Manchester United may have rode their luck en route to an EFL Cup Final triumph over Southampton on Sunday, but the Red Devils’ success in lifting the first major honour available in the Jose Mourinho reign has many fans of the club dreaming of a new golden age.
Admittedly, it will be far from easy to recapture the success of the Fergie era, following the disastrous tenure of David Moyes and the only-slightly-better Louis van Gaal years.
However, the first shoots of recovery are there at Old Trafford right now – and if Jose follows these steps, we reckon he’ll be on the right track towards future glories.
Get Zlat deal done
There’s little doubt that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been Manchester United’s best performer this season, with 26 goals and 10 assists to his name already. But he’s more than just that – the Swede is also the talisman the club have lacked in recent years, a present-day Eric Cantona or Mark Hughes.
With his future still up in the air, Mourinho needs to tie the former Paris Saint-Germain hitman down for at least another year. A leader on the field and a key influence on United’s young strikers, he’s also a bonafide big-game player, as his double against Southampton at Wembley.
Focus on the cups
Yes, the league is important. But under Sir Alex Ferguson, United began to gear up for their Premier League dynasty by hoovering up the other cups on offer, building that winning mentality in the process.
In 1990, they lifted the FA Cup, in 1991 the European Cup Winners’ Cup, and 1992 the League Cup. And interestingly, their league position improved from each season to the next. Winning cups breeds confidence – so we won’t be surprised in the least if United use the weekend’s experience as a springboard to bigger and better things.
Roo out, new in
While some fans of the club have perhaps been needlessly harsh in their assessment of United’s all-time top goalscorer, this summer will be the right time for Mourinho to offload the high-earning forward and invest elsewhere.
The 31-year-old has managed just two goals in 17 Premier League games this term, and while he’s not totally past it, the Red Devils would be best off cashing in while he retains some decent value, and putting it into the summer transfer kitty.
Trust the youngsters – but don’t pressurise them
Despite the lore of Fergie throwing the ‘Class of 92’ in at the deep end with a ton of first-team exposure, the truth is quite different. The likes of Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Gary Neville were drip-fed appearances during their first few seasons in the senior squad.
That needs to be Mourinho’s approach now. Too much pressure was put on Adnan Januzaj – for example – during his breakthrough season, and it hampered his development.
So the gaffer needs to use the current crop of young talent – like Tim Fosu-Mensah, Axel Tuanzebe, Marcus Rashford and Joel Pereira – often enough to give them confidence and a chance to develop, but not so much that they’ll crumble under the weight of expectation.
Next up for Man United is the visit of Bournemouth on Saturday, with 1/4 for the hosts to enjoy a seventh successive victory in all competitions.
Meanwhile, with the cups a vital part of the club’s progression, United fans will be encouraged by their placing as 15/8 favourites to lift the Europa League trophy, while they’re 13/2 to retain the Emirates FA Cup.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing