Not even 18 months ago, Manchester United were at the top of English soccer, winning their record 20th title under the leadership of their steely-eyed manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. After that, however, is a whole different story.
Last season, fresh off the promising dual signing of Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini and Everton manager David Moyes, the storied Red Devils fell faster than anyone could have anticipated, finishing the EPL season in a stunning seventh place.
With this fall from grace, United will not be playing in European soccer this season for the first time since 1981.
Think about that for a second; the last time this one team was not at the peak of its profession, Ronald Reagan had just come to power, the McRib had just been introduced to the public, and the Cubs’ world series drought was only 73 years.
This year, though, diehard Red Devils fans are pointing to this offseason’s moves as a step in the right direction, both in terms of managerial style and staff choices.
For the former, Louis Van Gaal, the highly accomplished Dutch manager who most recently led his national team to a 3rd place finish at this World Cup, looks to bring a certain flexibility and freedom to the table for his players, compared to the rigidity offered by Moyes.
Playerwise, the Glazer family made Luke Shaw, the former Southampton left back, the most expensive teenager in the world with a fee of roughly $45 million (£27 million pounds.) Furthermore, in addition to the signing of the Argentine defenseman Marcos Rojo, United completed a Spanish league dual swoop, signing both central midfielder Ander Herrera from Bilbao, and, perhaps more importantly, Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria for a club record fee of £59.7 million pounds, equating to roughly $100 million.
While that monetary prowess is impressive, it could be argued that this team lost their heart and soul in the form of defenders Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, and Patrice Evra, who spent combined some 25 years servicing their beloved Manchester team.
In this nascent season, though, United have failed to impress, securing just two points in three Premier League games, and getting humiliated four-nil by the relatively unknown MK Dons in the Capital One Cup.
Moving forward, fans all over the world of this current incarnation of Manchester United, however dwindling their numbers may be, might be reminiscing wistfully for the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, and of Cristiano Ronaldo, and of Paul Scholes.
For now, in what seems to be a rebuilding period for one of the most decorated teams in the world, patience is needed now at Old Trafford, and only time will tell if it will pay off.
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