What do Manchester United and Real Madrid have in common?
Impressive long-standing history? Being a worldwide success story? Or perhaps both having to say farewell to a player by the name of Cristiano? Yes, Los Blancos may have a history of poaching one or two of our best players, but we have a lot more in common than you may think, and there is a lot Mourinho and his team could learn from his former club.
In the last six seasons Real have won one La Liga trophy, playing second and sometimes third fiddle to Barcelona and even Atletico Madrid. It has been very quiet on the domestic front for Los Blancos, from a four year dry spell in the Copa del Rey, to only managing victory in the Supercopa de España (Spain’s version of the Community Shield), three times in the last ten years.
For a team that has featured the likes of Luka Modric, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain of recent years, coupled with an extremely demanding fan base, you would expect the criticism to be flying in thick and fast.
However, Los Blancos have redemption in the form of the Champions League.
Real Madrid have utterly dominated Europe, winning the competition four times in the last five years. They have decimated records, and powerful performances from the likes of Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Modric and Marcelo have put them consistently in the UEFA Squad of the Season.
Like Manchester United, Real Madrid over recent years have lived in the shadow of another team. No matter who Real have bought, their managerial changes or their tactical transformations, in La Liga Barcelona have always come out on top.
Last season Barca claimed the La Liga title for the 25th time in their history, along with a Copa del Rey trophy which gave the club their eighth double, compared Real’s four.
Nobody could catch the Catalans, with Ernesto Valverde’s team maintaining the top spot from the third week of the season onwards. Real pretty much threw in the towel after numerous disappointing results early in the season and they allowed Barcelona to go from strength to strength as Zidane’s side were left struggling to keep up the pace, something that United can relate to.
Over in England, the story has been similar, minus the European success of course. Since Fergie’s departure, United have seen their neighbours Manchester City slowly climb up the ranks of the Premier League.
Despite a slight ebb in City’s quest for domestic success in the 2015/16 season which saw them fall to fourth position as the top six teams were taught a very valuable lesson by Leicester City, the Blues have not been out of the top three since 2010.
As much as it pains United fans, you cannot deny that Pep Guardiola has built something impressive over at the Etihad. While City have enjoyed eight years of perennial top four success, United’s fortunes have been far more frustrating. The Reds have finished sixth twice and even seventh, since last lifting the Premier League trophy.
It will be a struggle to catch City, and although they have been rather quiet over the transfer window period, their squad is not lacking in strength as they will be heading into this season with total confidence after entering the record books last season with their 100 points.
The debate over United catching City, what they need to do in the Premier League, who they should buy, the tactics that should be imposed, has been a never-ending story to say the least.
However, despite the importance of domestic success, rather than focusing on the Premier League and the added pressures that come with it, perhaps United should take a leaf out of Real’s book and aim for European dominance.
The idea of setting our sights on Europe over the domestic league is something United have tried and tested before. When the Reds won the Europa League, Mourinho had disregarded the Premier League, fielding teams that featured the likes of Axel Tuanzebe, Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini every weekend. However in the Europa group stage Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jesse Lingard all featured heavily. The result? A Europa League trophy.
Fast-forward to last season and United did the exact opposite. Mourinho featured his best players in the Premier League, using Scott McTominay, Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw in the Champions League. The result? An embarrassing exit at the hands of Sevilla.
There is definitely something to be said for playing a strong team in Europe. Reaching a Champions League semi-final is certainly more uplifting than a battle for fourth place in the Premier League.
Of course, this is no easy feat, with the strongest teams in Europe all competing for the same prize. However I am confident that United have the quality to go far in the competition, and this upcoming season would be the perfect campaign to put all of our efforts into European success.
Despite the criticisms that the Reds have faced recently, Mourinho does have a strong side.
Like Real, United have a good balance of youth and experience and I am hopeful that after impressive personal campaigns in Russia from the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Jesse Lingard and of course Pogba, many of our starting XI who are yet to return to training will have an infectious positive mentality that can affect the entire team.
United have some of the most desirable talent in Europe, and will hopefully add to this before the end of the transfer window which could greatly benefit the team and morale.
Despite tensions surrounding Mourinho, if his squad can finally come together and display the talent that we all know they possess, who is to say that United, like Real Madrid could not make their mark in Europe.
If Liverpool somehow managed to make a final, who’s to say United can’t?
Is victory in Europe harder to obtain than a Premier League title? Most certainly. However, as I am sure Real will tell you, there is no greater feeling than victory not only over your rivals, but the entire continent.