England Opinion

Pied Piper of Manchester

“Into the street the Piper stepped,

Smiling first a little smile,

As if he knew what magic slept

In his quiet pipe the while;” – Robert Browning’s v. Pied Piper

The people of Hamelin were in a state of distress, awaiting their knight in shining armour to come rescue them from a plight that had been around for far too long. The Hamelin that once breathed the scent of fresh roses, triumph and prosperity, had succumbed to obscurity, and had failed to make a swift recovery. Years’ worth of trial and error had all been in vain, and the near future did not promise any solution.

Until a man came along with his pipe, and was welcomed by the rather desperate highest council of the city. He was promised riches and fame upon delivery, and he did not fail to deliver. Similar is the current situation down in a city northwest of England, where it seems that all woes have vanished and past sins of the otherwise ignorant city council are forgiven. The city blooms in red, and it is conspicuous who the man with the pipe is: Bruno Fernandes from Portugal

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Prior to Bruno’s arrival, Manchester United was going through a drought of victories, and had not seen any fundamental progress in perhaps longer than the time it took to free Hamelin from rats. In late January, Man United fans booed off their own team after a humiliating defeat at Old Trafford at the hands of then 9th placed Burnley; fans jeering their own players is something any Red Devil would know is unheard of at Old Trafford.

When Solskjaer signed Bruno, he stated, “Most importantly he is a terrific human being with a great personality and his leadership qualities are clear for all to see.” Ole apparently hit the bullseye. The paradigm shift in the club caused by Bruno’s advent has been a sight to witness. Morale on and off the field has taken a sharp turn upwards; the previously problematic Paul Pogba has found his Juliet in central midfield, and the “United mentality” that was missing for so long, is finally instilled once again. “He has brought that winning mentality with him that 99% is not good enough – it has to be 100%.” explained Solskjaer at a recent post-match conference.

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The reformed Manchester United are almost adhering to Marxist collectivism ideology: with every player playing purely to achieve goals of the club as a whole, results are inevitable, and individual brilliance still exists as a side effect. Shattering of egos and a newfound passion for the club has made all the difference for Manchester United.

Inevitably, this change in attitude has had a profound effect on performance. Since Bruno’s arrival, Manchester United have been the top club in the Premier League by a country mile, with the club’s young and fiery front three outshining the Premier League Champions’ experienced attackers. Bruno has been involved in 11 goals in only 9 games, (not counting the 6 times he has scored himself). His form has benefited others with the ever impressive youngster Mason Greenwood taking his total goal tally in all competitions up to 15 for the season, just behind Rashford and Martial in the goalscoring charts.

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Source: BBC – PL Table since Bruno joined Man Utd.

This change in crucial statistics and team position is attributed to the change in style of play. Since Bruno’s arrival, Solskjaer has reshaped his men to play in the only way Manchester United have historically known: with a free-flowing, attacking mindset. A team like United, with fans like the Red Devils are simply not meant to park the bus or to play adhering to strict tactics. One may disagree to this, but it has only been proven true with the test of time.

Today, United are finally playing the way they always have, perhaps with stricter adhering than before; with emphasis on scoring goals, not defending them (excluding the back four, of course). This style was evident in the recent 5-2 victory over Bournemouth, when the men in red conceded two goals due to cheap defensive giveaways, but responded with a goal fest, hence covering the defensive mistakes.

However, this extreme approach is also not feasible if Solskjaer’s side want to contest for the title next season. Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous quote goes, “Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles”. Currently, United are only returning to their former attacking self, but still have considerable exploitable weaknesses in defence. United fans are already making comparisons with the 2008 Champions League winning side, but they must be reminded that although the attacking prowess is back like it never left, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand are not there anymore with a rock-solid defensive plan to clinch the title.

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To truly get his hands on a Premier League medal next season, Solskjaer needs to make effective use of the summer transfer window to ensure that he can free his side from those troublesome defensive weaknesses. Apart from that, Ole seems to be steering the wheel in the right direction.

However, one must not forget how the Pied Piper of Hamelin’s story progressed. The arrogant high city council officials refused their rescuer what was promised, and all hell broke loose. It would not be wrong to assume that with the people currently in charge of Man United, such an instance is not unlikely to occur. Owing to Bruno’s personality, United will be aware that to keep the Pied Piper playing he needs to be supported both on and off the pitch. If they can do that then Fernandes will continue his dance for years to come. 

“And, whether they pipe us free from rats or from mice,

If we’ve promised them aught, let us keep our promise.”

Post by Sairam Hussian Miran, Special correspondent for Back Of The Net. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram

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