Favourable winds appear to be blowing at Old Trafford again. The month of December had been particularly disastrous for them. Heading into Boxing Day’s Premier League game against Aston Villa, they had suffered three defeats against Newcastle United, Bournemouth and West Ham United and split points with Liverpool. Besides, they had prematurely exited the Champions League after coming up with their worst performance in the group stage. They had only beaten Chelsea, a fellow struggling side. Just one win in six games in December ahead of the Villa game.
Unai Emery’s men were favourites to beat United, all the more in light of the Red Devils’ miserable season. Amid general despondency all around the club and its fans, the news started doing the rounds on Christmas Eve that British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe had agreed to purchase a minority 25% share in the club. Discussions had been going on for a while, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise but the fact it was official now doubled Christmas celebrations for millions of United fans all over the globe.
Two days after the development, United players, appeared to be infected with the general enthusiasm, put on view a fantastic, spirited performance against Emery’s men. Trailing 2-0 inside 30 minutes, not many gave them a chance but against all odds they staged a miraculous comeback in the second half to register a 3-2 win. Dave Brailsford, Ratcliffe’s important partner, was in the stands as the hosts sent Villa away empty-handed. Brailsford, former Team GB cycling boss, is going to be the man in charge of the football operations at the club in its bid to regain lost glory. He couldn’t have got a better welcome from the players.
Ratcliffe and his team have delivered the goods in other sport initiatives they have undertaken. His reputation precedes him. The club has not won a Premier League since 2013 and this is something he would like to get out of the way as early as possible. With 13 Premier League titles, the Red Devils are the most successful English club in the PL era and fans are not used to the lows they have experienced in the last 10 years or so.
The assumption that now, in the wake of Ratcliffe’s arrival, they would go on to win the league this season is a little far-fetched though. Finishing inside the top-four and qualify for the Champions League next season is a much more realistic target. This is what Ratcliffe and his team should aim for, to begin with. He is also expected to boost the infrastructure at Old Trafford. The stadium has come under fire in recent years particularly for not being friendly to spectators on many counts.
Born in Failsworth (Greater Manchester), it’s well known that Ratcliffe is a United fan since childhood. The Glazer family, in charge of United for many years now, doesn’t enjoy the trust of fans, particularly on account of their being American. Fans believe they can’t be as passionate and caring as someone from England and a United fan on top of that.
That’s why Ratcliffe’s arrival has created an atmosphere of happy frenzy. In an open letter to fans, the 71-year-old, chairman of petrochemical firm INEOS, has promised he will leave no stone unturned to bring back glory days. “…You are ambitious for Manchester United and so are we. There are no guarantees in sport, and change can inevitably take time but we are in it for the long term and together we want to help take Manchester United back to where the club belongs, at the very top of English, European and world football. I take that responsibility very seriously,” Ratcliffe wrote.
There is no reason why one should not trust him. He has a proven record. He doesn’t take things lying down. All well-wishers of Manchester United can expect him to crack the whip to get things done. Though it remains to be seen if he goes for quick repair or bides his time. As far as fans are concerned, they would want him to take charge without further ado. That is understandable in view of the fact that the club has only won lesser trophies in the post Alex Ferguson era.