Man United: Could It Get Any Worse? Well, Yes Actually
Premier League 2014/15
Three games. Two points. Two goals. A terrible start to the season under Louis Van Gaal leaves the club lying in thirteenth place with all the clubs below them, bar Burnley, with a game in hand going into their matches this weekend.
We look at some of United’s worst starts of the modern era and how their subsequent campaigns turned out.
At least Van Gaal is one point ahead of Ron Atkinson’s 1986 vintage after three games. Having finished a disappointing fourth the previous season, after winning their first ten games, the pressure was on Big Ron to mount a title challenge with a gifted side containing the likes of Bryan Robson, Gordon Strachan, Jesper Olsen and Norman Whiteside. Things did not go according to plan.
An opening day defeat at Arsenal was followed up by a 3:2 reverse to a talented West Ham side. A third successive defeat, this time to Charlton Athletic, left them second from bottom of the then twenty-two team top flight. They finally secured a league win at their fifth attempt, a 5:1 victory over Southampton, but it was a league cup exit to The Saints that finally led to the sacking of Atkinson.
Some bloke called Alex Ferguson was immediately appointed as his successor but failed to make a marked improvement, with only one league win in his first six games. He eventually led the club to an eleventh place in the league.
Points after 3 games: 0
Final position: 11th
Van Gaal can take heart from United’s start to the inaugural Premier League season, when one point from their first three matches left them languishing in the relegation zone.
An opening day defeat to Sheffield United, where Brian Deane netted the Premier League’s first ever goal, was followed up by a dismal 3:0 defeat to Everton and the pressure was mounting on Ferguson. A draw at home to Ipswich in their third match wasn’t much improvement but it did register the club’s first point of the season.
However, a run of six straight league wins – over Southampton, Nottingham Forest, Crystal Palace, Leeds United and Everton – lifted the club to third and gave them the confidence to mount a serious title challenge. Despite suffering four more league defeats, they ended the season as Champions, lifting their first league title in 26 years.
Points after 3 games: 1
Final position: 1st
United’s start in 2007/08 wasn’t too dissimilar to their campaign in ’92. Their opening two matches ended in disappointing draws with Reading and Portsmouth before facing a Manchester derby in their third fixture.
Sven Goran-Eriksson led City to a 1:0 win, leaving them top of the league and United hovering one place above the relegation zone.
However, normal service was resumed by United, who went on a eight game winning streak, recording wins over the likes of Chelsea, Spurs and Everton. Cristiano Ronaldo’s form was irresistible, leading United to their seventeenth league title and third European Cup, despite their slow start to the season.
Points after 3 games: 2
Final position: 1st