Following Manchester United’s 0-0 draw against Valencia in the Champions League, plenty of angry supporters took to social media afterwards to vent.
This is so much of a regular occurrence now, given how poor United’s results have been of late, that this reaction has become the norm.
The reality is, a draw at home in the Champions League, making United the only unbeaten English club in the competition, is not a dreadful result. Yet the manner in which the game was played, on the back of a string of defeats and poor performances, tipped some supporters over the edge.
Some fans were so angry that they even likened the present state of the club to the days of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal. Even worse, some claimed those managers brought happier times than what we are witnessing now. What a low blow…
Moyes’ tenure was an unmitigated disaster and he should never have been appointed. He was not qualified for the job and the months that followed proved that was the case.
He made the ridiculous decision to replace United’s repeated title winning staff with his bunch of nobodies who didn’t have a medal between them, and the players turned against him.
Van Gaal’s time at the club saw some improvement. At least there was a clear identity, or “philosophy” as the Dutchman called it, behind what United were doing. The manager had them well-drilled, the only issue was his methods produced the dullest football many supporters could remember having ever seen from their team.
Time and again, United would totally dominate possession, but create next to no opportunities to score.
However, if they managed to scrape a goal from the few chances they created, that wouldn’t have been the end of the world.
But too often The Red Devils would go on to draw and lose against teams clearly inferior to them, who had barely touched the football, because Van Gaal’s strict approach of valuing possession over risks that could be creative.
While there are so many examples you could list, there are several that stick out above the rest in the memory. United lost 2-1 at home to Southampton in Van Gaal’s second season, amassing 69% possession over the 90 minutes, but managing just one shot on target.
In this fixture a season earlier, United had 61% possession, no shots on target, and lost 1-0.
Two months earlier, United drew 2-2 away to Stoke with 66% possession and two shots on target. Around that same time, United drew 0-0 at home to West Ham with 63% possession and one shot on target.
The game that brought about one of the biggest reactions from the match-going crowd was their 1-0 win over Sheffield United in January 2016. United’s first shot happened well in to the second half, when Memphis Depay had a go in front of the Stretford End, and was met with ironic cheers.
United won a penalty that Wayne Rooney scored in the 93rd minute, but the frustration felt by the supporters that such desperate measures were needed to have a shot on target, let alone score a goal, was off the scale.
The Dutchman’s era ended positively in terms of silverware, with United winning the FA Cup, but some sections of Wembley booed when he lifted the trophy, so worn out they were by watching Van Gaal’s football.
While of course the current situation is appalling and way below the standards that any United fan should settle for, the only logical conclusion for people to positively reminisce about the Van Gaal or Moyes’ era is that their brains have protected them from the trauma and blocked the horrors out.
Mourinho has two trophies and a defeat in a cup final to show for his time at the club.
His brand of football isn’t inspiring. But, at least there is the possibility of goals.
It’s rarely very entertaining, doesn’t always produce the desired result, but it’s not the mind-numbingly dull football Van Gaal employed. United would have to pass the ball 20 times just to get to the halfway line and then would kick it straight back to David de Gea the second they felt any pressure from the opposition.
Mourinho is conservative but he isn’t a patch on the Dutchman when it comes to being risk averse.
On Saturday, Mourinho will have yet another opportunity to show the fans and world media that he hasn’t lost the dressing room.
He comes up against an old foe in Rafa Benitez, with the two clashing during their time at Chelsea and Liverpool, with the bad feeling continuing long after. This is a sentiment he shares with United fans, who got the last laugh with the Spanish manager when winning the record-equalling 18th title under Beneitez’s watch.
Both the supporters and manager are desperate for a win at the weekend. Getting one over on Benítez would make it all the sweeter, but the need for three points overrides any want for bragging rights.
Mourinho’s job is on the line and while the comparisons to Van Gaal and Moyes don’t do him any justice, that won’t mean much if he follows them out of the exit door, which a defeat against Newcastle would certainly speed up happening.