FA Cup Final of 2016 which the team won, 2-1, against Crystal Palace. That afternoon it was another rising star forward, Marcus Rashford, that took center stage. Rashford didn’t score that day, and all of the scoring came after he was substituted in the 72nd minute by winger, Ashley Young. Crystal Palace then took the lead in the 78th minute when Jason Puncheon, 72nd minute substitute for French central midfielder, Yohan Cabaye, brought the ball down from a ball played into the penalty box by Palace right back, Joel Ward, and cut in on the left before firing past United’s Spanish ‘keeper, David de Gea, at his near post with his left foot.Spain’s inside forward, Juan Mata, redressed the balance from ten yards out after a Marouane Fellaini chest down on 81 minutes from a Wayne Rooney cross on the right. As the scores remained level on 90 minutes, 15 minutes each way of added extra time had to be played. Jesse Lingard scored the winner on 110 minutes, 2-1, from a right foot volley inside the penalty area that flew past Palace’s Welsh ‘keeper, Wayne Hennessey, before he could move.
Mourinho’s appointment for the following season, 2016-17, had been anticipated at least since the retirement of manager Alex Ferguson after his winning a 13th league title with Manchester United in 2012-13; despite the board’s decision to appoint Everton’s David Moyes whose inability to beat Sunderland at home to qualify for the League Cup Final on penalties, 1-2, ultimately led to his dismissal and the appointment of Gaal. Marcus Rashford was a part of the plan for the future, although injury to prolific center forward, Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimović, signed on a free transfer from French club Paris Saint-Germain, and what seemed in hindsight a hasty decision to allow all-time goal scoring England legend, Wayne Rooney, to return to Everton, meant that a lot of pressure would be brought to bear on a young striker whose league score for 2016-17 would be 5. Two goals from ‘Ibra’, a 19th minute free kick on the left and an 87th minute header, and another from England winger, Jessie Lingard, with a low right foot shot to the right of the net from just inside the penalty area on 38 minutes, had secured the 2017 League Cup, 3-2, against Southampton, but largely without Rashford, who’d come on in the 77th minute after the scoring was done. However, Marcus was center forward against the Dutch side Ajax of Amsterdam for the 2016-17 season’s Europa Cup Final, which the team won with a deflected shot on 18 minutes from French central midfielder, Paul Pogba, and an overhead kick from Armenia’s right wing captain Mkhitaryan, 2-0, on 48 minutes. Consequently, optimism was high at the outset of the 2107-18 campaign, which ended with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard slotting home a 22nd minute penalty in the 2018 FA Cup Final to beat United, 0-1, after a hasty sliding tackle from United center back, Phil Jones, which ultimately ended Mourinho’s reign as manager for failing to put silverware in the trophy cabinet. Rashford started the game with only 7 goals for the season, although Romelu Lukaku, who finished with 16 goals after arriving at the ‘Theater of Dreams’ for £ 90 m from Everton, and the day after Rooney returned to ‘the Toffees’, remained on the subs bench, along with French center forward, Anthony Martial, who’d gotten 9 goals in much less time than Rashford got his 7 that season. Both Rashford and Lingard were replaced on 73 minutes by Lukaku and Martial, but too late to save United from defeat.
Mourinho’s reign was over at Christmas 2018. Marcus Rashford finished the season on 10 goals, but so did Martial and Lukaku got 12, while 10 was Rashford’s highest total since his 2015-16 first season’s 5 in 11 starts, although he subsequently made 32, 35 and 33 appearances in 2016-17 (5), 2017-18 (7) and 2018-19 (10). Contrarily, forwards at Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal were riches in abundance. At City Argentina’s Sergio Agüero got 20 league goals and had been doing so since 2011-12, whilst at Liverpool Mohamed Saleh of Egypt scored 22 times in the league and the previous season he’d gotten 32. The ‘Pool’s Senegal winger, Sadio Mané, got 22 goals, and his lowest score in three seasons at the club was 10 the previous term, while Brazilian center forward, Roberto Firmino, had been in double figures since his arrival from German club Hoffenheim for the commencement of the 2015-16 season’s campaigning. England center forward, Harry Kane, had been hitting the back of the net hard at White Hart Lane since 2014-15 with season’s tallies of 21, 25, 29, 27, and 17 respectively before the onset of the 2019-20 campaign. African, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, center forward and Gabon captain, brought for the previous 2017-18 term for £ 56 m from Borussia Dortmund, where he’d been the Bundesliga’s top scorer in 2016-17, scored 22 times for Arsenal , and reminded United fans of Alex Ferguson’s purchase of France's Robin Van Persie before the beginning of the 2012-13 season when the former Arsenal forward scored 26 league goals as Manchester United won the league for the 13th occasion under Ferguson’s guidance. At Chelsea Eden Hazard finished on 16 goals and had been striking for ‘the Blues’ since 2012-13. That United couldn’t afford to nurture talent at this level seemed evident. Although there’d always be a place for a young striker in the hearts of the fans, it wouldn’t win any prizes against seasoned professionals.
Praying For A Goal For 10 Years
Manchester United have had problems with young goalscorers for almost a decade now. The ancient phenomenon of the nurtured young talented forward that didn’t quite make it had been lost to Old Trafford since the departure of Mark Robins who had been credited with rescuing United’s ultimately successful F.A. Cup campaign in the 1989-90 season when he scored in the 114th minute of extra time in the semi-final to take the club through against Oldham Athletic, 2-1. However, it began at Old Trafford again with Danny Welbeck in the final days of manager Alex Ferguson’s reign. Welbeck won a League Cup Final winners’ medal with United, while making just 1 league appearance and 2 as substitute for 1 goal in 2008-09. The team beat Spurs on penalties, 4-1, and Danny started at center forward. Although United won the League Cup again the following 2009-10 season and Danny made 1 start and 4 appearances as substitute for the reds that season, he wasn’t a part of the squad that beat Aston Villa, 2-1. However, he was center forward against Everton in the F.A. Cup semi-final that United lost, 2-4 on penalties after a goalless 0-0 draw, which went some way to explaining his omission from the team that lost 0-2 to Barcelona in the European Cup Final that 2008-09 season, although Paul Scholes’ absence from the selected line-up raised more eyebrows as the midfielder was described by the Spanish giants as 'most feared' subsequent to his 14th minute long range semi-final winner in the 2007-08 season at Old Trafford, 1-0, after the first leg at the Camp Nou in Spain had been a 0-0 draw. The Manchester club had gone on to defeat Chelsea, 6-5 on penalties, when the game had finished, 1-1, and extra time had been played.
The 'Red Devils' won the league title in 2010-11 and Danny didn’t play in any league games for United, because he was on loan at Sunderland where he made 21 starts and 5 appearances as sub for a return of 6 goals, while top United scorer, Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov with 20 goals from 24 league starts and 8 substitute appearances, was mysteriously totally excluded from the 1-3 European Cup Final defeat to Barcelona, along with Paul Scholes, who was again a substitute, and who’d made 16 starts with 6 substitute appearances during the successful championship campaign in what looked like the tail end of a career that would come to haunt Ferguson. Berbatov had arrived on September 1, 2008, to bar Welbeck’s way into the team. Scoring 9 goals in that 2008-09 season in which United went on to win the title, Berbatov scored 12 league goals the following 2009-10 season but, like Scholes, he wasn’t in the starting line-up for the 1-3 defeat to Barcelona in the 2010-11 European Cup Final. When Welbeck finally got his chance, in 2011-12 the club finished level on points with Manchester City, who won the league on 89 points, but with a better goal difference of +64 to +56. Danny made 23 starts and 7 as substitute for 9 goals, while Berbatov made 5 starts and 7 substitute appearances for 7 goals and was transferred to Fulham for the 2012-13 season, which tended to suggest that, although youth had won out, Berbatov’s goals might have made a difference if he’d played more that term.
Ferguson’s solution to the lack of striking power was to bring Robin Van Persie from Arsenal, who scored 26 league goals in 35 starts and 3 substitute appearances as the team won the title again that season, while Danny Welbeck scored but 1 goal in 13 appearances and 14 as substitute. Although Ferguson retired at season’s end, Danny found his striking boots again in 2013-14 for new manager from Everton, David Moyes, with 9 goals in 15 starts and 10 as substitute. However, United’s failure to win anything, and a dismal home exit to Sunderland on penalties, 1-2, with Welbeck blazing his shot over the bar to the right, so missing United’s first after Sunderland’s central midfielder, Craig Gardner, had blazed his own shot over the bar to the left in extra time of the second leg of the semi-final of the League Cup on January 22nd 2014, saw Moyes’ dismissal, and Welbeck’s moving to Arsenal on September 2, 2014, as United’s initial flirtation with forward youth came to a sad conclusion, which was that infatuation with young looks was an assassin’s bullet to a soccer manager. Although Sunderland striker, Steven Fletcher, also missed his spot kick, when United’s Spanish ’keeper David De Gea, diving to his right, saved his low shot by the post, and so United’s Scots’ midfielder Darren Fletcher duly made it 1-0 to United with a shot high and to the right of S’land ’keeper, Italian Vito Mannone, Belgian play maker, Adnan Januzaj, Brazilian right back, Rafael da Silva, and England center back, Phil Jones, all failed to find the back of the net for ’The Red Devils’. S’land ran out winners, 2-1, and new Dutch manager, Louis Van Gaal, arrived.
Although Van Gaal’s United squad didn’t win any major trophies, a pre-season success against Liverpool, 3-1, in the Final of an annual invitation tournament, the International Champions Cup, which was played for in the United States of America between the world’s best, helped to restore some faith in the club for the 2014-15 season. Van Gaal’s remaining at the helm saw United win the F.A. Cup, 2-1, against Crystal Palace at the close of the 2015-16 season with England winger, Jessie Lingard, who’d made just 1 appearance in Van Gaal’s first season in charge, coming on as a 90th minute substitute for Spanish inside forward, Juan Mata, scoring the winning volleyed goal from outside the area in the 110th minute of extra time, and after 19 starts and 6 substitute appearances in the league for 4 goals, so suggesting that United’s faith in youth would experience a resurgence under Gaal’s stewardship.
Marcus Rashford started at center forward in that 2-1 win over Crystal Palace, and after scoring twice on his debut against Arsenal at 'the Theater of Dreams' on February 28, 2016, aged 17, before finishing with 11 starts and 5 goals in the league campaign. Rashford would prove to be the successor to Welbeck in terms of United’s misplaced faith in young center forwards, and he was replaced on 72 minutes by winger, Ashley Young, before Palace opened the scoring with a 78th minute left footed strike from substitute midfielder, Jason Puncheon, which Juan Mata replied to almost before the game had been restarted on 81 minutes when a cross from the right from Wayne Rooney, chested down by Moyes’ midfield buy from Everton, Belgium’s Marouane Fellaini, saw the Spaniard drive it into the net from ten yards out. However, it wasn’t success enough for the board and Gaal was replaced for the 2016-17 season by José Mourinho, whose reputation was immense having won 3 league titles with Chelsea (2004-05, 2005-06, and 2014-15); as well as the European Cup with Porto (2003-04), and Internazionale of Milan (2009-10), and much more besides: including the Spanish championship (2011-12) after a spell with Spain’s Real Madrid.
