“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…………”

And so it goes on. This extract, as learned readers will know, is taken from “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. In some ways, it describes quite well the period between Louis van Gaal being told to do one and José Mourinho being welcomed into the spider’s web which masquerades as the manager’s office at Manchester United.

Thanks to an unwanted break in the well-oiled machine that is the Premier League, during which the quadrennial “next World Cup winners” narrowly lost to the actual last World Cup winners in a testimonial for Lucas Podolski and top flight club supporters in England wandered aimlessly around supermarkets and used car dealers on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, there was also time to reflect on the impact Mourinho has had at Old Trafford.

When van Gaal left there was a feeling that United had gone backwards since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. David Moyes, the “Chosen by Nobody but Sir Alex One“, had failed in almost everything he possibly could during his short tenure. Unwanted records had been spectacularly broken by his regime and clubs actually looked forward to playing at Old Trafford.

There was a short period of rejoicing when he was shown the door and van Gaal was invited through it. Unfortunately for the previously successful Dutchman, in this day and age, one FA Cup win and mind-numbingly boring football does not constitute massive success at a club like Manchester United and, bear in mind, the only club like Manchester United is Manchester United.

So when he boarded his private plane to fly off to the Algarve it was widely expected that Mourinho would replace him. Not a done deal, but anticipated, mainly because Mourinho was out of work but also because van Gaal, having just won the FA Cup, might have expected an extension for a further year

The fact that this didn’t happen was down to fate conspiring against him.

Over at Manchester City the carpet was being rolled out to welcome Pep Guardiola, who was to replace Manuel Pellegrini as manager. Almost simultaneously, Mourinho was turning down job offers elsewhere, obviously under the impression that he was to be offered the number one on his bucket list. It would only have made sense to extend van Gaal’s contract had Pellegrini stayed at City, and even then it would have been a very unpopular move.

Consequently, the majority of United fans got what they had wanted for a long time. José Mourinho was seen as the perfect rival for Pep Guardiola.

Unfortunately for both of them, Chelsea appointed Antonio Conte and, with less problems within the squad and no European football, it looks likely that they will stroll to the title this season.

No matter, the future now looks a lot brighter for Manchester United than it did a year ago. The light at the end of the tunnel has been turned back on. There seems to be some purpose. The players not only appear to know what they are doing, they also seem to be enjoying it! José Mourinho has returned some of the fear factor and the opposition no longer feels that Old Trafford is an easy place to collect points.

The football, in the main, is exciting to watch which has dispelled a fear for those United fans who know very little about football, (and there are many, unfortunately). They thought Mourinho would play boring defensive stuff and win games 1-0. Well, they were wrong, as usual. He is playing exciting, attacking stuff and drawing games 1-1.

This, in fairness, is due to a lack of ability in front of goal. Only Zlatan Ibrahimovic is scoring regularly and, when the second top scorer is Juan Mata, there is obviously a problem with the strikers. This will be addressed in the Summer window, along with a couple of other positions.

So for the time being everything in the garden of Old Trafford is rosy. The exciting prospect is that, under Mourinho, it is going to get even rosier.


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