It’s the 24th of May, 2017. I sit alone in my dorm room on university provided furniture and stare at my laptop screen like my life depends on it. It’s a Wednesday in the middle of my first spring quarter as a freshmen at Seattle University. A little over 4,700 miles away my boyhood team Manchester United, take on Ajax in the Europa League Final. The first European final for the Club since their ill-fated day out at Wembley Stadium in 2013. As Henrikh Mkhitaryan swipes home United’s second goal of the day, time stands still. I calculate the time I have until my next class in my head, I’ll be able to see it through to the finish. United are on a European pedestal once again.
It’s the 26th of February, the exact same year. Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, whether you liked it or not, are playing for their first piece of silverware since his arrival in the summer. The scene was perfect. United were undefeated in the competition, led by a cast of characters that included Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, and captained by Wayne Rooney in his United curtain call. It’s 8:30 in the morning and I lay on my side in bed, too lazy to start up my computer. I’m in the exact same dorm room, but this time my roommate is asleep. My silent celebrations at 2-0 were not enough to even make him stir, my despair at 2-2 had me wanting to go back to sleep, and the free-flowing poetry of the counterattack that led to Zlatan’s header to make it 3-2, enough to make me levitate above the floor.
It’s the 21st of May, 2016. In a week I’ll graduate from high school. I’m sat in the living room of my childhood home and see Louis van Gaal’s Red Army make the trip down to London for the FA Cup final. A re-match with Crystal Palace that almost too closely echoed the clubs meeting in 1990. A manager who was in desperation to win silverware, a club in need of a jolt of energy, and Palace looking to be spoilers of it all. As is tradition, a United academy product had me jumping up and down on top of the couch, Jesse Lingard lacing home the winner. The long wait for another FA Cup was over. Co-captains Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney climbed the 107 steps up to the royal box to hold the world’s oldest football trophy aloft first. Paradise.
I skipped school on the 22nd of April, 2013. I wasn’t going to miss this moment for the world. Aston Villa visited Old Trafford merely as antagonists. This story, and this day was not about them. I ran around the entire house screaming when Robin van Persie’s volley found the back of the net. It was 3-0 before halftime. This was a coronation. This was destiny. Sir Alex Ferguson in his last season in charge, had done it again. 20 times, 20 times, Man United.
I sat in a diner in Hillsdale, Michigan on the 14th of May, 2011. My cousin was graduating from college and from his Officer training program in the Marines. A family event at the worst possible time, but I would not be deterred. I followed along on who knows what live chat of the game. I’m sure I annoyed most patrons when Wayne Rooney lashed home a penalty to make United the first team to win 19 First Division titles. This is the perch where we belong.
And then there I was. The 26th of February, 2023. Sitting in my favorite bar at 8:15 in the morning. Surely they wouldn’t lose today.
And they didn’t.
Casemiro thundered a header into the side netting, and Marcus Rashford bamboozled Loris Karius (remind me where I may have seen this before?). Echoes of the 1977 FA Cup final rang in my head as time wound down. “We Shall Not Be Moved” played on a loop within my mind. This United side would not be denied.
This was our day. Day One.
Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes co-lifted the League Cup together (I refuse to call it the whatever sponsor of the moment Cup, for I do not drink Carabao and don’t think I ever will) and a new era finally, *finally* began.
Manchester United are back where they belong, with silverware in hand.
This is who we are and this is what Manchester United are all about. The previous instances I mentioned are only a small portion of the trophy wins I’ve seen as a United fan, but they just happen to be some of my favorites. As time goes on I appreciate each one more and more. Erik Ten Hag said it best in his post match press conference, saying what we all believe is true: football is about glory and honor.
He gets it better than any Man United manager (not named Ole Gunnar Solskjaer) has since Fergie left. Manchester United Football Club is and always has been about these two things, as one of his predecessors described it after slaying Arsenal in 1999, “peaks and climaxes.”.
This is in United’s DNA. It has always been this way, since Newton Heath’s first trophy in 1886. The Club’s first major senior trophy was their inaugural First Division triumph in 1908. These moments and these memories are burned into our brains, our hearts, and history books. The digits of the year itself become sacred, like ‘68, ‘99, and ‘08.
Erik ten Hag said himself that his work is not done. This is only the beginning, he knows that the glory that this club deserves is yet to be accomplished. The one chant that caused me the most goosebumps as it rang out at Old Trafford on Thursday and Wembley on Saturday aren’t just words, they’re a divine text to MUFC: The Religion.
We’ve seen it all, We’ve won the lot, We’re Man United and we’re never gonna stop.