Manchester United: Champions League nights return to Old Trafford

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /

Champions league football returned to Old Trafford on Tuesday night with Manchester United’s 3-0 victory over Basel. However, it seemed something was missing.

As soon as the first whistle was blown Manchester United looked to be in perfect control. Jose Mourinho made six changes from last weekends draw at Stoke, but the team never looked in any real danger.

Mourinho has since come out and criticised the style of PlayStation football after United went 2-0 up.

Despite the strong words, it was a professional and very good display from the Manchester United players. However, something is still missing.

Old Trafford Atmosphere

There has been growing concern over the last few years concerning the atmosphere within Old Trafford, or rather the lack of it.

Everyone will remember Roy Keane’s explosive ‘Prawn Sandwich’ rant back in 2000 so it’s not the first time the fans support has been called into question.

It was Sir Bobby Charlton who coined the term, ‘The Theatre of Dreams’ back in the 50’s. However for the majority of the 90’s it was more like the Theatre of Nightmares for visiting teams and supporters.

The atmosphere at most Old Trafford games was world renown for the type of atmosphere usually reserved for big derby games. The noise from the fans constant, from as soon as the players started their warm ups.

However, over the last few years, it’s fair to say that the real noise tends to come from the away fans. As we saw on Tuesday night.

Are the fans to blame?

This is the million dollar question and is reminiscent of the ‘chicken or the egg’ scenario. There is no surprise that fans are usually referred to as the 12th man. Their attitude is infectious and players will respond to it, be it positively or negatively. They wouldn’t be human if they didn’t.

There are some exceptions to the rule, players who will try to block out the crowd. As much as they try it’s an impossible task when faced with 70,000 voices.

When the crowd at Old Trafford get going the pace of the game increases, players make more runs and are generally more willing to get forward and provide excitement.

This excitement increases the adrenaline in the air and definitely puts the opposition players on the back foot.

A negative crowd groaning, booing and whistling has the exact opposite effect. Players get disheartened knowing they are trying their best and they start to think and act negatively. This also is felt by the opposition who automatically sense the vulnerability within the home players and try to exploit this.

Not much to shout about

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Sir Alex Fergusons philosophy of ‘if they score make sure you score more’ saw constant attacking football with less focus on keeping clean sheets. It’s said in all sports worldwide that attack is the best form of defense.

This is what Manchester United fans have grown to expect. It’s fair to say they have been spoilt by constant attacking riches and success over the years.

David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal had very different philosophies.

So along with a sudden change in style, the lack of success has had a noticeable effect on the fans and ultimately the players.

Manchester United drew far too many games at home last season. The change in atmosphere at Old Trafford in this time has no doubt contributed to this.

This season can be different, Champions League football has returned to one of the best stadia in the world. Mourinho’s summer additions have settled right in. Paul Pogba seems to be rediscovering the form which led Mourinho to pay a, then world record fee, for the Frenchman.

Then you have the excitement of having two of the best and most exciting young players in world football. There is, understandably, a surge in noise everytime Martial or Rashford gets the ball.

Next: Manchester United’s Lukaku: There’s plenty of goals in this team

With the attacking options available to Mourinho and stability granted by players such as Matic, it’s only a matter of time before Fergie type score-lines come back to Old Trafford. As the season progresses let’s all hope that the fans rediscover their voice, especially on European nights.