Manchester United: FA Cup win would represent success but not progress
José Mourinho takes his side into the FA Cup semi-finals this weekend looking for his fourth piece of silverware since joining United. But should we have expected more?
Manchester United go into their FA Cup semi-final clash with Tottenham Hotspur this weekend on uncertain ground.
Firstly, they will be travelling to a Wembley Stadium which their opponents have treated as home for the past year – that could be a strange experience.
More importantly, though, they are on the hunt for England’s primary cup trophy in the knowledge that many will still brand them failures should they lift it.
Spoiled by years at the top
In this age, nothing but the absolute best appears to be enough for some fans. They grew up with United winning league and European titles, and nothing less than that will do. Second place in the league and a cup win? Rubbish.
It is a sad way to watch football. Though it may be a personal insult to Mourinho to see Pep Guardiola waltz to the title, it is no disgrace to finish second behind this Manchester City team, a team which looks almost certain to break the Premier League points record.
It is more impressive when you consider that United are still on course to finish ahead of Liverpool and Spurs, two sides who have won the hearts of fans around the world this season with their at times sublime football.
To suggest that finishing the season with an FA Cup win would represent failure is at once an insult to English football and a gross misreading of United’s own recent history.
Record 13th title would be a real achievement
Manchester United’s 12 FA Cups to date played a huge part in their journey to the very top of the world game. A 13th would make them the joint-most successful club in the history of the competition, alongside Arsenal. Taking that title away from Arsène Wenger may be all the motivation Mourinho needs.
If finishing second and winning the FA Cup was a failure, football would be a joyless sport indeed. Given United’s decline in the post-Ferguson era, it is a level of success they can hardly afford to turn up their noses at.
But while it would be a success, it would also represent a lack of progress on their part. Not being in the title race but winning trophies was where Manchester United were at last season, and this year was supposed to be the year they stepped up a gear and went toe-to-toe with City.
That hasn’t happened. The questions of last season are still being asked. How do they get the best out of Paul Pogba? Do Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford really have futures under Mourinho? Is the team too reliant on the otherworldly talent of David de Gea?
Rivals won’t stagnate next season
City are likely to step up again next year. Liverpool, too. If Manchester United are to be taken seriously as the biggest club in the country again, they have to move back up the ladder from success to dominance.
There is no reason their squad cannot go to another level. Their squad is packed with hungry young talent that clubs the world over would love to have at their disposal, though questions remain over Mourinho’s ability to prise the best out of them.
Manchester United are, at the minute, victims of their own incredible success. Second in the league and trophies in the cabinet isn’t a bad place to stagnate – but it is not enough for their fans in the long term.
First of all, they have a job to do this weekend. Spurs will be just as hungry for trophies as they are, with the same questions being thrown about around their own relative success under Mauricio Pochettino.
Beating this superlative young Spurs side – and likely Chelsea in the final – would be a huge statement of their intent and potential.
Fail to deliver and this season will have been little more than a sideways step for United, in a year when those around them have looked to move forward.
Do you think an FA Cup would represent a success for Manchester United? Let us know by commenting below.