Pick whatever cliché you want about the relativity of time in various walks of life, but perhaps nothing shines a harsher light on this great club, and on football in general, than comparing recent events at Old Trafford with what went on 25 years ago.
The close season, especially one without a major tournament, should be a time when we are able to sit back, relax, and take our minds off the beautiful game. It should be a time to worry instead about the cricket or the next British winner of Wimbledon.
Of course, that is not what happens. It is in the summer months when you can really see where your club is. For those newly-promoted clubs, it shows a marked change in your ambitions and budgets, and likewise for those clubs that moved in the opposite direction.
For the likes of United, however, it is no longer merely an exercise to build the best squad of 16 or 23 players, but has also turned into the ultimate pissing contest, with Woodward seemingly desperate to get highest up the wall.
Don’t get me wrong, I want as much as anyone for us to not just compete for, but also get the best players pulling on that red kit and adding their names to the list of United legends. But I want them because they are the right people for this club at this time and are the players who will drive us back to the top of the EPL and European and world football, not because it sells more shirts in China and the US or because it gives people on social media something to brag about for a few days. The departure of Ibrahimović doesn’t mean that we simply have to replace him with another name, just for the sake of it.
The last thing I want is for this club to develop the “Galacticos mentality” whereby the signing of a world star is merely that — a name on the back of a shirt and an account on social media. What would be the reaction today if we eschewed big-money signings to go for the players who had done it for their teams during the football academy years?
I’m not rewriting history, and I know it wasn’t that black and white, but can we say (with our hands on our hearts) that our club is set up in a way that would not only enable us to field a team of mainly newcomers but also actually allow that to happen? The answer is probably no, but that is a fault of the world and league we play in as much as our own.
You do have to wonder if what we witnessed with the class of ‘92 will ever happen again, certainly at a club the size and importance of United. Once you have the fear of being left behind and not competing (coupled with the financial means to do it), it is a heck of a lot easier to go and buy someone who is a lot less of a risk on paper.
In addition to being a romantic, I’m also a realist. I know nothing is going to change in the short term, certainly not until something happens at a much deeper level in the game than in the Old Trafford boardroom. And to be honest, when 12th August rolls around I’ll be licking my lips like everyone else to see what the summer of spending has produced.