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Opinion: Football Is Moving Further Away From Trophies Defining A Successful Season

Manchester United fans went from the high of beating Liverpool on Saturday to rock bottom on Tuesday with their embarrassing Champions League exit to Sevilla.

Nothing new for the Old Trafford faithful who have seen the glory days left further behind in the distance as they approach the fifth anniversary of the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.

The Scot delivered huge success to the club and the years since his departure have been tough on the Reds’ supporters.

The club have had three managers in that period and have collected a League Cup, FA Cup and a Europa League. Not the trophies any Manchester United fan or manager would prioritise at the start of the season but none the less more silverware in the Old Trafford trophy cabinet.

Mauricio Pochettino or Jurgen Klopp wouldn’t mind a piece of that action. Both highly-rated managers, yet both managing clubs that have only won one trophy each in the past decade or so despite the Argentinean approaching four years in charge of Tottenham and Klopp nearly three years in his role at Liverpool after replacing Brendan Rodgers in 2015.

Liverpool fans will feel the German has improved the set-up at Liverpool yet in reality the club are no further on than when the Northern Irishman was sacked three years ago after coming so close to ending the club’s long drought for domestic success in 2014.

Some will say Klopp has guided his side to the Champions League quarter-finals this season and that is success, but they have yet to be tested. However, he could very well end up collecting silverware this year should the football gods shine on him. 

Tottenham’s only hope for silverware this season is rested solely on the FA Cup in which they take on Swansea on Saturday.  

Much has been made of the football Mourinho dishes out week in, week out and most football fans would gladly watch Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool or Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham than take a trip to Old Trafford of a weekend.

Even hardcore Manchester United fans are struggling to adapt to the reality that this is the future of their club, certainly as long as the Portuguese remains at the helm.

However, fans want to see silverware being picked up and football has always been about winning. Players in the past would talk of dreaming of growing up and playing at Wembley and lifting silverware in front of their supporters; something to show the grandkids in future years.

Football, however, has changed. Money, greed and a lack of patience has seen the beautiful game ruined in so many ways. This season every Premier League team and even some lower league clubs have had the opportunity to play at Wembley given Tottenham’s residency there while their new stadium is completed. This takes the gloss off reaching a showpiece final as well as the strange and perhaps commercial decision to play the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley.

It should be an honour to walk out on the Wembley turf having reached the final and earned that right.

Football is getting further away from trophies defining a successful season, and that is wrong.  How can Liverpool or Tottenham fans be happy at the end of each season when, yes they have been entertained on the pitch, but their trophy cabinet remains bare. 

A trophy is a trophy at the end of the day regardless of its stature in the football world or in the minds of the supporters or board.

Should Liverpool reach the Champions League semi-final and finish fourth in the Premier League while Manchester United or Tottenham win the FA Cup after both were knocked out of the Champions League in the last 16, who would be considered as having had the most successful season?

The fact that this question will be asked is ridiculous. Yes, reaching the semi-finals of the Europe’s top club competition is a tremendous feat, but silverware should be the ultimate goal for every manager and fan.

Arsene Wenger once described a top four finish as a trophy. Jurgen Klopp said similar earlier this season. The fact remains a top four finish is a priority, not a trophy for the so-called bigger clubs but the importance of winning silverware, be it the League Cup or the Premier League, cannot be underestimated.

Klopp has already lost two cup finals while in charge of the Merseyside club while Pochettino lost the 2015 League Cup final to Chelsea. Most honest Spurs or Liverpool supporters would swap a Champions League quarter-final appearance for a day out at Wembley where they collect some silverware.

Both were devastated to lose the 2015 and 2016 finals despite the lack of respect in the English game for the League Cup.

Jose Mourinho collected the League Cup and the Europa League in 2017, yet his footballing philosophy makes him a poorer manager in the eyes of many compared to Klopp or Pochettino. Neither comes close to Mourinho in terms of what he has won.

Mourinho devalued the cup competitions while in his first spell in charge of Chelsea and vowed never to do so again and has since won four League Cups and one FA Cup.

While the 55-year-old divides opinion, he continues to deliver silverware and remains on course to do so this season.

The philosophies of Klopp and Pochettino are easier on the eye, but silverware is still the missing piece in their time at their respective clubs and the importance of collecting that first piece cannot be understated.

Regular qualification for the Champions League is required but also is the addition of silverware. One does not make up for the other.

The FA Cup resumes this weekend and with Manchester City with one hand on the Premier League and already out of the cup, therefore Tottenham should place all their focus on winning the trophy at the place they currently call home. Players love success and once they taste it they want more.

While Liverpool’s task will be that much more difficult, should Klopp add a sixth European Cup to the club’s list of honours he would go down as an Anfield legend and be forever held in high regard on Merseyside, as is Rafa Benitez who defied the odds to win the trophy in 2005.

They threw away a great opportunity of reaching the FA Cup quarter-final by losing to a struggling West Brom.

Yes, fans will have banter with opposition supporters and Champions League qualification will also be a priority, but winning silverware is the be all and end all for fans and should always remain the number one goal.

Sure, some trophies are less regarded than others but they can also act as a springboard to greater successes.

Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

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