The Red Devils Shall Rise Again
By Arjun Sridhar
“Manchester United will be there or there about, but I’m not so sure that they can win the league/cup”, This is what almost every football ‘expert’ says at the start of every season. Only to be proved wrong time and time again. But in the past few years, the ‘pundits’ are winning the battle. David Moyes failed spectacularly in succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson, but to be fair to him, it was just about the most challenging job in football management. It was always going to be easier for the man succeeding the successor of Sir Alex, as Louis Van Gaal has shown. But even after the current trophy-less spell that United are having to go through, there is still a sense that eventually everything is going to fall in place, and that they will once again reach the pinnacle of world football. Just a quick glance at the history of this footballing institution justifies my point. The club is built on overcoming rough periods. The best example of this is probably the 1998-99 season. United won the treble that season, they won almost everything that there was to win. Now, after reading the previous sentence you might be thinking that they blew away their competition and steam-rolled towards the title, but it was never going to be such a comfortable season. They won the FA Cup after a tense cup-tie against Arsenal, where a certain Ryan Giggs produced one of the most magical moments in football. Just prior to that goal, Peter Schmeichel had saved a penalty. The league title was one in a hard fought 2-1 victory against Spurs in a must-win game. The whole season was littered with incidents like these where United showed true character (a word that Brendan Rodgers is quite familiar with!). That season United just found a way to get over the line, they had the right amount of dedication, commitment, talent, leadership and just the right amount of ‘magic’. At times they would destroy teams with their attacking display, or they would dig in and grind out a result if they needed to, but they would always find a way to get past the hurdle. The European Cup final between Bayern Munich and United probably sums up their season the best. Those 90 minutes were like the perfect summary of the season and was the perfect conclusion to this roller-coaster of a season. Bayern get an early goal, they batter United the whole game, who have just the right amount of luck on their side. Bayern hit the post and the cross-bar, and it was in moments like these where you begin to think whether it’s just meant to be. Sir Alex brings on two strikers towards the end of the game to stretch the game. 90 minutes were up, United started getting into their groove. Then the referee indicated 3 minutes of stoppage time. There was a feeling that United would find something, they always did, Beckham swung in from a corner and Teddy Sheringham scored the equalizer. The whole stadium erupted. One minute to go and United won another corner. David Beckham jogged over to the corner flag to take the corner, and then EVERY United fan knows what happened next ,” Beckham, into Sheringham! And SOLSKJAER HAS WON IT! Manchester United are the champions of Europe, once again!” (Don’t lie! you read it as if you were commentating, didn’t you!). You walk up to any Man Utd fan and he/she will be more familiar with those lines than with his/her own country’s national anthem! This was just a small, yet very important, piece of history that made United what they are today- the biggest club on Earth.
Another example is Sir Alex’s final season in football management. They eventually won the league title by a landslide, and took back ‘their’ title from their ‘noisy neighbors’, but they had to fight hard and the season was filled with come-back victories. United, especially under Alex Ferguson, came to be known as the ‘Come-back Kings’.
Every time somebody doubts United, all they have to do is take a look at the club’s history. There are many who fear that the Red Devils (as they are colloquially known) could follow the path of their great rivals Liverpool. Liverpool were THE club of the 1980s. But then they stopped evolving and are now competing for a top 5 finish in the league, which is not a very high target for a club that has FIVE European trophies (I’m not jealous, okay maybe just a little) and EIGHTEEN League titles to its name, just saying. The reason that United will not go down that path is because of the sheer size of the club, they are represented in more countries than McDonald’s! (United managed to beat somebody who deals with food, FOOD! That’s something people literally die over and yet Manchester United FC are better known! Just let that sink in). They are also one of the richest clubs in the world, if not THE richest. So getting out of a sticky situation like the one they are currently facing isn’t THAT big of an issue. They can quite literally buy their way out of trouble, and they are doing just that. This new money-ball approach may not be ingrained in their tradition, but it is necessary. That’s where Liverpool went wrong, they didn’t change, and nobody made an effort to go against the club’s hierarchy to enforce positive changes. Revolution is the cause of Evolution. If you start stagnating, those around you will leave you behind, and in today’s fast-paced world, staying still is going to feel like moving backwards.
Date- Feb 6th, Year- 1958, Time- 03:04. This is when the ‘Munich Air Disaster’ had occurred. Many of United’s finest players and so many others people were so abruptly taken away from the world. Much of the club’s history is built off of that very tragedy, that was the team that Sir Matt Busby was so proud of, that was the team that should’ve conquered Europe, they could become the first English team to win the European Cup, it was a cruel way to be denied that honor. United was Sir Matt Busby’s “heaven”. But in true United fashion they still managed to complete that feat in the 1968 European Cup against Benfica. Sir Matt Busby had finally reached the ‘promised land’. To get over such a tragedy, to rise above the flames, was in itself a great achievement and it all culminated in winning the European Cup.
There is a beautiful poem that remembers the people who lost their lives on that fateful day in Munich, that shows the spirit of United:
“ A broken heart, a broken dream,
A broken plane, a broken team,
No words were said, a silent vow,
We loved you then, we love you now.
The Red flag will always fly,
For Man United never die.”
No matter how big a challenge, they will succeed again, it’s in their blood. United will rise again.
Facebook: Arjun Sridhar