Football: Ex-Red Devils toasting Mourinho's success

Manchester United fan Lea Cambel, the winner of the lucky draw, celebrates as she gets a club jersey while former players Quinton Fortune (left) and Ronny Johnsen look on at Plaza Singapura yesterday. The duo are in Singapore to promote a brand of wi
Manchester United fan Lea Cambel, the winner of the lucky draw, celebrates as she gets a club jersey while former players Quinton Fortune (left) and Ronny Johnsen look on at Plaza Singapura yesterday. The duo are in Singapore to promote a brand of wine for the Red Devils at Cold Storage.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

League Cup win shows Red Devils can repeat success that was absent in post-Ferguson era

Having spent big and endured a slow start to life as Manchester United manager, Jose Mourinho has turned things around and moulded his team into a potential dominant force in English and European football once again.

Since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, United under previous managers David Moyes and Louis van Gaal had searched in vain to reproduce their earlier winning formula.

However, even though the League Cup is arguably the least prestigious of the four trophies the Red Devils are challenging for, the significance of winning it this season is not lost on ex-players Quinton Fortune and Ronny Johnsen.

When the Red Devils hoisted aloft the League Cup on Sunday after a 3-2 win over Southampton, it was a sure sign to the duo that their former club are returning to their perch.

Left midfielder Fortune, 39, said: "We've got the trophy (League Cup) on Sunday, that's the most important.

"We've got the players, we've got a big squad. The momentum is with us now, the mentality is right this season. It's taken the manager just six months to win his first trophy, which is amazing, coming so early in his Manchester United career."

THE BALANCE IS RIGHT

We've got the players, we've got a big squad. The momentum is with us now, the mentality is right this season.

QUINTON FORTUNE, former Manchester United player, on why Mourinho has got the right mix of youth and experience.

Norwegian centre-back Johnsen, 47, added : "They won the first trophy under Mourinho on Sunday, which is a very good sign. You could see they are constantly improving their performances. They can even win on a bad day, which is another good sign.

"They have a chance to win more trophies this season. From now until the end of this season, it is so tight now in the Premier League to earn those Champions League places.

"But it looks very promising, I have to say. It's a good mix between old and young players."

The former players spoke to The Straits Times on the sidelines of an event to promote the club's official wine, Casillero del Diablo, at the Cold Storage outlet in Plaza Singapura yesterday afternoon.

Since a 2-1 Europa League defeat by Fenerbahce on Nov 4, United have gone 26 games unbeaten in all competitions, winning 20 of those matches.

Since taking charge at Old Trafford in May, Mourinho splashed £156 million (S$271 million) on transfers, including a world record £89 million to sign Paul Pogba from Juventus.

But a 2-1 defeat by Manchester City in the derby on Sept 10 was followed quickly by a 3-1 defeat by Watford and a 4-0 thrashing by Chelsea, leading to concerns that the Portuguese manager had got his blend all wrong.

However, the recent unbeaten streak has convinced Fortune that the team can dominate the way Ferguson's teams used to.

The South African, who played for the club from 1999 to 2006, said: "Of course, they can dominate again. The way they are going now, with the young players... Anthony Martial and (Marcus) Rashford. There's youth and it's mixed with Zlatan (Ibrahimovic). There's a lot of exciting moments to look forward to.

"Then there's Pogba. He's still only 23. We forget about that. There's a lot of youth in the team and in a few years' time, they will get even better. For the moment, they are playing at this level and it is already amazing.

"I'm excited about this season. They have the potential to go and win everything. They have the mentality of not losing, which is great because we have the attacking players who are always creating chances and scoring."

And even though United are in sixth place in the league table on 48 points, a massive 15 points behind Chelsea with 12 games left, Fortune is optimistic of a title challenge.

He said: "One down, three to go (English Premier League, Europa League and FA Cup). The league is still to play for. Chelsea are doing well this season but it's not over until it's over.

"We'll push them right until the end with the Europa League and FA Cup still to play for."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Veterans toasting Mourinho success'. Print Edition | Subscribe