As the new season rapidly approaches, there is still a dark cloud hanging over Manchester United that goes by the name of Jose Mourinho.
The Portuguese manager has warned of a difficult season ahead, as he waits patiently for more signings as the transfer window deadline draws near.
I must admit, some of Mourinho’s comments throughout United’s pre-season have been harsh, but valid. United are lacking in different areas of the pitch, from additional attacking options with the future of Martial still not confirmed, to issues in defence that have become the talk of the transfer window.
However, at times I do think Mourinho should think before he speaks, with some of his misconstrued comments having a long-lasting effect, especially in reference to youth players.
With a new season looming, Mourinho’s frustrations are a big concern for some fans. A manager’s attitude can severely affect morale surrounding a club – if a manager isn’t confident about the season ahead, then why should fans be gearing themselves up with high hopes for a successful campaign?
Friday night’s Premier League opener against Leicester will be a good test of how fans are feeling, and with plans to improve the mood at Old Trafford supposedly in place, could the atmosphere at United finally be resurrected?
The topic surrounding United’s atmosphere has been discussed for numerous years. From song lyrics to safe standing, club officials have considered numerous options, but are now listening to fan groups who have been fighting for change at the Theatre of Dreams.
One of the steps that the Reds have taken towards trying to improve the mood is introducing heavily discounted season tickets to 18-25-year-olds seated in the lower Stretford End. The idea, proposed by the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST), has been met with positivity, with many fans believing that boosting atmosphere as well as attracting younger, possibly louder supporters would be a success.
The proposal will come into action this season, and is amongst numerous ideas that MUST have put forward to club officials, including the options of moving parts of the family stand and executive seats from the Stretford End in order to free up more seats for vocal fans.
Last season the club accepted a fan group led initiative to move home fans to the L stand, an area normally occupied by away fans, for United’s FA Cup meeting with Brighton. The result? One of the best atmospheres at Old Trafford in years.
The idea was well received and has been given the green light by the club to be trialled again this Friday in United’s opening fixture.
Whilst many will point the finger to managerial changes when the question is raised about why the atmosphere has changed at United, the issue runs much deeper.
During Sir Alex’s reign at the Theatre of Dreams, victory at times seemed effortless. United fans were spoilt with back-to-back success and attacking football. If the Reds were at a stalemate, or even losing 1-0, fans would be sitting comfortably, counting down the minutes for Fergie time, as United became known for their last-minute thrilling wins which brought an electric atmosphere to the stadium.
Some fans will argue that this continued throughout David Moyes’ short spell at the club, with many supporters placing their faith in Fergie’s hand-picked replacement. There was still hope amongst fans for silverware, but unfortunately the momentum that Sir Alex had built at the club came to a halt. However, the atmosphere at Old Trafford had not entirely diminished, as songs could still be heard throughout the stadium during Moyes’ unsuccessful campaign.
With Louis van Gaal came silverware, but a style of play that left fans frustrated as Fergie time became a distant memory. The desperation within fans to see their attacking players surge forward in search of a goal was evident as the crowds grew quieter and faith began to fade.
There is no doubt that atmosphere and performances do go hand in hand. The style of play that fans watch week in week out ultimately links to how much atmosphere is created, and as many players have stated over the years, the atmosphere of a strong crowd can be like an extra player on the pitch.
The issue has gone on for far too long, and with the appointment of Jose Mourinho, many expected the atmosphere to rise once again.
However, his style of play and other factors surrounding unhappy players and sub-par results, has meant that the problem has progressively worsened, forcing the club to wake up and make some much needed changes.
Friday night’s experiment will certainly prove to be interesting, and will give the club a good insight as to how deep Mourinho’s attitude has cut many United fans.
*odds are subject to change.