Wembley trip could kick-start Mourinho’s reign at United

After three seasons during which football became a chore for Manchester United, there is again a reason not only to look forward to games coming thick and fast but to relish them as well.

United have moved a step closer to retain the FA Cup, have one foot in the next stage of the Europa League and come Sunday evening the League Cup could end up in the trophy cabinet for the first time since 2010.

Of course, things could also unravel spectacularly from here on, but there is a feeling of growing momentum around United.

The League Cup might not be the most glamorous of trophies – though it could be argued that in recent seasons some of its fixtures have often outshone FA Cup matches – but it has often proved to be an important stepping stone, for both United and Jose’ Mourinho.

The seeds of the winning mentality that characterised the side that swept rivals aside across three seasons in the late 2000s were sown in a cold Cardiff afternoon in February 2006, when United picked up their first piece of silverware in two seasons by thumping Wigan 4-0.

That team could not compete in the league with Chelsea, but for the likes of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo that first taste of success proved to be the catalyst that propelled the side onto dizzying heights over the following three seasons.

Likewise, Mourinho’s first trophy in English football came as he lifted the League Cup in 2004, a first glimpse of the dominant Chelsea side he would go on to build during his first spell at Stamford Bridge.

Managers, particularly those of such illustrious pedigree such as the Portuguese, do not have to justify their decisions but, ultimately, their success is judged on silverware. Mourinho’s remit when he arrived at Old Trafford last summer was to re-establish United at the top of the Premier League and while winning a domestic cup will not have any tangible impact on the league table, it could have much more important and far-reaching repercussions for the club.

For a start, it would be United’s second piece of silverware in just over nine months. A statistical quirk, perhaps, but one rather relevant to a club of their size that had gone a full three years without winning anything until last May.

More importantly, it would see Mourinho win his first trophy at the club at the earliest possible opportunity. His team selections in both domestic cups have already proved he’s not one to dismiss tournaments outside the Premier League, but winning a cup at the first time of asking would send out a strong signal to his players as much as to United’s rivals.

It would also be a major boost to the confidence of some of the young players in the side who lifted their maiden trophy last season. In football, like in any other sports, success breeds confidence, rather than vice versa.

Away from cup competitions, United have a genuine chance of climbing into the top four next month, a target which seemed all but gone earlier this season.

Crucial as it may be for financial reasons, securing a Champions League spot is hardly worthy of a celebration, but it would represent tangible progress for United.

Mourinho’s men are by no means the finished article and the amount of opportunities to make up ground on their rivals they have wasted is alarming for a side which harbours title aspirations.

However, for the first time in three seasons, good football is no longer the exception but – almost – the norm, and United are just two points adrift of second place.

There is a growing feeling that, with a minor tweak here and there, they could be finally about to turn the corner they’ve desperately looked for since Fergie’s departure.

A cup run will do their aspirations no harm whatsoever.

Dan (@mufc_dan87)

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