Mourinho’s reign as United boss was characterized by greatness, although no sooner had success been achieved than the Portuguese seemed intent on dismantling a successful team. Rashford finished his second season with 16 starts and 16 substitute appearances for 5 league goals, and although subsequent injury to Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimović, who’d come from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer and scored twice in United’s defeat of Southampton in the 2016-17 League Cup Final, 3-2, saw Rashford start the Europa Cup Final against Ajax of Amsterdam, he didn’t make an appearance in the EFL Cup Final until the 77th minute after the scoring had been completed through Ibrahimović’s 87th minute headed goal. Ajax were beaten, 2-0, with an 18th minute deflected long range shot from French midfielder, Paul Pogba, who Mourinho had had return to Old Trafford from Italian giants Juventus, and a 48th minute overhead kick from Armenian right winger, Henrikh Mikhitaryan, who had been brought to Old Trafford from Germany’s Borussia Dortmund. These buys, along with Eric Bailly, an Ivory Coast center back from Spain’s Villareal, were the mainstay of Mourinho’s initial success, and although Ibrahimović’s cruciate ligament injury put a stop to his performing better than the 17 goals in 27 starts and 1 substitute’s appearance, Wayne Rooney, who scored 4 league goals that season from 15 starts and 10 substitute appearances, could have been switched back to the striker’s role that had seen him become the club’s highest goal scorer ever since his arrival from Everton for the 2004-05 season’s campaign.
In 2017-18, Manchester United finished on 81 points, and were runners up in the league to Manchester City on 100, a margin of difference of 19 points, which silently spoke volumes about the gap in footballing class. Although United reached the F.A. Cup Final, the team lost to Chelsea through a 22nd minute Eden Hazard penalty awarded after a sliding tackle by England center half, Phil Jones, went awry. Both Rashford and Lingard were taken off in the 73rd minute to be replaced by French striker Anthony Martial, who was on 9 goals for the season and who’d top scored in the league in 2015-16 for Van Gaal with 11 goals as United won the F.A. Cup that season, and Romelu Lukaku, who'd arrived from Everton for £ 90 m as a replacement for 'Ibra' on July 10, 2017, and had scored 16 league goals that 2017-18 season, but neither had been selected for the Final. Rashford, with 7 goals from 17 starts and 18 substitute appearances in the league, and Jessie Lingard with 8 from 20 starts and 13 appearances as 'sub', were preferred. Bailly had also been on the substitutes’ bench for the Final, and on 22 January, 2018, Mkhitaryran was transferred to Arsenal as part of a swap deal for Alexis Sánchez, a Chilean forward, who admittedly had had what looked like a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside during the 2018 Final. However, with only 2 goals that season from 12 starts, and 1 from 9 starts and 11 as substitute the following 2018-19 season, the exchange looked to have left United the poorer.
Ibrahimović made only 1 start and 4 as substitute before Mourinho let him leave for L.A. Galaxy, where he subsequently blossomed after what had seemed a career-threatening cruciate ligament knee injury, scoring 22 goals in 27 starts in the 2017-18 season. Wayne Rooney had already been moved back to Everton for the 2017-18 season, where he scored 10 goals in 27 starts and 4 substitute appearances. Consequently, Mourinho’s decision to leave on the bench in favor of Rashford and Sánchez, Martial and Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian center forward, brought from Everton after Rooney’s return a day earlier on July 9, 2017, and who’d make 33 starts and 1 substitute appearance that league season, looked ill considered. Martial had finished with 9 from 18 starts and 11 as substitute, while both Rashford and Lingard were behind him in terms of goals, and ahead in terms of appearances. The following season 2018-19 saw Rashford make 10 goals, 2 less than Lukaku, who top scored with 12, but Rashford’s then highest score of 10 in three seasons was still 1 less than Martial’s 2015-16 total of 11 when he top scored as a savior for United who that season also won the F.A. Cup Final, 2-1, against Crystal Palace, and Martial completed his own 2018-19 season’s tally of 10 goals on March 30, 2019, with the winning 72nd minute strike at home to Watford, 2-1, and from only 18 starts and 9 appearances as ’sub’, compared to Rashford’s 26 starts and 7 as substitute. Consequently, it wasn’t entirely surprising that United sacked the manager and replaced him with the player that had scored the winning goal against Bayern Munich in the 1999 European Cup Final, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, although seven defeats in all competitions and only a single win meant that United finished without silverware amid a feeling that Mourinho, who’d been higher placed in the league before Solskjaer’s arrival, and had still been in contention for the F.A. Cup at the 4th round stage, while in the last 16 of the European Cup, might have done better than to finish 6th in the league; if only he hadn’t relied on rash youth.
When David Moyes arrived from Everton to manage Manchester United for the 2013-14 season after Alex Ferguson’s retirement, it puzzled many because Moyes’ only success at ’The Toffees’ had been in avoiding relegation. His only chance at silverware was the League Cup that 2013-14 season, after the 2013 traditional Charity Shield Final between the champions and the winners of the FA Cup. Dutch center forward Robin Van Persie had struck in the 6th minute with a header from French full back Patrice Evra’s clipped cross from wide on the left, which found Persie right of the ’keeper’s penalty area, and he directed a powerful looping header into the top left corner. Persie’s second came in the 59th minute when his shot from wide on the right, and well outside of Wigan ’keeper Scott Carson’s area, was deflected by Wigan center back, James Perch, into the net, which gave champions’ United the victory, 2-0.
Persie went on to get 12 league goals that season, and striking partner, England’s Wayne Rooney, would get 17. Their rivals for the striking roles were Mexico’s Javier Hernández and England’s Danny Welbeck, who was on 8 goals for the season before the League Cup semi-final second-leg with Sunderland at Old Trafford. United had narrowly lost the away leg at ’the Stadium of Light’, 1-2. United’s legendary Welsh left winger, Ryan Giggs, then playing in a central midfield role, had put through his own goal in the 47th minute before half time, 0-1, and despite an equalizing headed goal from Serbia’s Nemanja Vidić on 52 minutes, 1-1, Sunderland were awarded a penalty when England midfielder, Tom Cleverley, clumsily brought down right-winger, Adam Johnson, in the 64th minute and Italian forward, Fabio Borini, on loan from Liverpool, scored from the spot kick, 1-2. The failure of lone striker, Danny Welbeck, to make an impression, should have been warning enough for Moyes, but Ferguson’s policy of fielding a reserve team in League Cup games had obscured Moyes’ sense, and Persie and Rooney weren’t even on the bench for the second leg. Hernández, who would end the season on only 4 league goals, had been brought on in the 87th minute at ’the Stadium of Light’, and would keep his place in the team for the return leg.
Giggs had hit the Sunderland bar from long range early on in the first leg at the ’Stadium of Light’, while Belgium’s United midfielder, 18 years old Adnan Januzaj, had a goal ruled out as Giggs’ elderly 40 years old legs were too slow to take him out of his offside position, so both Giggs and Cleverley were punished by being ’benched’ for their mistakes. Giggs had been attempting to prevent Sunderland’s Scots’ right back, Phil Bardsley, from finishing at close range, after England midfielder, Michael Carrick, failed to head clear from a free kick. Sunderland’s Scots’ center forward, Steven Fletcher, drove in a cross with his left foot at the far post towards Bardsley coming in on the right, and Giggs could only help the ball into the net by ’keeper De Gea’s right post.
Again in the second leg at ’the Theater of Dreams’, Manchester, it was a center back, this time England’s Jonny Evans, playing alongside England’s Chris Smalling in the absence of Serbia’s Vidić, who gave United their chance. Evans’ header inside the left upright after a flick on from Welbeck at the center of the goal area from a corner on the right in the 37th minute made it 1-0 to ’the Reds’ at half-time, and it remained 1-0 until full-time, which by the rules of the competition meant 2-2 on aggregate, and a period of added extra time to decide which team would progress to the Final. Phil Bardsley scored from a right foot shot in the 119th minute when, going down on one knee and literally stooping to collect it, a tired De Gea somehow managed to fumble, scooping it to his right and into the net. However, in the 121st minute Adnan Januzaj played a one-two with United center back, Chris Smalling, on the edge of the S’land area. With his back to goal, Smalling sent the ball to his right, which allowed Januzaj to run at the S’land defense and cross left footed for Hernández to slot the ball in at the far right post past Italian ’keeper, Vito Mannone, 3-3 (aet) on aggregate.
Goals were sparse in the subsequent penalty shoot-out. After S’land’s first from English midfielder, Craig Gardner, went over the bar, Welbeck blasted high, wide and to the right for United. Dea Gea saved his blushes diving to the right to save from S’land center forward, Steven Fletcher, while United’s Darren Fletcher made it 1-0 with a low shot to the ’keeper’s right. However, S’land’s succeeding penalty to De Gea’s left was an unstoppably accurate strike from Spanish left full back, Marcos Alonso, 1-1. Januzaj’s low shot to the S’land keeper’s right was too soft. Vito Mannone scooped it up easily. S’land’s central midfielder, South Korea’s Ki Sung-Yueng, sent De Gea the wrong way; slotting the ball to the United ’keeper’s left, 1-2. United’s utility defender, and hard man in midfield, Phil Jones, ballooned his effort over the bar and, after De Gea saved from English winger, Adam Johnson, going to his right, it was left to Brazil’s right full back, Rafael Da Silva, to effectively end Moyes’ reign as United manager when his low drive was saved by Mannone diving to his right.
England center forward and record scorer, Wayne Rooney, would get another 8 goals that season, while Robin Van Persie, his also reliable striking partner, would net another 5 goals. Danny Welbeck, however, who’d been on 8 league goals for the season before the January 22, 2014, League Cup semi final second leg at Old Trafford against Sunderland, would score just once more before season’s end when he got the third in the 82nd minute of a 3-0 win at West Bromwich Albion on March 8, 2014. Javier Hernández would return only 4 league goals for the season; the winner on 80 minutes in a 3-2 win over Stoke City at home on October 26, 2013; the only United goal on 78 minutes in a 1-3 defeat at Chelsea on January 19, 2014, a couple of days before the League Cup semi-final defeat to S’land at Old Trafford; the fourth on 91 minutes in a home win over Aston Villa on March 29, 2014, and the third goal on 64 minutes during a 4-0 defeat of Newcastle away on April 5, 2014, at St James’ Park. Two of Hernández’s 4 goals in the league that season were after the League Cup semi-final defeat at ’the Theater of Dreams’, which raised some doubts as to the wisdom of Moyes’ selecting him, and Welbeck, given the fact that the United manager lost his job for being unable to put silverware in United’s trophy cabinet.
