Manchester United last lifted a trophy under Jose Mourinho in 2017. While those League Cup and Europa League victories looked like that side’s limit, Wembley glory for Erik ten Hag at the end of February appears to be the harbinger. of much more.
“I’ve already said it’s been too long since this club won a trophy and it’s up to this club to win trophies so we need to get back on track,” said Ten Hag before the match, reflecting on a Manchester United trophy drought that dates back to the summer of 2017, when they won the Europa League. It has been 2,072 days since United last tasted their silverware. The time has really come.
Jose Mourinho had led United to League Cup glory at the start of the 2016-17 season, and also tipped the Charity Shield as one more gong in what may be the worst possible hat-trick.
“In a bad season, in a season where I sometimes felt like my team was the worst team in the world, where I felt like the worst coach in the world, we managed to win three trophies,” said Mourinho after the 2-0 draw . victory against Ajax in the Europa League final.
While Mourinho said he hoped the result would make “the city of Manchester a little happier” after the occasion was completely overshadowed by the Manchester Arena bombing two days earlier, even those who managed to pull the plug from the horrors of home for 90 minutes they will have heard little in the way of hope for their football club.
It was a game that saw Ajax have 17 shots to United’s 6 and 67% possession. Mourinho said it was “a victory for pragmatism” and described his players as “not poets, just humble people”.
A notable “humble” medal winner was Marcus Rashford – the only United player to survive that final – who now plays as if poetry were movement, and is one of the greatest purveyors of the optimism so missing six years ago.
His sixth-minute strike at the City Ground was his 18th of the season and his tenth in the last ten games. Luck and skill combined for Rashford – as the in-form often do – with Joe Worrall wading through the tangle as the England international dribbled past him before finishing at the near post.
Wout Weghorst scored his first United goal, returning quicker to Antony’s rebounded shot and leading the line brilliantly, before Bruno Fernandes silenced the game, and almost certainly the equaliser, in the latter stages.
Ten Hag’s Manchester United aren’t as pragmatic as they were under Mourinho in 2017, but there’s usually efficiency in their football, where they attack with defense in mind. But things were pretty chaotic against Forest.
They were caught in transition on more than one occasion in the first half, with Sam Surridge’s goal disallowed by VAR for offside after fine work from Morgan Gibbs-White and Danilo, who looks set to make an impression in English football.
Victor Lindelof struggled to chain down Brennan Johnson, who lacked the finishing touch, while Casemiro hasn’t had a torrid time in English football like he had with Gibbs-White.
That said, United have won worthily and will be favorites ahead of Newcastle or Southampton in a final they will reach barring the shock of the season in the second leg.
The so-called minor trophies won by Mourinho in 2017 did not prove to be a harbinger of the bigger prizes – as it was for him at Chelsea in 2005 and Pep Guardiola in 2018 in their first few seasons in English football – but it never looked like that would be the case. . The League Cup and the Europa League were that United limit.
Fans will have to wait a little longer for the Premier League should they win their first trophy under the Ten Hag in just under a month’s time. It seems to be beyond them this season. But unlike the last time they won anything, that bigger win looks like it’s on the way.
Perhaps next season, which would see Ten Hag imitate the legacy of winning the League Cup the year before their first of 13 Premier League titles. You can dream.