Four years have passed since Manchester City pipped Manchester United to the Premier League title on goal difference.
And, as the blue side of the city revelled in Sergio Aguero’s late winner over Queens Park Rangers, Sir Alex Ferguson immediately started plotting a way to silence the noisy neighbours.
Never again could this be allowed to happen. For United, a club famed for their attacking style of play, to be outscored by City was nothing short of insulting. £24million was thrown at Arsenal for Robin van Persie to ensure the trophy would be back at Old Trafford less than a year later.
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But alas, Louis van Gaal has allowed it to happen again. The red side of Manchester will have to contend with Europa League football whilst the stylish, suave Pep Guardiola plies his trade in the Champions League.
It could all have been so different. In their penultimate game of the season, United were leading West Ham 2-1 at Upton Park with just 18 minutes left on the clock, destined for a place in the top four, only for Michail Antonio and Winston Reid to give the Hammers a pulsating victory.
And the final, closing stages of the game in London were symbolic of United’s season. They have shown glimpses of their best form, particularly in recent months, but the fact remains they do not have enough quality to deserve a place amongst Europe’s elite.
City, for all their obvious flaws, do have that quality. Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho bagged 59 goals across all competitions for Manuel Pellegrini’s side. Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata could score just 40.
United have been stifled by Louis van Gaal but there can now be no denying that a top, world-class striker is needed in the summer.
Signing players has been difficult for the club in the years since Ferguson’s departure. The appeal of the old Manchester United has vanished, with Old Trafford no longer the Theatre of Dreams that it claims to be.
But there is one striker already on the market this summer. The maverick that is Zlatan Ibrahimovic is leaving Paris Saint-Germain, leaving behind a legacy of four league titles and 154 goals from 179 games.
There is a feeling among some supporters that he is too old and that, aged 34 and after years of playing in a 'tinpot' league, his best years are behind him. But Van Persie was ageing like a fine wine when he moved to Old Trafford and the same can be said for Ibrahimovic.
The Swede would command huge wages but history suggests whoever he plays for next will win the league. Both Milan clubs, as well as Ajax, Juventus, Barcelona and PSG, have all won their domestic leagues with him at the forefront.
Ibrahimovic is entering the final years of his career, and a lucrative payday in either the MLS or China might appeal to him, but United should do all they can to secure his signing.
Much may depend on the future of Van Gaal, with the rumours that Jose Mourinho will succeed the Dutchman failing to go away. Whoever is in charge, the Swedish international could be just the man to bring the glory days back to Old Trafford.
He would certainly guarantee goals, at least in the short term. Losing out to City on goal difference again has not gone down well with a fanbase still yearning for some sparkle in the post-Ferguson era. Signing Ibrahimovic would be an indication they are intending to make sure it really does never happen again.
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