Manchester United finished 7th in the league in 2013-14, and persevering with Hernández, who made 18 appearances as substitute with only 6 starts, and Welbeck, who made 15 starts and 10 as sub, for a paltry 9 goals, his highest return in a career at United that lasted three full seasons (2011-12, 2012-13, and 2013-14) was a mistake. Welbeck was sold to Arsenal for £ 16 million by manager, Louis Van Gaal, brought to replace Moyes after his successes with the Dutch national side at the 2014 World Cup Finals, although in five seasons at Arsenal Welbeck didn’t score more than 5 league goals (2017-18) in a campaign. Hernández was loaned to Real Madrid of Spain where he made 23 appearances for 7 goals before eventually being sold by Van Gaal to Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen for £ 7. 3 million.
Van Gaal’s United won the FA Cup against Crystal Palace in 2016, 2-1, with Wayne Rooney as captain, and Welbeck was Arsenal’s center forward in their 2-1 FA Cup Final defeat of Chelsea in 2017, although he was taken off on 78 minutes with the scores level at 1-1 after Chelsea’s Spanish center forward, Diego Costa, scored on 76 minutes. Controlling the ball on his chest in the Arsenal penalty area, before shooting with his right foot, Costa equalized Chilean forward Alexis Sánchez strike on 4 minutes. Sánchez would be taken to Old Trafford on January 22, 2018, by Gaal’s replacement for the commencement of the 2016-17 campaign, Portuguese manager, Jose Mourinho. For what was to be a winning Arsenal side in the 2017 FA Cup Final, Sánchez scored from six yards out from his right boot as Chelsea ’keeper, Belgian’s Thibaut Courtois, advanced, and Arsenal’s Welsh central midfielder, Aaron Ramsey, on 79 minutes headed in French forward Olivier Giroud’s cross on the left from six yards out, 2-1. Mourinho went on to win the Europa Cup, and the League Cup in 2016-2017. However, he was replaced as United’s manager, after losing the 2018 FA Cup Final, 0-1, to a penalty from Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. Sánchez, who’d scored only 2 league goals in 12 appearances in 2017-18, and only 1, the third on 90 minutes in a 3-2 defeat of Newcastle at home on October 6, 2018, before Mourinho’s sacking, looked a good replacement for Welbeck.
All Over Rash
Marcus Rashford’s meteoric rise has led to comparisons with Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Harry Kane, and Cristiano Ronaldo. There are similarities with Ronaldo, the Portuguese captain and right winger, who was with Manchester United from 2003-4, after being transferred from Sporting Clube de Portugal in the close season when he’d made 25 league appearances for the Portuguese side for 3 goals. In 2003-4 Ronaldo made 29 league appearances for United and returned 4 goals, and in 2004-5 the winger made 33 league appearances for 5 goals. The last season he failed to reach double figures for United was 2005-6 when Ronaldo reached 9 goals in 33 league appearances. Transferred to Spain’s Real Madrid for the beginning of the 2009-10 season, Cristiano achieved his career best, 48 league goals, in 2014-15. Consequently, Rashford’s early career is very similar to Ronaldo’s. Making 11 league appearances in 2015-16, Marcus scored 5 times for the reds, and in 2016-17 he scored another 5 times for the ‘red devils’ whilst appearing 32 times. During the 2017-18 season, Rashford hit the back of the net for United on 7 occasions in 35 league appearances, and by the middle of January 2019 he’d already reached 7 goals.
After being on loan to lower division clubs, Harry Kane’s top level career began at around the same time as Rashford’s. In 2013-14, he made 10 appearances for Tottenham Hotspur for 3 goals. However, his goals tally increased dramatically in 2014-15 when he struck 21 times in 34 league appearances, and in 2015-16 Kane made 38 appearances for 25 goals scored. 2016-17 saw Harry put the ball in the net 29 times in 30 appearances, and 30 times in 37 appearances in 2017-18, while he’d struck 14 times by the middle of January 2019, that is, twice as many strikes as Marcus Rashford, who Kane had played alongside in the England team, which lost the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup against Croatia, 1-2. Marcus had started the group game against Belgium instead of Kane, which England lost, 0-1. Among Rashford’s five further appearances as ‘sub’, he scored from the penalty spot in the shoot-out, 4-3, that ensured England progressed from the last sixteen after a 1-1 draw against Columbia. Despite his own goalscoring prowess, Kane, who was the highest individual scorer with 6 goals in the 2018 World Cup Finals, hadn’t won any major trophy with Spurs either.
A great trophy winner was Wayne Rooney, who began at Manchester United at about the same time as Ronaldo, who alongside Rooney of course went on to win the European Cup with the club in 2008, and the World Club Cup against Peru’s LDU Quito with Rooney getting the only goal of the game. At Real Madrid, Ronaldo went on to win the European Cup again in 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018; and the World Club Cup in 2014, 2016, and 2017. So far as goals go, Rooney’s first season in double figures came after his transfer from Everton, where he got 9 in 34 league appearances in 2003-04, to United, where he struck 11 times in 29 league appearances in 2004-05. For the next ten seasons, Wayne was never out of double figures, although it’s strange that, given United’s huge success during his period there as premier striker, in the seasons when he reached 26 (2009-10) and 27 (2011-12) goals, the club only won the League Cup in 2010 and Rooney had to come off the bench in the 42nd minute to score the 74th minute winner against Aston Villa after central midfielder, England’s James Milner, had given them the lead on 5 minutes. England’s Gabriel Agbonlahor was played in behind the United defence, and outpaced United center back Nemanja Vidić to the penalty area. The Serbian defender grabbed hold of the striker's shirt before lunging in with a clumsy challenge. Milner sent Polish ‘keeper Tomasz Kuszczak the wrong way with a side-footed finish to the bottom-right corner, 0-1. United had drawn level through Michael Owen in the 12th minute with a low right foot shot from the right. Bulgarian centre forward, Dimitar Berbatov, was brought down, and it looked as if it’d have been a penalty if the England striker hadn’t driven the loose ball to the left corner of the Villa net past the despairing dive of US ‘keeper Brad Friedel. Rooney’s looping header over Villa ‘keeper Friedel, from a cross on the right by Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia, made it 2-1.
United’s relative lack of success in those seasons demonstrated the value of a second striker to complement the main spearhead of the team. Apart from the European Cup and World Club Cup, Rooney played in five championship winning seasons at United; 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2010-11, and 2012-13. Towards the end of manager Alex Ferguson’s career, another luminous teenager in the red shirt appeared briefly. Danny Welbeck who, despite making 27 league appearances as a centre forward, for only a single goal returned, captured a title winners’ medal in 2012-13. However, the previous season, 2011-12, Danny had scored 9 league goals in 30 appearances as City won the title on 89 points by virtue of having scored more goals. Consequently, when Danny returned 9 goals in 25 appearances in 2013-14 and United finished 7th, Welbeck was on his way to Arsenal. In short, comparisons with Welbeck are more relevant in Rashford’s case, who hasn’t yet reached Welbeck’s highest season’s tally at United, 9.
Michael Owen’s own career at United looks good, and closer scrutiny reveals that his 19 appearances for 3 goals in 2009-10, which resulted in his League Cup Final winners’ medal, and his 11 appearances in 2010-11 for 2 goals that got him a title winners’ medal, aren’t stats so dissimilar from Rashford’s. Of course, Owen had won the Europa Cup and the European Super Cup with Liverpool in 2001, a season in which he got 16 goals, and Michael was never below 11 for the seven full seasons he played for the Anfield outfit from 1997-8, before his transfer to Real Madrid for the 2004-5 season. Owen left for Stoke’s 2012-13 season after making just one appearance for United in 2011-12 and, as Wayne Rooney’s star too dimmed at Old Trafford in 2016-17, where he scored just 5 league goals in 25 appearances, which was slightly worse than the previous 2015-16 season when he returned 8 league goals in 28 appearances , it was hoped Rashford’s would brighten. Both Rooney and Rashford played in the 2016 FA Cup Final win over Crystal Palace, 2-1, and a year later, with both players on the substitutes’ bench, Rashford came on against Sunderland in the 2017 League Cup Final in the 77th minute for England winger, Jessie Lingard, who’d gotten United’s second in the 38th minute of a 3-2 win. It was that same season that Ajax of Amsterdam were dispatched, 2-0, in the Europa Cup Final. Rooney came on to say goodbye in the 90th minute, before returning in 2017-18 to Everton, the club United had paid £25.6 m for, and where he'd returned 6 goals in 33 league appearances in his debut season of 2002-03 for 'The Toffees', while Rashford played until the 84th minute when he was replaced by France’s striker, Anthony Martial. It was a great start for Rashford: three major trophies in two seasons. However, strikers have to score or they don’t make it at Manchester United. C’est la vie! Martial scored 11 times in his first season, 2015-16, and Rashford’s yet to make double figures: pressure could tell.
No Way José
Manager at Manchester United for the 2017-18 season, after winning the English League Cup and Europa Cup double the previous season, José Mourinho must’ve wondered where it’d all gone wrong. A United team, sparkling with stars, lost the 2018 FA Cup Final, 0-1, and as early as the 22nd minute. A penalty awarded to their Wembley opponents was driven into the net, low and to the right of the red devils’ Spanish ’keeper, David De Gea, by Chelsea’s Belgian captain and center forward, Eden Hazard, who’d himself been brought down by a sliding tackle from, Phil Jones, United’s England center back.
Mourinho’s preference for England forward, Marcus Rashford, and Chile’s Alexis Sanchez for the May 19th FA Cup Final contest was reminiscent of Alex Ferguson’s last days as manager when, inexplicably, he chose the bustle of Park Ji Sung, the Korean midfielder, over the player Barcelona said they feared the most, England’s Paul Scholes, for the European Cup Finals of 2009 and 2011. It was Scholes that had scored the 14th minute goal from distance that had beaten Barcelona in the semi-final of 2008 at Old Trafford after the first leg in Spain had ended 0-0. United had gone on to defeat Chelsea on penalties, 6-5, at Russia’s Luzhniki stadium, Moscow, with left winger, Ryan Giggs, applying the coup de grâce. A 26th minute header from Portuguese right wing, Cristiano Ronaldo, and a 45th minute burst-through goal from England midfielder, Frank Lampard, had resulted in a 1-1 draw. After that victory it’d been expected that Scholes would be at the heart of United against Barcelona when they again made the Final in 2009, and again in 2011.
Ferguson’s mistake was so glaring in 0-2 and 1-3 defeats to the Spaniards that, when the reds were losing the English championship on points to rivals Manchester City, Scholes was asked to swallow his pride and come out of retirement to make 14 starts, and United just failed that 2011-12 season to beat City, who won on more goals scored with 89 points, although the following 2012-13 season United finished nine points clear of City and Scholes’ 8 starts, and 8 appearances as substitute, did help inspire the team to the title. The omission of Scholes from the 2009 Final was compunded by Ferguson’s preferring to play without Bulgarian striker, Dmitar Berbatov, against Barcelona, or Argentine center forward, Carlos Tevez, who’d led the line in the 2008 Final. The prolific Berbatov had scored 9 times in the league after arriving from Spurs in September 2008. Berbatov, who scored 20 league goals in United’s title-winning 2010-11 season, wasn’t even in the squad for the European Cup Final against Barcelona, which United lost, 1-3, after drawing level in the 34th minute through England center forward, Wayne Rooney, who curled in a shot to the left of Spanish ’keeper, Victor Valdés, and into the net from 15 yards after playing a one-two on the right of the Barca goal with Wales’ 38 year old former left winger, Ryan Giggs, now playing in a distributive midfield role because of his advancing years.
