What Do Manchester United Fans Want? A Team Which Plays Attractive Football Or A Team Which Wins?

Posted: March 12, 2018 in Arsenal, Chelsea, Football, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Opinion, Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur
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The answer is that they want both. Not through greed but because up the road, in east Manchester, Pep Guardiola is proving that having both is possible.

In all our years watching Manchester United there has rarely been a prolonged period of time where attractive football has been accompanied by trophies and, yes, we can go back a fair bit further than some of the so-called “fans” of today. You know the ones, they are screaming for the manager’s head having won two trophies in his first season and now sitting second in the Premier League while still contesting the later stages of both the FA Cup and the Champion’s League.

Back in the sixties United were, in the main, one of the most attacking teams in the old first division, along with Chelsea and Spurs. With Best, Law and Charlton up front they could hardly have been anything else! They didn’t win very much though. The FA Cup in 1963 followed by a couple of first division titles and, in 1968, the big one, the European Cup and that was about it for the final decade of the Busby era.

In the seventies we also watched an attractive team but only after they had been relegated. Exciting players of that time included Stuart Pearson, Jimmy Greenhoff, Steve Coppell and Gordon Hill. They were followed by the likes of Scots Joe Jordan and Lou Macari.


Steve Coppell and Stuart Pearson – Mainstays of United during the seventies

People reminisce about these times with a certain amount of nostalgia but again, apart from a runaway second division title and the FA Cup in 1977 when they beat Liverpool in the final and denied them a treble, they won nothing. They had lost the 1976 final to Southampton thanks to a Bobby stokes goal which was half a mile offside and they would lose the 1980 final to Arsenal due to their failure to foul Liam Brady and, instead, allowing him to cross for Alan Sunderland to score the winner.

So we weren’t watching the most successful team in the history of Manchester United either in the sixties or the seventies, but they were good to watch, always with two wingers and always looking to attack the opposition.

Then, after a few years in the wilderness when some wholly inappropriate “managers” were put in charge of the club, Alex Ferguson arrived from Aberdeen and the rest is history.

Despite his trophies and records over the decades his first four years were totally fruitless and many United fans wanted him sacked at the time. Fortunately he wasn’t shown the door and went on to become the greatest manager the club has ever had. It is actually quite scary to think what might have happened had the club listened to the fans and acted on their advice!

Now United supporters are pining for a return to the Ferguson years. Why? It isn’t going to happen so what’s the point?

Alex Ferguson won many a game by playing in exactly the same way as José Mourinho. It depended on the opposition on the day but he would set his team up tactically not to lose in certain games, just like Mourinho does.


Lord Ferg – His record will never be equalled

He could have his team play very attacking football and they were excellent to watch when he did so, but it wasn’t the correct tactic for every game. In fact, Mourinho will quite happily send his team out to attack the opposition when the situation is right, just think of the games this season in which United scored four goals!

Another big difference between the two is how successful Mourinho was in his first season at Old Trafford compared with how long it took Ferguson to win a trophy.

In fairness, the Old Trafford at which Ferguson arrived in 1986 was a mess with some players preferring the pub to the training ground and an overhaul of the whole set-up  was required. That is why it took him four years to achieve anything. Mourinho, on the other hand, may say he wasn’t too impressed with the players he inherited but he still managed a couple of trophies with the majority of them, so they weren’t THAT bad.

So to have a side which plays attractive, attacking football at all times and against all teams means having a manager who can get that message and method across to his players and having players good enough to carry out their manager’s instructions.

Currently only Pep Guardiola appears to have the courage of his convictions and is confident enough in his players to send them out to attack every opponent. Whether this works in the long-term remains to be seen but Manchester United fans are not going to see this approach from José Mourinho or anyone else who may replace him.

Supporters of Manchester United will get attractive football occasionally. They will get trophies occasionally and, even more occasionally, they will get both from the same game.

  1. Fyah Bless says:

    Why did u say United wouldn’t play attractive football even if Mourinho was replaced?? I think it depends on who succeeds Mourinho but I don’t agree that Guardiola is the only one capable of sending his team out to attack every opponent.


    • Editor says:

      Thanks for commenting. Firstly, I didn’t say that another manager wouldn’t play attacking football, he just wouldn’t be much different to Mourinho or Feguson in when he chose to do so.

      Secondly, I also didn’t say that Guardiola was the only one capable of playing attacking football all the time, I said he was the only one with the courage to go out and do it.


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