It’s been a mixed summer for United as the FA Cup holders started preparations for the new season by signing a few very good players and going to China for a not so good pre-season. Here’s our look at what happened regarding ‘our’ club in the past few months…
Just after (during?) the FA Cup final, which United won by beating Pardew’s Palace 2-1, it was announced that Louis van Gaal had been shown the door, with Jose Mourinho coming in while it was still revolving. Though many of us didn’t want him at the club we’ve supported all our lives because of his attitude, he’s needed by United as much as he needs to be managing a club of such stature, and with many of the best managers already employed elsewhere, this was United’s chance of trying to push themselves back onto the top table again. It was a move that was three years in the making as Mourinho himself thought he’d replace Sir Alex in 2013. After three years of crosses and ‘philoshophies’ that hardly worked (I wrote about the ‘transition’ here… http://www.retrounited.com/sir-alex-mourinho-three-not-easy-steps/ ), we’ve got a manager that should be able take us to the top where we belong.
This summer we had EURO 2016 to keep us going before the new season comes along, and it was interesting to see present and future United players (some past ones too) feature for their countries in France. Though none of them will be showing off any gold medals at Old Trafford, it was nice to see Ronaldo and Nani become European Champions with Portugal.
A week after the tournament finished and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic now officially a United player (!!!), Mourinho took charge of his first game as Manchester United manager, a run of the mill friendly against Wigan. United won 2-0 with goals from Will Keane and Andreas Pereira, both scoring in the second half after many changes were made at half-time. Though not much of note happened (apart from the over 7,000 United fans who were at the game), we were happy to see United back in action.
The club then went to China for their much publicised ‘summer tour’. First stop was Shanghai where United were playing Borussia Dortmund in between lots of marketing and attending of sponsored events. Unfortunately matters on the pitch weren’t as rosy as things off them as Dortmund were much better prepared and romped to a 4-1 win, with United’s goal scored by another of the new exciting signings, Armenia’s captain Mickey T (Henrik Mkhitaryan to those that can say it properly), who was signed from the same Borussia Dortmund just a few weeks earlier. The new home kit was also unveiled while the club was in Shanghai.
The next stop was Beijing, where United were meant to meet Manchester City in a game for which most headlines were about the possibility of Mourinho and Guardiola shaking hands (yes, ‘journalists’ were THAT desperate for a story). Once again, the players were involved in many sponsored events, including the unveiling of Tag Hauer as the club’s official timekeeper. Maybe with such a brand on board United will never get to a game late again. Unfortunately, due to lots of rain and the condition of the pitch, the game got called off, meaning the media will now have to wait until the 10th of September to see if our manager and City’s manager will be cordial to each other. You have to feel sorry for the thousands of Chinese fans who might have missed their one and only chance to see United in the flesh, and make us realise how lucky many of us are that we get to travel to Old Trafford once in a while to see the team in action.
It was then on to Sweden, where United were playing against Turkish giants Galatasaray in Gothenburg. Excitement was mounting at the possibility that Ibrahimovic could make his United debut in his country. He did, and it only took him four minutes to score with one of his trademark moves, a bicycle kick that went in even though he didn’t hit it too well. Galatasaray scored twice to lead 2-1 at half-time, but United went into the second half with all guns blazing, and scored three goals in seven minutes (Rooney double and Fellaini header), before Juan Mata scored a very well worked goal to make the final score 5-2.
On Wednesday evening it was the turn of Rooney’s testimonial against Everton at Old Trafford, which meant that Mourinho, Bailly (who?), Ibrahimovic and Mickey T were making their home debuts. Now, we may have our issues with Captain Wayne Rooney (I for one am not one of his biggest fans), but apart from the fact that he nearly left United a couple of times and could definitely have been better over the past eleven years, not many players get to stay at such a big club for so long, and this is someone that is only four goals away from becoming the club’s ever highest goal scorer. So he does deserve certain accolades even though his best season for the club seems like ages away, and he has won a lot with and for the club we support (5 League titles, 1 Champions League, 1 FA Cup, 2 League Cups, and 1 FIFA Club World Cup definitely not to be sneered at).
The game was just a damp squib that finished in a 0-0 draw which made many check out United’s dugout to make sure that it wasn’t Van Gaal still managing the team while taking notes. At least many players got a run-out just a few days before ‘real’ football starts.
That happens this weekend as FA Cup holders United go to Wembley to play against Champions Leicester for the Charity Shield (Sunday 7th, 4pm UK time), and though we don’t count it as a trophy (yeah, tell THAT to David Moyes), it will be great to see United playing in the new season’s curtain raiser, a game in which they’ve played in fourteen times in the past twenty years. So strap yourselves tight and get ready for Jose Mourinho’s era to start… COME ON UNITED!!!