Ferguson’s subsequent decision to pick England center forward, Danny Welbeck, over Berbatov’s prolific goalscoring talent, was similarly disastrous. Although Welbeck had looked promising, and led the line in 2011-12, scoring 9 goals in 23 starts, United had finished second to City on goals scored while Berbatov returned 7 goals in 5 starts and the team might’ve won the championship if he’d played more. Although United did win the title the following season, Welbeck scored only once in 27 starts, which underlined Ferguson’s misplaced faith. Danny had come to prominence in the 2009 League Cup Final defeat of Tottenham Hotspur when the game ended 0-0 with him at center forward. Danny’d only made three first team appearances for 1 goal that season, and although the team won on penalties, 4-1, it meant that Danny didn’t have to take his, and he managed to miss his penalty against Sunderland in the Old Trafford 2014 League Cup semi-Final second leg when United went out of the competition on penalties, 1-2, with only Scots’ midfielder, Darren Fletcher, finding the net for United, which meant that replacement for the retired Ferguson, David Moyes, was then sacked as manager.
Dutch performances in the 2012 World Cup Finals saw their manager, Louis Van Gaal, installed at United and the team did win the 2016 FA Cup Final, 2-1, with goals from Spanish inside left, Juan Mata, brought by Moyes from Chelsea, and England winger, Jessie Lingard, a product of United’s youth policy. However, only a single cup success for Gaal meant his being replaced by Mourinho, whose international reputation with Porto and Inter Milan, with whom he’d won European Champions’ Cup titles in 2004 and 2010 respectively, virtually guaranteed his appointment. Building on success, Mourinho brought Armenian right-winger and captain, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Frenchman Paul Pogba, who’d been brought from Ligue 1’s Le Havre in October 2009 to join United’s youth team squad, which won the 2011 FA Youth Cup (with Lingard also in the team), and was sold by United to Juventus on July 3rd 2012 by Ferguson, where he’d win two consecutive Italian titles (2012-13; 2013-14) as the central midfield powerhouse, followed by consecutive Italian doubles of league and cup (2014-15; 2015-16), and Supercoppa Italiana (2013; 2015) before returning at a cost of £89.3 million, while elderly Swede, Zlatan Ibrahimović, arriving from French club, Paris Saint-Germain, where he’d scored 38 goals in 2015-16, was expected to enjoy a productive Indian summer at Old Trafford at the age of 37 after winning titles at Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, A.C. Milan, and Paris Saint-Germain.
Pogba, who’d win the World Cup with France in 2018, 4-2 against Croatia, and who’d score the third French goal in the 59th minute with a left foot shot high into the left of the Croatian net, 3-1, in the 2017 Europa Cup Final had a long range left foot shot deflected by Ajax center back, Columbia’s Davinson Sánchez, over and past Cameroon ’keeper, André Onana, in the 18th minute, while Mkhitarayan added a second, flicking the ball with his right foot over the ’keeper’s head and with his back to goal, following a headed knockdown by United’s England center back, Chris Smalling, after a corner on the right from Juan Mata in the 48th minute, so giving United victory, 2-0. Although Ibrahimović didn’t play, because of a cruciate ligament injury that, most unfortunately for Mourinho, ended his Old Trafford career, his goal in the League Cup Final of 2017 from a long-range free-kick that went over the Southampton wall, and into the left bottom corner of the net beyond the despairing dive of ’keeper Fraser Forster in the 19th minute, was followed by a second 87th minute headed goal after a cross from the right by Spain’s central midfielder, Ander Herrera, to the far left post where Ibrahimović powered it home. It was a strike that restored United’s advantage. Lingard had made it 2-0 after receiving a pass from Argentine center back, Marcus Rojo, wide on the left, resulting in his right foot low shot into the right of the S’ton net on 38 minutes. However, S’ton forward, Italy’s Manolo Gabbiadini, had cancelled that out in the 45th and 48th minutes, 2-2. Ibrahimović’s late headed goal, so ensuring a 3-2 win for the United manager, meant the 0-1 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup Final of 2018 looked to casual observers as a mere blip in the club’s inevitable climb back to greatness. However, Mourinho’s decision to sell Mkhitarayan, in a swop deal for Arsenal’s forward Alexis Sanchez in January 2018, represented a failure to find an adequate replacement for Ibrahimović, who scored 17 league goals that 2016-17 season, and meant that his Ferguson-like decision to prefer Rashford and Sanchez in the 2018 FA Cup Final came to look like suicide.
Belgian forward, Romelu Lukaku, and France’s Anthony Martial remained on the bench until late in the game. In three seasons at United that term’s 7 goals was Rashford’s highest return, while Sanchez had only scored three league goals by January 2019. Contrarily, Lukaku, who’d been brought from Everton, had scored 17 goals that season, and Martial, who struck 9 times in the league that season, and 11 times in his first at the club, 2015-16, but had been used often as a winger, which reduced his effectiveness in terms of goals scored, were comparatively prolific. Consequently, United’s defeat to Chelsea, 0-1, was blamed on the absence of wingers and forwards. With an almost minus goal difference coming up to Christmas 2018, and with the team 6th in the league, Mourinho was sacked. New manager, former Norwegian center forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who’d scored the United goal that beat Bayern Munich in the 1999 European Cup Final, 2-1, began with four straight victories; 5-1 away at Cardiff; 3-1 against Huddersfield and 4-1 against Bournemouth at the ’Theater of Dreams’, and 2-0 away at Newcastle, which improved United’s goal difference to 11, and the way to salvation was clear.
Manchester United, Qualified Success
Manchester United have always been linked with European soccer for the simple reason that manager, Matt Busby, who was knighted by England`s queen Elizabeth II, after his team won the 1968 European Cup, and became Sir Matt Busby, took the club into Europe to compete in the European Cup competition in 1956-57, and thereby United became the first English soccer team to compete in what became Europe`s premier contest between respective national soccer champions in a knockout two-leg tournament format, with a single Final game in a neutral European capital to determine which would be Europe`s Champions. Following their league title win the previous season, 1955-56, Manchester United first competed in European football competition in 1956–57. 1954–55 Football League winners Chelsea had been denied the opportunity to take part in the inaugural European Cup by The Football League's chairman Alan Hardaker, who feared that European football would damage the integrity of the English game. However, Matt Busby, the manager of Manchester United, was a forward-thinking man and was determined to have his young team, known as `the Busby Babes`, compete on the European stage. With the backing of The Football Association's chairman, Stanley Rous (who would later go on to become the president of FIFA), Manchester United were allowed to compete in the 1956–57 European Cup culminating with a semi-final tie against Real Madrid. The first leg took United to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, where they were defeated, 3–1, in front of a crowd of 135,000. Although center forward, Tommy Taylor, scored on 82 minutes, 2-1, Enrique Mateos got a third for Madrid a minute after the restart. United were only able to draw 2–2 in the second leg back at Old Trafford, with Taylor and Charlton bringing the team back into the game after they were down, 0-2, and the club's first European season came to an end as Real Madrid went through, 5-3, on aggregate to a Final against Italy`s Fiorentina, which they won, 2-0, to record the second of what would eventually be five consecutive European Cup titles.
After again winning the English title in 1956-57, Busby`s efforts to win the European Cup were curtailed in February, 1958, when the team that looked like winning its third consecutive English league title met with disaster returning from a European Cup quarter final with Red Star Belgrade that, although the leg ended 3-3, took United through to a semi-final with A.C. Milan, because United had won their home leg at Old Trafford, 2-1, coming from behind to win with goals from forward, Bobby Charlton in the 65th, and half back, Eddie Colman, in the 81st minute, after forward, Lazar Tasić, had opened the scoring for Belgrade in the 35th. The plane bringing the players back to Manchester crashed on take off at Germany`s Munich airport killing eight; reserve left back, Geoff Bent, captain for England and Manchester United, left back, Roger Byne, center half, Mark Jones, half backs Eddie Colman and Duncan Edwards, left wing, David Pegg, center forward, Tommy Taylor, and Ireland`s inside forward, Liam `Billy` Whelan. England`s right wing, Johnny Berry, never played again, and neither did inside forward, Jackie Blanchflower, brother of Danny, who captained Spurs to the league and F.A. Cup `double` in 1961, and said Jackie was a better player. The heart of England`s World Cup squad for Sweden in 1958 was ripped out. A patched up team beat Milan, 2-1, in the first leg, again coming from behind after a strike from inside forward, Pepe Schiaffino, in the 24th minute. United`s center forward, Denis Viollet, who`d scored in the second minute of the 3-3 away draw in Belgrade, before Charlton netted twice more in the 30th and 31st minutes, 3-0, got the equalizer against Milan in the 39th minute, and inside forward, Ernie Taylor, bought from Aston Villa after the disaster, struck home a late penalty in the 80th minute to give the team a slim advantage, but they were overwhelmed, 4-0, at the San Siro in Italy.
Although Busby`s 1968 European Cup side that beat Benfica, 4-1, after a rare opening headed goal from deep-lying center forward, Bobby Charlton, cancelled out by Portugal`s right wing, Jaime Graca, 1-1, provided players for the successful England World Cup campaign of 1966, that is, right winger, John Connelly, and Charlton and central defender Nobby Stiles, who played in the Final against Germany, which England won, 4-2, it`s sure that soccer history would`ve been different had United`s players that lost their lives in the snow at Munich airport lived. That was but the first setback to United`s campaigning to qualify for and win the top European prizes. Although qualification for the European Cup was simple, the club had to win the league, which it did in 1964-65 and, after losing in the 1966 semi-final to Partizan Belgrade, 1-2, with Nobby Stiles getting United`s only goal in the 1-0 second home leg win in the 72nd minute, the club went on to qualify again by winning the English league in 1966-67, which resulted in the club winning the European Cup of 1968. Teenager Brian Kidd headed in for United`s third against Benfica, and Charlton scored from an acute angle with a dipping volley, 4-1. United would make the semi-final stage against A.C. Milan the following 1968-69 season, but lost, 2-1, on aggregate, with only Charlton replying for the `Red Devils` in the 70th minute of the second leg at Old Trafford, before Milan went on to defeat Ajax, 4-1, in the Final.
