United need to land a trophy
The 2014/15 campaign was a case of ‘job done’ for Manchester United. After the disaster which was David Moyes’ ill-fated spell at the helm, Louis van Gaal arrived with one clear target – return the club to the Champions League at the first time of asking.
As the most decorated side in English football, the Red Devils knew they could not afford to spend more than 12 months away from Europe’s top table.
Their reputation and global standing was strong enough to get them through one season and a couple of transfer windows, with the likes of Angel Di Maria still lured to Old Trafford in spite of the cloud hanging over the famous old ground.
With one box ticked, though, the challenge now facing United is to get back into the winning habit.
Competition towards the top of the Premier League is as intense as it has ever been, with the emergence of Manchester City and re-emergence of Chelsea – with both clubs boasting deep pockets – suggesting that patience will be required if they are to be overthrown. Arsenal are also coming back into the mix as financial shackles are broken at the Emirates.
There is, however, enough silverware out there to keep most, not all, of the main players happy and expectant fan bases content.
Arsenal will be pleased enough with back-to-back FA Cup triumphs, even if they have been unable to challenge for the really top honours, while Chelsea and City have also enjoyed days in the Wembley sunshine and open-top bus parades on the back of success in knockout competition.
United need to ensure that they rejoin that particular party as quickly as possible.
The 2012/13 Premier League title remains the final entry on their enviable roll of honour, while League Cup success has eluded them since 2010 and you have to go all the way back to 2004 to find the last time they lifted the FA Cup.
Given that 2016 will be upon us by the time that prize is handed out again, the Red Devils will undoubtedly feel that 12 years is far too long to have gone without adding to their medal collection.
Arsenal’s success in recent years has seen them usurp United as the most successful club in FA Cup history, with the trophy having made its way to north London on three occasions since it last arrived at Old Trafford.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) June 18, 2015
In that same period, Chelsea have emerged victorious on four occasions, while City and Liverpool have toasted one triumph apiece.
There is every reason to believe that Van Gaal will be making the competition a top priority next term, aware of the need to start delivering tangible results to go with top-four finishes.
FA Cup betting markets such as those at bet365 price United at 8/1 at the time of writing to go all the way - alongside holders and hat-trick hopefuls Arsenal and only marginally adrift of Chelsea and City.
The Red Devils are the same price to lift the Capital One Cup, while they are 20/1 to conqueror the Champions League – this time ahead of Arsenal in the betting.
Prevailing in just one of those competitions would be another step in the right direction for United and would offer the clearest indication yet that while they may have been a wobbling giant for a bit, they certainly have not fallen.