By their own incredibly high standards, Manchester United are having an awful season - there is no doubt about that. Performing only marginally better than a Southampton side who were plying their trade in League One only a few seasons ago and at a similar level to a Newcastle team whose manager has been questioned since day one is a far cry from the unparalleled success that Sir Alex Ferguson brought to the club over the last two decades.
Unexpectedly, the competition that new and struggling boss David Moyes has had the most success in this season is the Champions League, one that he has next to no experience in. However, if his side are to plummet out of the competition against Bayern Munich by something close to the double figures aggregate predicted not too fancifully by many, then this will cement what has been United's worst season in years.
Fans of Manchester United and the football community as a whole have reacted quickly to the Red Devils' newly found frailties after a brief period of uncertainty at the beginning of the season. Most will admit that after a bad start to 2013/14, they believed that the club would turn it around and finish in a Champions League spot, it is Manchester United after all. Nonetheless, it has become clear that this is simply not the case. The bad results and abject performances continue as United simply capitulate whenever they are faced with a decent opponent or anybody willing to play without the fear that once crippled sides playing at Old Trafford.
Now that it is all-but mathematically clear that United will finish this season outside of the Champions League, their fans are revolting and the media seems to want us to believe that the Red Devils' fall from the top is complete. After all, how can a side that finishes outside of the Champions League possibly hope to compete with those who earn their riches from playing in the competition?
Well, actually very easily. Perhaps 'very' is a slight exaggeration, but missing one season of football in Europe's premier competition does not mean that arguably the world's biggest and best branded football club's days at the top are now resigned to the history books. Perhaps they need a squad overhaul, maybe they need a change of manager or even a change of owner. Possibly all of these things would help. The aim of this article is not to speculate as to how Manchester United will get out of their current quagmire, but to tell those lapping up their plight with glee that they will bounce back from their current situation and a lot quicker than most think.
Football is cyclical - great sides do not last forever and during times of transition a side will inevitably fall off their perch for a short time. Although certain clubs have the kind of resources to rebuild sides far more quickly than others, transition is still generally a slow process. Just a quick look at the Premier League and Liverpool instantly tells you all you need to know. Years of bad decisions and management can be undone in a single year if good managers and players are brought in. Further afield in Europe, the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Dortmund have all underachieved hugely for lengthy periods, but they all consistently bounce back. One great manager and a few great players are all it takes for a club to drag itself from mediocrity into the elite.
For a club of the stature of Manchester United, this should not be too hard to come by. David Moyes may or may not be the right man to take them back to where they once were. This article will not speculate on his suitability for the role. What will be said, however, is that Manchester United still have the history, tradition and the pedigree to attract the sort of players and staff to restore them to the top of the European game. Whether this is done by splurging the reported £200m sum, or a slow process of building the team from the roots upwards, Manchester United will not be out of the picture for long.
The air of invincibility of the club under Sir Alex Ferguson and the inevitability of a Champions League place may be gone, but what remains is the history and allure of what may become a sleeping giant, one that will rise a lot quicker and a lot easier than most people would have you believe.
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