The European Cup Winners Cup was simple too. The F.A. Cup winners qualified, and so Manchester United competed in the 1963-64 competition as winners of the 1963 F.A. Cup Final against Leicester City, with goals from Scots` center forward, Denis Law, and England center forward, David Herd. On 30 minutes, Leicester`s England `keeper, Gordon Banks, opted to bowl the ball out to Scots` inside left, Dave Gibson, which United`s Scots` midfielder, Paddy Crerand, read. Racing in to intercept twenty-five yards out, Crerand passed to Law, who turned and fired past Banks and two defenders to open the scoring, 1-0. On 57 minutes a cross field ball from United right wing, Johnny Giles, found Charlton unmarked. He raced into the box, and Banks could only parry the shot into the path of Herd, who tapped into the empty net, 2-0. Leicester center forward, Ken Keyworth, scored from a diving header in the 80th minute, after a weak shot from Scots` central defender, captain Frank McLintock, instead found Keyworth in the United` penalty area, 2-1. In the 85th minute Banks came for a Giles cross, and fumbled the ball into the path of Herd, who turned and fired past two defenders on the goal line, 3-1.
In an amazing turnaround, Manchester United managed to lose their 1963-64 European Cup Winners Cup quarter-final with Sporting CP, who went on to win the trophy, after United led, 4-1, from their home leg at Old Trafford, but Sporting CP won the away leg, 5-0. Osvaldo da Silva, who`d looked like he`d scored only a consolation goal at Old Trafford, got a hat-trick, and although there`d been a hat-trick from Law in the home leg, before Charlton completed the scoring for United, 4-0, United`s stars didn`t shine in Lisbon. As runners-up in the 1963-64 league championship, United qualified for the Intercity Fairs Cup, which would be renamed the UEFA Cup in 1971 and, when it was amalgamated with the European Cup Winners Cup in 2004, it`d be renamed again as the Europa Cup played for in the UEFA Europa League. Reaching the semi-final stage in 1963-64, United beat Hungary`s Ferencváros, 3-2, with a penalty from Law and two goals from Herd at Old Trafford, but the team lost away, 1-0, in Budapest. Later, away goals counted double in the event of each team scoring the same number of goals, but then an eliminator was played and Ferencváros won, 2-1, with only a late 86th minute goal from England`s right wing, John Connelly replying for United, and Ferencváros went on to beat Italy`s Juventus, 1-0, in the Final.
Busby`s retirement meant two things for United. The Inter City Fairs Cup had a `one club, one city` qualifying rule, which meant that, if Manchester City`s end of season league position was higher than United`s, if United qualified, they wouldn`t be admitted. The Inter City Fairs Cup`s inauguration was based on the idea that cities where trade fairs occurred would host a soccer tournament, and the first series took place between 1955 and 1958, when Manchester United were either winning the league championship in England (1955-56, 1956-57), or competing in the European Cup as champions (1956-57, 1957-58), before February 6, 1958, when the Munich air crash happened, and before the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, where players from the club were badly missed, and Brazil won the Final, 5-2, despite Sweden taking the lead through captain and inside left, Nils Liedholm. Brazil center forward, Vavá, then scored twice to make it 2-1, and twin striker, Pele, who would go on to win three World Cup Finals with Brazil (1962, 1970), got two more goals, sandwiched between a 68th minute strike from left wing, Mário Zagallo, to make it 5-2, after Sweden`s center forward, Agne Simonsson, had reduced the deficit, 4-2, in the 80th minute. The `one club, one city` rule for the Inter City Fairs Cup was perceived as restrictive by UEFA and the trophy was replaced by the UEFA Cup in 1971, although the number of teams allowed to compete in the Inter City Fairs Cup was now three from each country since 1962, and the `one club, one city` rule had also been abolished. For Manchester United, that meant league position and winning the League Cup were targets. The UEFA Cup came to be known as the `runners-up` Cup, and in England the League Cup Final winners were admitted, which was why a trophy United had seemingly abjured suddenly became important for Wilf McGuinness, Busby`s successor as manager, a coach at the club, who`d played as a half back in the Manchester United youth team of the 1950s, which was very successful, and indeed won the trophy on five occasions; 1952-53, 1953-54, 1954-55, 1955-56, and 1956-57. Wilf had been in the 1953-54 teams that beat Wolves, 5-4, on aggregate over two legs, and the 1954-55 teams that won over West Bromwich Albion, 7-1, and he`d captained the 1955-1956 teams, which defeated Chesterfield, 4-3. In 1956-57 he played 13 times for the team and received a championship medal for his contribution in the days before substitutes were allowed, and a runners-up medal in 1958-59 for his 39 league appearances. He made 19 appearances for the club in 1959-60, before a broken leg ended his career at the age of 22, and he became a coach; eventually replacing Jimmy Murphy as reserve team manager, after Murphy had steered a team featuring George Best to a sixth F. A. Youth Cup Final win in 1964 against Swindon, 5-2, on aggregate.
Because of the vagaries of the Inter City Fairs Cup`s qualifying rules, Manchester United didn`t compete, Because of the vagaries of the Inter City Fairs Cup`s qualifying rules, Manchester United didn`t compete, despite apparently qualifying as `runners-up` with the team McGuinness played for on 19 occasions in 1959-60, because the competition was biennial for the 1958-60 seasons. When McGuinness was manager, the UEFA Cup had replaced the Inter City Fairs Cup and winning the League Cup was important as a qualifying trophy. Consequently, United`s defeat in the semi-final stage in 1970, when they lost to Manchester City away, 1-2, and drew at Old Trafford, 2-2, in the second leg, 2-3, on aggregate, and in 1971 when they drew at home, 1-1, before losing away, 1-2, to lose to Aston Villa, 2-3, on aggregate, cost them the chance of qualifying for a place in the UEFA Cup for the 1970-1 season, and 1971-72 by winning the League Cup. In 1970, a semi-final defeat to Leeds United in the 1969-70 F.A. Cup campaign, a tie that went to three games, after the first ended, 0-0, and the second also ended, 0-0, before Leeds went through, 0-1, with a goal from Scots` captain and midfield general, Billy Bremner, after failing to qualify through the League Cup, cost Manchester United the chance to qualify for the European Cup Winners Cup by winning the 1970 F.A. Cup Final. McGuinness was criticised for keeping Scots` center forward, Denis Law, on the substitutes` bench throughout, in preference for Carlo Sartori, and failure to qualify for the UEFA Cup, or Cup Winners Cup, ultimately cost McGuinness his job on 29 December, 1970, just days after losing at Villa Park in the 1970-71 League Cup semi-final on December 23. Sir Matt Busby reassumed managerial responsibilities from his position as a director on the club board. McGuinness` failure to qualify for the European Cup, because of United`s failure to win the league, was also a factor in the board`s dismissal, and Leicester City`s Frank O` Farrell became manager for the 1971-72 season.
O` Farrell fared little better, and was sacked on December 19, 1972, when the appointment of the manager of Scotland`s national team, Tommy Docherty, was announced. Although Docherty steered United to relegation in 1972-73 amid acrimony over the team`s dismal performances, for example, `keeper Stepney was nominated penalty taker, because the outfield players wouldn`t accept the responsibility, and Irish midfielder, Sammy McIlroy, was top scorer with a paltry 6 goals. Docherty`s team won the Second Division championship in 1974-75, and appeared strong enough to finish third in the league in the 1975-76 season behind second place QPR, and champions, Liverpool, when the team also reached the F.A. Cup Final, which the club was easily expected to win against Southampton. The south coast team absorbed all of the pressure United could put on them to concede a goal, but won, 0-1, after an 83rd minute Bobby Stokes` strike. Although Manchester United`s third place in the league did qualify the club for a place in the UEFA Cup for the 1976-77 campaign, it was a disappointment, and the team kept its promise to be back the following 1976-77 season and beat Liverpool, 2-1, with a shot on 51 minutes from England center forward, Stuart Pearson, bought by Docherty from Hull for £ 200, 000 to spearhead United`s attack in the Second Division. Pearson`s strike from his run at goal somehow snuck under England `keeper, Ray Clemence, and despite a 53rd minute equalizer from Liverpool`s hard shooting midfielder, Jimmy Case, United won 2-1, after a Lou Macari volley was deflected into the Liverpool net off the chest of Jimmy Greenhoff, who was awarded the goal on 56 minutes.
United`s UEFA Cup campaign began against Ajax of Amsterdam, who were beaten on aggregate, 2-1, after United lost away, 0-1, and won at Old Trafford, 2-0, with goals on 42 minutes from diminutive Scot, Lou Macari, renowned for his prowess as a header of the ball despite his stature, and bought as a striker from Celtic by Docherty for £ 200, 000, and another in the 65th from Sammy McIlroy, who`d been dubbed `the last of the Busby Babes` when he`d made his debut in a game with Manchester City in which he scored during a 3-3 draw in 1971. United lost in the second round to Juventus of Italy, the eventual winners, despite winning, 1-0, at Old Trafford, thanks to a quick thinking volley from left winger, Gordon Hill, after right winger, Steve Coppell, back headed a forward ball by Northern Ireland`s right back, Jimmy Nicholl, who was out wide on the right and well behind the play, to where Hill pounced. The partisan atmosphere of the Juventus Stadium in Turin was given as the reason for the defeat of `Doc`s Devils`, as they were known, 0-3. As with Busby`s `Babes`, no one will ever know what Docherty`s team could have achieved, because he was sacked after the Final for an alleged extra-marital affair with club physiotherapist Laurie Brown`s wife, Mary, which was a disaster almost equal to the Munich air crash. QPR manager, Dave Sexton, was subsequently appointed for the 1977-78 season in which United competed in the European Cup Winners Cup. After drawing with French side St. Etienne away, 1-1, United won at Old Trafford, 2-0, to go through to the second round where, in a disastrous tie with Porto of Portugal, United lost 4-0 away, and won, 5-2, at home, so losing 6-5 on aggregate. That the Portuguese conceded two own goals was a sign of the pressure Sexton`s team brought to bear at Old Trafford, but the awful defensive performance away made success a chimera before the game started. The following season Sexton`s United made it to the last minute of the F.A. Cup Final after a fight back from 0-2 down to be drawing 2-2 after goals from Gordon McQueen in the 86th minute, sent to play up front, because all the substitutes had been used, and the center back was injured, so McQueen would be a liability in defence, and midfielder Sammy McIlroy in the 88th minute. McQueen had been bought by Sexton, along with center forward, Joe Jordan, from Leeds United to give the team greater height in defence and attack, so it was a doubly ironic cross from Arsenal left winger, Graham Rix, that found the head of center forward, Alan Sunderland, who nodded it into the net almost on the `keeper`s line on 89 minutes, and Arsenal had won, 3-2.
