If you've not seen the mag before here's a little taster - the editorial from the last mag of last season:
Looking back over the past season it’s been interesting to hear the many different viewpoints and opinions as to where things went wrong or on which game United’s season turned. For me United’s surrender of the championship can be traced back to Arsenal’s visit to Old Trafford way back in September.
Wenger’s side blatantly came for a point, terrified as they were of losing to their main rival so early in the season, at a time when their confidence was still so fragile in the wake of their collapse on the title run-in the previous Spring. The Gooners’ negativity was therefore perhaps understandable. Quite what United were doing playing with the same sort of caution was baffling and frankly, a betrayal of our attacking heritage.
It was almost as if the rivalry between Fergie and Wenger had become so all-consuming that the fear of failure and desire to avoid defeat took precedence, relegating the attacking principles and play-to-win instinct which every Red should demand as a pre-condition when paying for their ticket.
We are not Liverpool. This is not Anfield. At Old Trafford the pursuit of success should always be twinned with the style that success is sought. The two are inseparable. Last season’s championship win was only made palatable by the swashbuckling way in which it was ultimately secured. The initial seven months of rank, turgid football were forgotten in the intoxicating haze the thrilling final eight games caused. That said, no one can tell me last season was more enjoyable overall than the ding-dong battles and goalfests so often served up in the ultimately potless 2001-02 season.
United aren’t about the incessant accumulation of trophies. For that reason the likes of Robbie Fowler can wave their four digits all they like - our piffling two European Cups will always be worth far, far more than their mammoth haul of four. It’s not what you do….
That said, United could easily (and undeservedly) have halted Arsenal’s marathon unbeaten run almost before it had begun had Ruud despatched that last minute penalty past Lehmann and the chances are United would now be champions and not Arsenal.
What is beyond doubt is that the two lessons United should have learnt from that day have not been heeded. Fergie and various players have continually been quoted in recent weeks on their need and desire to finish second in order to avoid a European preliminary round come August, and yet rather than go for the kill with both team tactics and selection their hope of achieving the stated aim has been totally undermined by this apparent yearning to do so by expending the bare minimum of effort.
United would have swept Arsenal aside back in September had they even bothered to. That they only displayed any inclination to attack once they were up against ten men highlights the lack of urgency that has both been on display and undermined us all too often.
Seemingly the belief that has carried since the Treble year that we can beat any team at any stage of a game has now become a weakness. Do the players not realise that in the Treble year goals were scored and games rescued so late and so often because they would bang on the door hard enough and often enough for it to cave in eventually?
The Treble team could also detect the weak spots and carried the tools to exploit them. Today’s team merely rings the doorbell, expects it to swing open before shrugging its shoulders and walking off if it doesn’t. Certainly that’s about as much effort as these players “playing for their Cup Final places” showed in the game against Birmingham, Leicester, Portsmouth, Liverpool and Blackburn in the past month.
People will undoubtedly point to missing players and injuries as factors in our plight but such excuses simply do not excuse the woeful lack of incisiveness the team has laboured with all season. The club is currently mired in a bog of negativity having got stuck there through the deluded belief the road back to the Promised Land of European Cup glory was the one marked “defensive solidity at the expense of attacking verve”.
Reds are within their rights to expect huge changes this summer, starting with a change in emphasis right at the top, back to the attacking football that was once our hallmark. We’ve only ever won the European Cup with attacking teams and we only ever will. And even if we never won it again it would be too soon as long as we’re spared the mind-numbing tedium we’ve been exposed to this past couple of years.
On the 26th of this month it’ll be five long years since that night in Camp Nou. I’m sure a few of you will be digging out the Treble video to reminisce and pay homage to that night in Catalunya between now and then, I only hope the comparison with today’s on-pitch fayre won’t be too painful. But I guess what we should always bear in mind is that that season was a freak and it’s better to have loved and lost than to be a City fan. Come the night in question it’s a fair bet there’ll be a few glasses raised to one Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a player who is undeniably spared any of the criticism that’s been dished out in recent weeks.
Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s the Cup Final to look forward to and the excellently received ‘70s day at Blackburn along with the semi at Villa Park showed us all how we should be up for that. Everyone going should ensure the colour and barminess and the scarves and the banners make their way down to South Wales because win or lose, it makes the day so much more enjoyable. And isn’t that what’s it’s supposed to be all about?
Finally: The issue of season ticket price renewals and the disgraceful surcharges United are placing on payments made by credit and debit cards was addressed here last issue. The action Reds should take to both avoid this extra charge as well as make a stand against it is highlighted in this month’s IMUSA column a few pages further on.
We’d urge all Reds to do so and make the point to the plc suits that they can’t carry on taking the piss of out us for the benefit of shareholders. If they really need the 3% charge that badly they should have had a whip round in the dressing room after Blackburn last week, after all the fans were the only ones who performed to their potential.
And like last year, we’d encourage anyone relinquishing their season ticket for whatever reason to seek out a worthy young Red cause to pass it onto rather than allow it to expire and have the club reallocate it as they see fit. We all had to start somewhere.