Paul Scholes claimed Manchester United were ‘four or five years’ away from a title, with bet365 pricing up no title before 2025/26 at 2/7.
Through four permanent managers since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, none have been able to stop the rot at Old Trafford for any meaningful period of time.
Starting in 2013/14, David Moyes took United to their lowest Premier League finish ever, and their lowest since 1990. It marked a period of enormous transition at the club, as the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Robin van Persie and Ryan Giggs were phased out, as well as adapting to the departures of Ferguson and David Gill.
Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho followed, and while Van Gaal was able to restore Champions League football, their stint in Europe’s elite competition lasted just one year, and even then they were eliminated in the group stage. Mourinho secured a runner-up finish, but something of a capitulation in his third season saw him sacked by December.
The most marked improvement came under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who led United to improved third- and second-placed finishes, but a lack of silverware combined with a wretched start to this season saw him follow Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho out of the door.
Erik ten Hag will be the next man to try and return the Red Devils to the glory days of the 1990s and 2010s. No manager will be able to achieve Ferguson’s feat of 13 league titles in 20 years, but Ten Hag is simply tasked with making Manchester United competitive once again.
It’s now been nine seasons since United last won the title, unthinkable back in 2013, and their 20th title doesn’t appear to be forthcoming, certainly while Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp – who of course signed a two-year contract extension last week – are around.
United are 14/1 to win the title next season and 8/1 to win their next title in 2023/24. Both seem unrealistic – hence the prices – but with Manchester United’s resources, if the Dutchman can get the club back on an upward trajectory, a league title may be arriving at Old Trafford in the next few years.
Gary Neville insisted his former club will be back, and that they’re too big not to be, which seems fair, but how long that be still feels like anyone’s guess.
Surely those at Old Trafford will be looking at the revolution under Jurgen Klopp for inspiration, but even the German’s arrival at Anfield didn’t produce an immediate upturn in fortunes. Liverpool’s form under Klopp would have only seen the Reds finish seventh (rather than eighth), with them still inconsistent in his first full season, finishing fourth with no European distraction.
Of course, it was the third season that Klopp took Liverpool to the Champions League final, and the fourth season where they won it – a fate United fans would likely take in a heartbeat right now.
Patience will be the key; Manchester United are 11/2 to finish second next season, 10/3 to finish third, 2/1 to finish fourth, and 7/4 to finish out of the top four. Such is the competitive nature of the Premier League these days, success isn’t guaranteed, and almost certainly isn’t instant.
Although nobody is expecting great things from Ten Hag in his debut season in England, to be assured of the time needed to turn United around, he’ll need to show more promise than his four predecessors – and quickly.