Dave Sexton did well in qualifying the club for the UEFA Cup through their league position in 1979-80, when the club finished just two points behind champions, Liverpool. The team lost the last game of the campaign, 0-2, at Leeds United`s Elland Road ground where, if it`d been 1981-82, they`d have had three points to take the title, because it was in 1981-82 that the three points for a win, instead of two, rule came into force in English soccer. As it was, Liverpool lost their final game at MIddlesboro, 0-1, because they could afford to. Even if United had beaten Leeds in the last game of the 1979-80 season, Liverpool`s superior goal difference of 51 would still have meant they`d take the title. In the 1980-81 UEFA Cup campaign, United encountered disappointment against Polish side, Widzew Lodz, drawing, 1-1, at Old Trafford, through a 4th minute Sammy McIlroy low driven shot at the 18 yard line, center, which the `keeper couldn`t stop from reaching the back of the net, left. The Poles responded almost immediately with a long range effort from a direct free kick taken by midfielder, Krzyst of Surlit, in the 6th minute. In Poland United drew, 0-0, so Widzew Lodz went through to the second round, because of the rule that away goals count double in the event of each side scoring the same number. By the commencement of the 1981-82 season, Sexton who`d paid more than £ 1 million for Nottingham Forest center forward, Gary Birtles, who didn`t score, was replaced by West Brom`s Ron Atkinson, who brought dynamic England midfield captain (1980-91), Bryan Robson, from his old club to join him at Old Trafford for £ 1. 5 million. It was Robson that put United ahead in the 1981-82 UEFA Cup second away leg against Spain`s Valencia in the 46th minute after a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford, but the team lost, 1-2.
That 1982-83 season saw Manchester United qualify for the European Cup Winners Cup competition by winning the F.A. Cup, 4-0, against Brighton in a replay after the first game finished, 2-2. Robson had joined England captain (1976-86), Ray `Butch` Wilkins, in United`s midfield. Bought from Chelsea for £ 800, 000 at the start of the 1979-80 season by Dave Sexton, it was a long range 72nd minute floated curling effort underneath the bar from Ray`s left foot, after Dutchman, Arnold Mühren, had found him, with a pass from deep in midfield, on the right edge of the 18 yard box, that put United ahead, 2-1, in the first Final. Brighton`s Scots` center forward, Gordon Smith, headed in from a cross on the right after 14 minutes. United center forward, Frank Stapleton, bought from Arsenal, where he`d scored for `the Gunners` in the 1979 Final against United, by `Big Ron` Atkinson for £ 900, 000 in 1981-82, tapped in a cross from right full back, Mike Duxbury, that somehow eluded everybody to reach the far post on 55 minutes, before Brighton`s center back, Gary Stevens, scored right footed inside the Reds` penalty area on 87 minutes to force the replay, which began well for United when Welshman, right winger Alan Davies, in for England`s injured Steve Coppell, tapped the ball back to Bryan Robson from left inside the 18 yard box. Robson sent in a low driven shot from towards the left of the 18 yard line to find the right corner of the Brighton net for an opener on 25 minutes, 1-0. Just 17 years old at season`s start, Northern Ireland`s international center forward in the summer`s World Cup FInals, Norman Whiteside, headed in from a right footed Davies cross from the left of the box five minutes later, 2-0. On 44 minutes Gordon McQueen headed on a free-kick, and the ball fell to Robson to tap in at the far post. The game was put beyond Brighton in the second half when Mühren scored a penalty in the 62nd minute after Robson had been brought down by Stevens.
Ron Atkinson`s European Cup Winners Cup progress was brought to an end by Juventus at the semi-final stage in 1983-84. United had overcome Spain`s Barca at the quarter-final stage after losing away, 0-2, a game young Scots` center back, Graeme Hogg, would remember for his 33rd minute own goal. United won at Old Trafford, 3-0, with two goals from Robson and another from Stapleton. Juvé`s opener came on 14 minutes from a right footed shot just outside the 18 yard box by center forward, Paolo Rossi, who`d been the goalscoring sensation of Italy`s successful 1982 World Cup campaign, scoring Italy`s first in a 3-1 defeat of Germany in the Final. After a long lob from over on the left from left full back, Arthur Albiston, causing confusion in the Juventus` goalmouth, the ball fell to Davies who put it away on 36 minutes. United now needed to win away. Polish midfielder, Zbigniew Boniek, scored left footed for Juvé after a long through ball on 13 minutes, but substitute Whiteside, on for Stapleton on 62 minutes, equalized on 70 minutes after defensive midfielder, Paul McGrath, backheeled the ball to him in the Juvé 6 yard box. Unfortunately for United, Paolo Rossi got the last gasp winner on 90 minutes with his left boot from the left side of the 6 yard box, and Juventus were through to the Final where they beat Porto, 2-1.
Before the 1984-85 season began, Wilkins, who`d come to the notice of the Italian giants during the European Cup Winners Cup campaign, was transferred to A.C. Milan, and Norman Whiteside made the switch from the forward line to midfield that, amongst others, Sammy McIlroy had done before him. Having qualified for the UEFA Cup by finishing in fourth place in the league, because Everton won the F.A. Cup, and lost to Liverpool in the League Cup Final, while Liverpool also won the title, which meant Everton would play in the European Cup Winners Cup, while Liverpool would compete in the European Cup, and the League Cup wouldn`t produce a UEFA Cup qualifier, so United`s fourth place did. The team progressed to the quarter-finals, where a Frank Stapleton goal on 60 minutes beat Hungary`s Videoton, 1-0, at Old Trafford, but the team lost, 0-1 away at Videoton`s Sóstói stadium in the west of Hungary`s city of Székesfehérvár, and then went out of the competition, 4-5, on penalties. Success came for United in the F.A. Cup Final after a Norman Whiteside run from far out on the right into the corner of the 18 yard box from where his left footed strike curled in past Everton `keeper Neville Southall at the far post in the 110th minute of extra time. The team were down to ten men with center back, Kevin Moran, sent off in the 78th minute for a professional foul on Peter Reid, who would have been clear through on goal, so it was vital that Whiteside scored.
Although Manchester United qualified for the 1985-86 European Cup Winners Cup competition, disturbances at the Hysels Stadium, Brussels, Belgium, during the European Cup Final between England`s Liverpool and Italy`s Juventus, which the Italians won, 1-0, with a 58th minute penalty from midfield Frenchman, Michel Platini, saw England`s teams banned from European tournaments until 1990-91, when Manchester United again under the managership of Scot, Alex Ferguson, competed in the European Cup Winners Cup, after winning the F.A. Cup Final of 1989-90 defeating Crystal Palace after a run down the length of the pitch by Lee Martin, from his left full back position, ended with Neil Webb diverting the ball into his path, and he crashed in the only goal of the replay into the top left corner of the Palace net on 59 minutes. The first game had ended, 3-3. On 17 minutes, Palace`s center back, Gary O'Reilly, headed in from a free-kick. On 35 minutes, Brian McClair, converted from a striker`s role into midfield, like so many of his predecessors, made a run down the right wing, and floated a cross to the back post, where United captain, Bryan Robson, headed in, 1-1, on 35 minutes. In the second half, a cross-shot from right midfielder, Neil Webb, bought from Nottingham Forest by Alex Ferguson, for £ 1. 5 million, found its way to Wales` center forward, Mark Hughes, who`d been the club`s top scorer for consecutive seasons, 1984-85 (16) and 1985-86 (17), before being sold by Atkinson to Barcelona for £ 2 million, and who, brought back for the 1988-89 season by Atkinson`s Scottish successor, Ferguson, now fired low and into the corner on 62 minutes. Palace substitute, forward Ian Wright, had an immediate impact on 72 minutes, when he ran past United defenders to slot past Scots` `keeper, Jim Leighton, 2–2. In extra time Palace winger, John Salako, floated a cross to the back post where Wright volleyed in on 92 minutes, 2-3. In the second period of extra time, United`s winger, Danny Wallace, provided a through ball for Hughes to chase, and he calmly angled the ball past the onrushing Palace `keeper, Nigel Martyn, 3-3, on 113 minutes. Scotland `keeper Leighton took so much criticism for his failure to prevent Palace scoring, Ferguson replaced him for the replay with Les Sealey, who kept a clean sheet, and never looked back.
Though United couldn`t qualify for European competition until 1990-91, when they eventually defeated Barcelona, 2-1, in the Final with a brace of goals from Mark Hughes, the absence of the possibility of European qualification doubtless affected their efforts. United went 1-0 up on 67 minutes following a free-kick from captain, Bryan Robson, which was headed goalwards by defender Steve Bruce. United striker Mark Hughes tapped the ball over the line. Hughes cut the ball into the net from such an acute angle for the second that he had to spin it off the outside of his boot to ensure that it found its mark on 74 minutes. Dutchman Ronald Koeman's late free kick, which came off the upright and hit the legs of United keeper Les Sealey before crossing the line, reduced the deficit on 79 minutes. Having finished fourth in 1985-86, eleventh was the best they could do in 1986-87, and of course it was in 1987-88 that Alex Ferguson, then Aberdeen`s manager, was asked to replace `Big Ron` Atkinson. Ferguson almost immediately signed Brian McClair from Celtic for £ 850, 000, center half, Steve Bruce from Norwich City at Christmas for £ 900, 000, and 17 year old left winger, Lee Sharpe, from Torquay United for £ 200, 000 in April for the start of the 1988-89 season. The club were runners-up to Liverpool with 81 points, losing only 5 games, although the Merseyside giants lost only 2, and finished with 90 points as champions. Although United finished in only thirteenth place in the league in 1989-90 and Ferguson`s tenure as manager looked less than assured, the transfers of midfielder, Mike Phelan, from Norwich City for £ 750, 000, central defender, Gary Pallister, from Middlesboro for £ 2. 3 million, and West Ham midfield maestro, Paul Ince, for £ 1. 7 million showed that the club meant business, and the team`s success in the F.A. Cup Final replay, 1-0, ultimately resulted in their winning the 1990-91 European Cup Winners Cup against Barcelona, 2-1, and the Final of the European Super Cup at the beginning of the following 1991-92 season, which they`d qualified for as the winners of the European Cup Winners Cup. The team duly dispatched European Cup winners, Red Star Belgrade, 1-0, with a goal from Brian McClair on 67 minutes. In the inside left position, McClair was awarded a free-kick for a foul against him 30 yards from goal. Irwin played the free kick into the penalty area. Neil Webb caught Belgrade forward, Dejan Savićević, in possession after an attempted clearance. After beating defender, Duško Radinović, on the edge of the box, Webb hit a shot that struck the foot of the right-hand post and bounced back into the center, where an unmarked McClair struck the ball into the net, and Manchester United`s thirst for European glory remained unquenchable.
