Leeds pipped us. Just. On to 1992/93.
All that remained was a final catalyst to propel the squad into what would become the most decorated era in the clubs history: the squad was established with experienced pros and a smattering of young upstarts; the manager unequivocally the master of his domain. One link needed to create a winning culture, a winning atmosphere and stratospheric work-ethic-standards.
November 26th 1992. Eric signs. The rest is history.
Despite it only being five years of Cantona, he started it all in the modern era. The younger players such as Messer’s Beckham, Butt, Scholes, Neville(s) did, and still do, wax lyrical about the aura and presence of a man that not only brought players, staff and fans together, but galvanised the entire club and set the standards for a generation. Call me an old romantic, but this is why he is my all-time footballing hero. And the collar thing was just cool as fuck.
Fast forward. SAF well retired, Moyes and LvG jettisoned to the Sexton graveyard of failure. In comes the entourage and swagger of Jose – a winner, occasional loser and controversy courter. When you look at his squads, whether in Portugal, England, Italy or Spain, they are synonymous with a common theme – leaders. One or two focal points – Deco and Carvalho; Terry and Lampard; Zanetti and Eto’o; Real Madrid take your pick.
An inherited patchwork quilt squad of quality and dross, Mourinho lacked that missing link. No true leader on the pitch – a captain hamstrung by poor form and inconsistency; the midfield Geordie who lacks a big and authoritative voice during a game; centre halves in and out of the treatment room.
New tactic. New approach.
At 35 going on 27, he’s even surprised SAF in a recent interview. But when you are looking for a model professional, high standards, and a work rate like Eric – Zlatan is exactly what you need. Imagine him coming to United under the previous two administrations? He’d have been off to China before you could say ‘five hundred and fifty thousand pounds a week’.
But no. Jose is the pull, like SAF was for Eric. Money is banked for Ibra, he is all about the glory, like Eric. Loyal, wanting to prove to himself and the world he can deliver on every stage – unlike Eric on the latter but frankly he would have done so if he wished, in my humble opinion.
So Zlatan is the new Eric? Forget the footballing credentials – he is the new Eric. The new talisman to drive forward the club out of the cesspit of Dutch depravity, to unite the squad, give the youth (and some of the older players) a role model through experience and having that sheer winning mentality. He’s that annoying kid from school who was top of the class academically, won cross country and captained every sports team because he was the best. Fun is poked at the ‘I am Zlatan’ mantra, but with thirteen league titles (and a Charity Shield), who can really argue? Anyone with a ‘Z’ in their name is on a par with a starch ridden flipped up collar in my book.
It doesn’t matter if he gets injured and he’s out for the rest of this season or next*. But just from him being in Carrington and beyond, he’s the human link to drive United into the next era of success.
*it does, but you get my point
This article was written by @HarrisioTweet to @TheUnitedWay78