There was some solace to be found in the retention of the League Cup, achieved at Aston Villa’s expense and secured by a late winner from Wayne Rooney, whose individual excellence was rewarded with both the PFA Player’s Player of the Year and Football Writers’ Player of the Year awards.
Despite that single piece of silverware, the 2009/10 campaign was most notable for the heightened stakes of the Manchester derby, with a club takeover inflating the ambition of Manchester City and putting them in the frame for honours. United’s local authority was exerted, however, with home and away Premier League wins and a League Cup semi-final triumph, with each victory dramatically procured in injury-time.
Both Manchester clubs were intent on bringing the Premier League trophy back to the North-West as the 2010/11 season began, and United’s squad was bolstered by the low-key captures of promising youngsters Javier Hernandez and Chris Smalling.
Though largely unknown, the duo quickly gelled with the squad and, despite a season of largely unconvincing away form, United reclaimed the title for a record 19th domestic rule. While Rooney had powered the 2009/10 campaign with his prolific form in front of goal, 2010/11 was notably more of a squad success.
From the goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar – in his last season at the club – through to the ageless influence of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, up to a revitalised Rooney, all hands were at the pump as Chelsea were dethroned.
A remarkable home record was the cornerstone of the success but, in Europe, it was miserly away form that helped propel the Reds into another Champions League final against Barcelona, this time at Wembley. For the second time in three years, Lionel Messi and co were ultimately too strong for United on the night, but it was that record 19th league title that made it another season to remember at Old Trafford.
The bid to quickly usher number 20 into the record books looked strong in the early stages of 2011/12. Sir Alex Ferguson strengthened his squad with the signings of David De Gea, Phil Jones and Ashley Young, while homegrown talents Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck made the step up to senior regularity.
Despite a breathtaking start to the campaign, the Reds were rocked by a spate of injuries and a thumping home defeat to City, who had emerged as the only genuine challengers for the title. Having fought on admirably against adversity – and welcomed Scholes back in a shock retirement U-turn, United gradually reeled in Roberto Mancini’s side and, with a month of the season remaining, had built an eight-point lead.
However, a quickfire run of poor results allowed City to retake the lead on the home straight, and they secured their first title in 44 years in heartbreaking fashion, scoring twice in injury-time on the final day of the season to beat Queens Park Rangers and top the table on goal difference.
Inevitably, Sir Alex remained defiant, congratulating the new champions while warning: “We’re disappointed about losing the eight-point lead, but I’m not going to have any recriminations for any of my players. They’re a solid bunch of lads and they’ll be fine. Don’t worry about that.”
Sir Alex's prophecy proved right less than 12 months later when his squad, fired by the aforementioned bitter disappointment and bolstered by the signings of Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, romped to a record 20th league title. The triumph was sealed early on 22 April 2013, with top scorer van Persie appropriately netting a hat-trick in a glorious 3-0 home victory over Aston Villa.
The end of that 2012/13 season brought the news that millions of Reds had been dreading for a long time: Sir Alex Ferguson was to step down as manager of Manchester United. His retirement was announced on 8 May 2013 and his selection as successor was named the very next day. David Moyes arrived from Everton, tasked with following in the footsteps of British football's most successful manager.
It proved to be too tall an order for the Scot, despite his impressive if trophy-less track record at Goodison Park. Towards the end of a disappointing 2013/14 season, with United unable to win any of the cup competitions and lying in seventh place, it was announced that Moyes had left the club. On the same day, 22 April 2014, the Reds' longest serving and most-decorated player Ryan Giggs was placed in temporary charge until the end of the season.
Louis van Gaal's appointmentas the permanent new manager - and the club's first boss from outside the UK and Ireland - was announced on 19 May 2014 and he started work in July after guiding his native Netherlands to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Brazil. Giggs, klass who had retired in May at the end of a long and glorious one-club playing career, was retained by van Gaal in the role of assistant manager.
By the close of his first transfer window as United manager, van Gaal had acquired six new players - club record signing Angel Di Maria for £59.7m, Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco, Daley Blind, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw - and had allowed many other players to leave, resulting in a much-changed squad for 2014/15.
With no European fixtures to play, van Gaal's debut season was a purely domestic affair. In the Barclays Premier League, the first objective was achieved as the Reds finished the campaign in the top four and therefore qualified for a return to the Champions League. Further reinforcements for van Gaal's squad came in the summer transfer window of 2015, with the most exciting of the lot arriving in the shape of Anthony Martial, the young French forward from Monaco. But perhaps the most important deal was the new one signed by first-choice keeper David De Gea, who had been pursued by Real Madrid for months prior to his move falling through at the eleventh hour on deadline day.
Despite a decent start to 2015/16 - United navigated a Champions League qualifying round by beating Bruges home and away and overcoming Liverpool 3-1 at Old Trafford in the league with a debut goal by Martial - it became a difficult campaign with multiple injuries disrupting van Gaal's plans. Luke Shaw's leg fracture was the most serious of these, ruling him out for the rest of the season from September. That blow occurred away to PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League and the Reds later bowed out by finishing third in the group behind the Dutch side and Wolfsburg. A descent into the Europa League led to elimination by Liverpool over two legs in the last-16 round.
An early exit in the League Cup, at home to Middlesbrough on penalties, was more than compensated for by a stirring run in the FA Cup as van Gaal's men brought the trophy back to Old Trafford for a record-equalling 12th time overall and the first time since 2004. But with United's sometimes patchy league form not good enough to secure a top-four position and a place in the Champions League, media speculation about the manager's future was rife. Forty-eight hours after his team won the cup final at Wembley, van Gaal and the club parted company - his tenure was over, two years into a three-year contract.
Intense speculation that Jose Mourinho would be appointed as United's new manager proved to be accurate on Friday 27 May 2016 when the club announced his arrival in a statement on ManUtd.com. Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward commented: "José is quite simply the best manager in the game today... his track record of success is ideal to take the club forward."
Mourinho himself said: "To become Manchester United manager is a special honour in the game. It is a club known and admired throughout the world. There is a mystique and a romance about it which no other club can match."
By the time the new 2016/17 Premier League season kicked off, the new boss had already collected his first piece of silverware - the Community Shield, secured with a 2-1 win over league champions Leicester City at Wembley - and he had acquired four exciting new players in Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahmovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and club record signing Paul Pogba. The latter embarked on his second spell with United, having previously made seven first-team appearances in 2011/12 after rising through the Academy and Reserves ranks.
By the end of Mourinho’s debut season at Old Trafford he had added two more trophies, the League Cup sealed with victory over Southampton thanks to Zlatan’s late Wembley winner and, thrillingly, the Europa League, that trophy completing United’s full set of honours after a cup final triumph over Ajax in Stockholm.
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