The Charity Shield Was Shared By The Demons
One of the more interesting features of English soccer and its history is the extent to which the Shield is despised as a trophy. Essentially it`s a knockout competition, won by Manchester United at its inauguration in 1908, in which the winners of the F.A. Cup compete against the winners of the Premier League for the winning of it, which is the format for all of the world`s greatest soccer competitions. The UCL Champions League is competed for by the winners of each nation`s respective leagues, or it was until recent years when the league format of the European Cup was introduced. Then it became possible for teams to qualify for the European Champions` League without winning their respective leagues, which helped to heap further derision on the English Shield as a remaining anachronism of the days when trophies were competed for by winners. The nature of the Champions` League is that a team that doesn`t win its national title can win the European Cup, which was a sign of egalitarianism for many, but to others it represented a corruption of the original intention that champions compete to determine which of them was the greatest. Consequently, the English Shield remains a competition of some great note because it is still a contest of champions, even though there was a move by socializers to make it a symbol of sharing by renaming it the Community Shield when it was originally named the Charity Shield. Although it`s unfashionble to say so, shields are Arthurian, that is, the name of the English Shield harks back to a bygone age in which the knights written of by Sir Thomas Mallory in his cycle of Grail stories, Le Mort D`Arthur (1485), for example, quest for the Holy Grail, a cup that Jesus `Christ`, `the chosen`, drank from at what came to be called the `Last Supper`, before he was nailed to a wooden cross by the Romans then occupying Jewish Palestine where the `chosen people` of the Jews had their home, and died as a `dissident` who preached: `Love your neighbor as you love yourself.` (Mk: 12. 31) In short, the English F.A. Cup and the original European Cup, etc., are symbolically Christian, because Jesus expereinced Resurrection and Ascension to heaven after being crucified by agents of the Roman Empire then illegally occupying Jewish Palestine. In other words, the European and World Club Cup competitons are in the Judeo-Christian tradition of friendship between equals in freedom.
In the stories of the Grail, the knight Perceval is the one that is vouchsafed the role of being the individual who pierces the veil to achieve a sight of the Grail, which in European and global soccer is symbolized by the various cups. Neither a saucer or a plate is celebrated from the `Last Supper`, but that`s because it was traditional at the time of Jesus for all of the food to be placed into a single bowl or cup, and even the wine drank by those sitting at the table, which is why the United States` football teams compete for bowls. Although the English Shield denotes that of a knight, its significance in terms of Jesus` `Last Supper` is that of the door: `Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.` (Rev: 3. 20) The concept of the door as a shield is important, because of the US` notion of the `trophy wife`, which is the label applied to women who marry and are perceived as trophies. Some people want to see the team with the trophy after the victory of one side or the other, whereas some wnat to see the trophy with the team. Although that seems a too fine distinction, the US` concept of `trophy wife` pertains to Arthurian notions of adultery and faithfulness. King Arthur`s door was open to the knight Lancelot, who embarked on an adulterous relationship with the queen, Guinevere, who wasn`t his trophy. Consequently, the notion of doors or shields being shared is adulterous, and so is the idea that non-champions are equals, for example, in the International Champions` Cup it`s possible for Real Madrid to be champions of China and Australia by invitation to the competition and with no legitimacy perceivable. In an International Champions` Cup (ICC) contest it ought to be reasonable to expect that an international champion would emerge, whereas what emerged was a European champion of China and Australia, which is as if Real Madrid were declared chapions of Austria for defeating Rapid VIenna in a UCL qualifier. Just as sharing the Shield is indicative of adultery, so the dilution of the significance of the ICC, which was competed for and won outright by the English champions Manchester United in 2014, 3-1, against Liverpool, was designed to embarass the champions, because it`s a sign of degeneracy. Adultery, however, isn`t simple, because it`s a sign of poison, that is, what`s adulterated is poisoned. When Jesus was asked to condemn a woman allegedly caught inflagrante delecto, he asked: `Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.` (John: 8. 7) None could, and Jesus said to the woman: `Go, and sin no more.` (John: 8. 11) Because women can sexually reproduce with each other as futanarian women with `seed` of their own, they`re a distinct species adulterated, that is, poisoned, which is the meaning of the `Last Supper` at which Jesus drinks from his bowl, the Grail, and offers `bread and wine` as symbols of his `body and blod` to the disciples. Born of his mother, the Virgin Mary, Jesus was `woman`s seed`, so his Resurrection and Ascension to heaven prefigures that of women`s race to the planets amongst the stars as colonists there through the power of their own brains to devise means of taking them away from the Earth and its adulteration.
The abolishing of the European Cup WInners` Cup (ECWC), perhaps because sports` reporters on television news found it difficult to say, `the cup winners cup winners` and have it make sense to themselves, was an initial sign that the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), and the world`s `soccer government`, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), were adulterating their cups. If Manchester United were embarassed at having their ICC 2014 triumph diluted, it was doubly embarassing to see UEFA and FIFA agree to abolish the competition between the winners of the respective nations` cups very hurriedly after United won the European Cup Winners Cup in 1991, 2-1, against Barcelona, with a brace of goals from Welshman, Mark Hughes. The meaning of world football`s undue haste in abolishing the ECWC in 1999 was again diluted for Manchester United, because the club won the UCL Champions` League, and its trophy, a cup, which had been known as the European Champions` Cup, when the club had won that in 1968, 4-1, against Portugal`s Benfica, in 1999 against Germany`s Bayern Munich, 2-1, with two very late opportunist strikes from England center forward, Teddy Sheringham and Norway`s Ole Gunna Solskjaer. United had been inspired by Irish winger, George Best, who scored a typical solo goal in the 1968 Final, although England deep lying center forward, Bobby Charlton had opened the team`s account with a header in the 53rd minute, 1-0, cancelled out by a strike from Portuguese right wing, Jaime Graça, in the 79th minute, 1-1, meant the crowd was treated to a mesmerising dribbling run from Best before he scored in the 92nd minute of extra time, 2-1, and then teenage striker Brian Kidd`s successful second attempt at a headed goal, after a defender could only head it back to him in the 94th, 3-1, before Charlton scored again with a dipping volley from a tight angel in the 99th minute, 4-1. It was the first and only time that Manchester United won the European Cup as champions before it became the UCL Champions League in which non-champions could compete for the same trophy. Consequently, it was the first and last time that the club won the European Grail undiluted by an adulterating football central authority.
Internationally Manchester United experienced the same fate. After winning the European Cup in 1968, the club competed in the Final of the Intercontinental Cup over two legs, home and away, which they lost, 0-1, in Buenos Aires to Estudiantes of Argentina, and could only draw, 1-1, at the club`s Old Trafford statium in Manchester, after a late strike from Scots` right wing, Willie Morgan. When the club got another chance to compete in the Intercontinental Cup in 1999, the opponents were Palmeiras of Brazil, winners of South America`s equivalent of the UCL Champions` Cup, the Copa Libertadores (Cup of Freedom), and the contest was a single event taking place in Japan`s National Stadium, Tokyo, which United won, 1-0, after a 35th minute far post goal from Irish midfield dynamo, Roy Keane, who ran on to a cross far out on the left from Welsh winger, Ryan Giggs, to direct the ball into the net with his outstretched right foot. In almost indecent haste, the world`s football bodies abolished the Intercontinental Cup in 2004 after Manchester United`s victory in 1999, together with its legitimizing role as a Europe and South America championship trophy, and rpeplaced the competition with the World Club Cup, which was largely modelled on the UCL Champions` League, where teams qualified wihout winning, although United did win the competition as winners of the UCL Champions` League, and as winners of the English championship (2006-07, 2007-08, and 2008-09), with a low speculative shot from England center forward, Wayne Rooney, from the edge of South American champions LDU Quito of Ecuador`s area in the 73rd minute at the International Stadium, Yokohama, Japan, after the team had been reduced to ten players when Serbian center half Nemanja Vidic was sent off for elbowing Argentine forward, Claudio Beiler, in the 49th minute.
When Manchester United won the successor to the European Cup Winners Cup and UEFA Cup, the UEFA Europa League in 2017, which had been the trophy competed for as the UEFA Cup, while the ECWC remained remarkable for its unremarked upon absence, world record buy from Juventus` midfield, Paul Pogba, struck from long range at The Friends stadium, Stockholm, Sweden, in the 18th minute, while Armenia`s national team captain, and right winger, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, struck from a header towards goal from England central defender, Chris Smalling, in the 48th minute, which Mkhitaryan, falling backwards, managed to hook in as he went over. Although the club`s joy was undiluted, it might have caused some fans to speculate on how the presence of the ECWC amongst the European competitons could have increased United`s haul in terms of European trophies won since the ECWC was abolished in 2004. Manchester United were record winners of the F.A. Cup in 1909, 1948, 1963, 1977, 1983, 1985, 1990, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004, and 2016. Although the club competed for and won the Champions` League in 1999, and qualified for the UCL Champions` League again in 2003-04 by virtue of finishing runners-up to Arsenal in the English Premier League championship, the team had won the F.A. Cup against Millwall, 3-0, that season, with goals from Portuguese right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, a header from right full back Gary Neville`s chip in the 44th minute, and a penalty from Dutch center forward, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, in the 65th, who tapped in a third from just three yards out, after a left wing cross by Giggs in the 81st. Many supporters felt that United would have stood a better chance of winning the ECWC, rather than make up the teams in the UCL Champions` list. Without the incentive of European glory, the F.A. Cup was reduced in value for the winners, and United didn`t win it again until the brief managerial spell of former Dutch team boss, Louis Van Gaal, as he made way in the last days of his two season tenure for Portugal`s renownedly instantly successful soccer manager, Jose Mourinho, to take over for the 2016-17 campaign, and whose expertise brought the Europa Cup.
Perceived as a negligible trophy by many, and adulterated by the English Football Association on occasion, so as to be competed for on such a basis that a draw would mean that the Shield was shared, that happened to United in 1965 when, as First Division Champions, United drew with F.A. Cup winners, Liverpool, 2-2, 1967 when, as First Division Champions, United drew with F.A. Cup winners, Tottenham Hotspur, when `keeper Pat Jennings was credited with scoring from a punt that bounced over United `keeper, Alex Stepney, 1977 when, as F.A. Cup winners, United drew with LIverpool, 0-0, and in 1990 when, as F.A. Cup winners, United drew with First Division Champions, Liverpool, 1-1. Including outright victories, however, Manchester United have won the English Shield on 21 occasions; 1908, 1911, 1952, 1956, 1957, 1965*, 1967*, 1977*, 1983, 1990*, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2016. A record witness to the truth that older competitions that recognize mythic sensibilities are most significant. Despite football`s governing bodies` attempts to adulterate the trophy`s worth by making the teams share it, as though it were a `trophy wife`, in some dim Shakespearean sense, the Shield remains a symbol of Jesus` teaching: `I am the door. By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.` (John: 10. 9) The meaning is that the door is a Shield, which isn`t shared without the permission of those within, because friends choose each other well, and Argentina`s Claudio Beiler mightn`t accept an elbow in the face from Nemanja Vidic as accidental, whereas UEFA and FIFA`s ambition that trophies be shared, and champions admit second raters into their midst, tacitly accepts that injurious behavior on the pitch is standard, because teams that play for a draw are brutal in defense of it. When England won the World Cup in 1966 against Germany, 4-2, manager Alf Ramsey described the Argentinian players as `animals`, and after West Ham striker, Geoff Hurst, gave them a quarter-final win in the 78th minute, 1-0. Argentina`s captain, Antonio Rattin, was sent off in the 35th minute, because the Argentinian team`s will to win was epitomized by Rattin`s ferocity. England went on to win the Jules Rimet trophy, with no possibility of its being shared, abolished, replaced, conflated, or otherwise adulterated by false notions of universal brotherhood that reduced the endeavors of serious proponents of friendship to nights` clubbing in search of another frothy mug.
Classic Mourinho Chelsea Season At United
When Portugal`s José Mourinho was manager at Chelsea, the Blues were mean in defence and mean in attack, because the team won trophies by conceding fewer goals than their opponents, although they scored fewer also. A typical Chelsea team under Morinho`s management was like that of the first Manchester United team to win the inaugural Premier League title in 1992-93. The defence was tight, conceding 31 goals with Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister at the heart of it, while Mark Hughes top scored with 15. Third placed Norwich City had more goals scored against, 65 to 61, which illustrated the value of a Manchester United mean defensive unit that also had Paul Parker at right back and Denis Irwin at left back. The following season, 1993-94, saw United concede only 38 goals, with the same defense, although the addition of Eric Cantona, who`d won the last League Division One title with Leeds in 1991-92, and who got 18 goals compared to Hughes` 12, saw meanness at the back allied to devastating attack, which became the style for the future of the club under the stewardship of manager Alex Ferguson, and Manchester United also won the F.A. Cup Final that 1993-94 season against Glenn Hoddle`s Chelsea, with two penalties from Cantona settling the match in the 60th and 66th minutes, 2-0. A mistake by defender, Frank Sinclair, allowed Hughes to slot home in the 69th minute, 3-0, and an unselfish pass from midfielder, Paul Ince, when he could have scored easily, afforded center forward, Brian McClair, an unmissable chance in the 92nd minute, 4-0. Mourinho, in his first Chelsea season, 2004-2005, won the Premier League by conceding just 15 goals and his top scorer was midfielder, Frank Lampard, with 13. Lampard was top scorer with 16 in 2005-2006 and Chelsea conceded only 22 goals as they again won the title in the style of that United team of 1992-93, which won by having the meanest defence and a lethal, though unprolific striker, Mark Hughes.
Bizarrely, Chelsea hadn`t won the league since 1955, and 2006-07 was the last for Mourinho at Chelsea, who had given them two league championships in his first two seasons but, despite winning both the F.A. Cup, 1-0 against United, and the League Cup, Chelsea chairman, Russia`s Roman Abrimovich, sacked Mourinho after what he seemed to view as a disappointing European Champions` Cup draw with Norway`s Rosenborg at home, 1-1, in the qualifying group. Replaced by Israeli, Avram Grant, Chelsea were runners-up to Manchester United for the second successive season after 2006-07 when, despite conceding the fewest goals, 24, United scored more through Portugal`s right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, 17, and England center forward, Wayne Rooney, 14. Chelsea center forward, Ivory Coast`s Didier Drogba, top scored with 20 in 2006-07, but in 2007-08 England`s marauder, Frank Lampard, was again top scorer with 10, while Ronaldo, 31, Rooney 12, and Argentina`s Carloz Tevez, 14, made sure United won the league. As fate would have it, Ferguson`s team would face Chelsea in the European Champions` League Cup Final and, after a Cristiano Ronaldo header, and a typical run and shoot from midfield by Frank Lampard, the game ended, 1-1, which meant a penalty decider. Chelsea`s England central defender, John Terry, infamously fell on his arse in the rain as he hit the post, which left winger, Ryan Giggs, to famously stroke home his spot kick winner for the `Red Devils`, 6-5.
Jose Mourinho`s first season at Manchester United brought a first trophy. The team beat Southampton, 3-2, in the 2016-17 League Cup Final after left winger, Jessie Lingard, scored United second goal in the 38th minute, 2-0. It was uncannily similar to his 110th minute extra time strike to win the F.A. Cup Final, 2-1, against Crystal Palace, the previous, 2015-16 season, after which former Dutch team manager, Louis Van Gaal, lost his tenure as United boss, because of his failure to win the league, a failure that had also meant the end for retired Ferguson`s successor, Everton`s David Moyes, whose only measurable success was to win the English Shield with the championship winning team he`d inherited in 2013 against the F.A. Cup winners, Wigan, 2-0, with a 6th minute header, and a 59th minute left footed strike, after cutting in from the right, from Dutch center forward, Robin Van Persie, who`d been brought from Arsenal for £ 22. 5 million to score the 26 goals that spearheaded yet another successful United league campaign in what, through illness, became Ferguson`s retirment season. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a Swedish center forward brought by Mourinho from Paris St. Germain, aged 34, where he`d won four consecutive French titles after leaving A.C. Milan with whom he`d won the Italian championship in 2010-11, and who finished the 2016-17 season as top scorer at United with 17 goals, had opened the scoring in the 2017 League Cup Final, with a great free kick in the 19th minute, bent around the Southampton wall from well outside the penalty area. A brace from Italy`s striker, Manolo Gabbiadini, either side of half time, in the 46th and 48th minutes, and who`d struck deftly each time he was played in a few yards from the goal`s mouth, levelled after Lingard put United ahead, 2-0, before Ibrahimovic`s header in the 87th minute, won it, 3-2.
Although Chelsea won the league title in 2016-17, and United finished sixth, it was with the fewest goals conceded, 29, a Mourinho trademark, and United`s end of season was far from unhappy. Mourinho steered the team through to the Final of the UEFA Cup against Netherlands` club Ajax of Amsterdam, at the Friends Arena, Stockholm, Sweden. It was a game Sweden`s Ibrahimovic missed, because of a cruciate ligament knee injury incurred against Belgium`s Anderlecht at home in the quarter-final second leg at Manchester`s Old Trafford stadium, which saw the striker taken off in the 90th minute, although United won, 2-1, through an extra time goal from center forward, Marcus Rashford in the 107th minute, after drawing, 1-1, in Brussels. There were doubts that Ibrahimovic would recover a career that had first taken off with Ajax, where he`d won titles in 2001-02 and 2003-04, before going on to Internazionale of Milan, where he won three successive Serie A titles, 2006–07, 2007–08, and 2008–09, and then at Barcelona he won the 2009-10 Spanish league title, and the 2009 World Club Cup that the Spaniards had qualified to participate in by beating Manchester United, 2-0, in the 2009 European Cup Final before Ibra`s arrival and from whence he`d go on to further success. As for United, they had to overcome the handicap of playing without Zlatan in the semi-final against Spain`s Celta Vigo.
A 1-0 win away in Spain, after an outswinging free kick from Marcus Rashford out on the right that struck into the left side of the net in the 69th minute, meant a 1-1 draw at United`s Old Trafford stadium was enough to reach the Europa Cup Final against Ajax on May 24, 2017, although a sending off for Eric Bailly, together with Argentinian defender, Facundo Roncaglia, in the 88th minute, meant the United center half would miss it through suspension. Celta Vigo had gotten their late equalizing goal from a glancing Roncaglia header, after Bailly had failed to judge a corner correctly in the 85th minute, but the `Red Devils` had taken the lead through a headed goal from midfielder, Marouane Fellaini, in the 17th minute at the right post. Rashford had crossed from the left, far behind Fellaini`s forward run, and the header inside the right upright subsequently proved to be enough. The Final itself was won against Ajax with a goal in the 18th minute from the world`s most expensive midfield purchase, France`s Paul Pogba, followed by another just after half-time from Armenia`s captain and right winger, Henrik Mkhitaryan, in the 48th minute. Pogba had been bought from Italy`s Juventus, and after he`d signed for the Italian club when he hadn`t renewed his contract at United for 2012-13. Four consecutive Serie A titles later, Pogba returned to Old Trafford for £ 89. 3 million to take his place in a starting line-up largely constructed by Mourinho`s predecessor, Dutchman Van Gaal, apart from Mkhitaryan, who arrived from Borussia Dortmund at the beginning of the 2016-17 season for around £ 30 million, and Ivory Coast center back, Eric Bailly, an eventual adequate £ 30 million replacement for England`s much-missed Rio Ferdinand, who seemed to have left, without any attempt by then manager, Van Gaal, to keep him, to join QPR for the 2014-15 season. Ecuador`s Antonio Valencia, bought by Ferguson from Wigan for £ 16 million as a right winger for the 2009-10 season, but switched to right back by Ferguson`s successors, was captain, and although Bailly was absent through suspension, England`s Chris Smalling, another survivor from the Ferguson era, proved once again that he was an excellent stand-in in an emergency. Italian Matteo Darmian, bought from Torino for around £ 13 million by Gaal for the 2015-16 campaign, was at left back, and Daley Blind was the other central defender, bought from Ajax for around £ 14 million for the 2014-15 term, and completed the defence for what had been the meanest Premier League outfit in 2016-17.
Without Ibrahimovic, Mourinho opted for the three man midfield that had been the hallmark of his days at Chelsea; Pogba. Spain`s Ander Herrera, bought from Athletic Bilbao for the 2014-15 season for around £ 29 million, and Marouane Fellaini, brought from Everton by Moyes at the commencement of his year long 2013-14 tenure. Up front Mourinho went for two wingers, Mkhitaryan was on the left, although right footed, and Spain`s Juan Mata, bought from Chelsea for £ 37. 1 million in January 2014, during Mourinho`s second spell there as manager, where he`d been taken by Mourinho`s predecessor, Portugal`s André Villas-Boas, from Valencia for 2011-12, was on the right, although left footed, because of the ex-Chelsea boss`s belief in fluidity, and that wide players cutting inside, like old-style inside forwards of the 1950s, can prove more effective, although wing switching also seems to be a feature of Mourinho`s United, so observers shouldn`t pay so much attention to the pundits` idea of team formation, and how the players are expected to line up at the start. While at Chelsea for the second time, Mourinho won the league and League Cup double in 2014-15, with his usual meanness in terms of goals conceded in the title race, 32, although the Blues were more balanced with Belgium`s Eden Hazard, 14 goals, performing the role that Lampard had in Mourinho`s earlier sojourn at Stamford Bridge, while Spain`s Diego Costa, struck 20 times. Mata, however, was deemed surplus to requirements by Mourinho, who preferred the Brazilian Oscar, although the pair were to be reunited at Old Trafford with great success. Mourinho`s center forward for the Europa Cup Final was Marcus Rashford, who`d emerged as an 18 year old in 2015-16 and played in the F.A. Cup Final win over Palace, 2-1, while England center forward, Wayne Rooney, who`d been captain that day, and for whom goals and appearances in the first team were becoming scarcer since the emergence of teenager, Rashford, and the arrival of Ibrahimovic in the twilight of a great career, was on the substitutes` bench. Pogba`s opening goal was scored from well outside the `keeper`s area after an infield pass from Fellaini on the right to the center of the pitch where Pogba struck a left-footed shot that rose into the top center of the net beyond and through the `keeper`s despairing grasp. After half-time Mkhitaryan hooked in a close-in shot, falling backwards, and with his right foot, 2-0, from a corner headed towards goal by Smalling, and that was the way it stayed. Manchester United had won the UEFA/Europa cup that had eluded them for so long, and had now won all of Europe`s major soccer tournaments.