There’s a sound that goes around Old Trafford. And frequent visitors will tell you that its rumblings have grown rare in recent years.
On Sunday, it was usually brought about by Manchester United forwards Marcus Rashford or Daniel James. When one of the forwards was released into space, he would accelerate towards the Liverpool goal with defenders in hot pursuit – and then, that sound.
A wave of expectant fans rising to their feet cascades up the stands and as the plastic seats fold beneath them, a sort of drum roll resonates around the 76,000-capacity stadium.
But in recent times the anticipation built up in this process has rarely culminated with a cymbal crash that a goal would provide. Instead, groans of frustration have habitually followed, but not this time.
James gets down the outside and whips in a terrific cross while Rashford’s clever movement puts him in position for a simple finish from close range that blows the roof off the Theatre of Dreams – cymbal crash!
The noise is deafening, the stadium bouncing and the atmosphere is lifted for the rest of the game … almost.
There’s a sound that goes around Old Trafford. And frequent visitors will tell you that it’s one they’ve grown accustomed to of late.
The venue is largely rendered still and silent, only flinching in annoyance at the ripples that go around it, products of the raucous celebrations emanating from the away end where Liverpool fans have gone berserk following Adam Lallana’s late equaliser.
At the final whistle, the mood inside the stadium is a peculiar one. Having been so close to a memorable win over their bitter rivals, there’s certainly disappointment and frustration involved. But those emotions are balanced out by a sense of pride at how the team performed and even a hint of optimism going forward.
See, no one expected anything other than a Liverpool win on the day. Having gauged the feelings of some of the club’s employees at Old Trafford and Carrington, a sense of dread was popular.
“I just hope we don’t get beat 3-0,” one said.
Even chats with former United players Park Ji Sung and Wes Brown a couple of hours before kick-off revealed that they were more hopeful of a draw than dare dream of victory. Gary Pallister meanwhile suggested pitch-side that Liverpool would likely go away with a comfortable win.
These musings are so fascinating because of what was witnessed on the eve of the clash.
Having been granted access to a portion of the first team training session on Saturday through Mariott International – United’s official hotel partner – the mood in the camp could be described as relaxed, even quietly confident perhaps.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seemed unaffected by the intense speculation over his future, emerging for training grinning from cheek to cheek. The warm-ups were lighthearted and enjoyable while Sir Alex Ferguson even made a surprise appearance, lifting the mood further.
In a way, you can understand just why the inner circle at United remains calm and even positive about the direction they’re headed in while the support system around them may be filled with apprehension and outsiders condemn them to failure.
Solskjaer has mentioned that they might have to take two steps back before going forward again and perhaps that’s the segment of the transition they have to endure at the moment.
United are slowly being steered back on course and given the sheer size of the ship, it’s no wonder it’s taking time, especially with how far they’ve drifted.
While they’ve been pillorised for only making three signings over the summer, they’ve enjoyed a 100 per cent success rate where the new recruits are concerned and that’s almost unheard of.
Rather than keep players who aren’t part of the long-term vision or sign ones who aren’t entirely committed to the cause, United have decided to brave this season while lacking in certain key areas. Two steps back, indeed.
That said, you could see and feel every player in a red shirt against Liverpool pulling in the same direction. That’s not been a regular occurrence in recent seasons. This squad lacks the necessary tools for success and, on paper, may even be worse than last season’s but they’re like-minded and are striving towards a common goal.
More recruitment is in the works, it’s been widely suggested, and academy products in the likes of Scott McTominay, Axel Tuanzebe and Mason Greenwood are being groomed for long-term success.
Solskjaer is clearly focused on fundamentals and foundations. That may cost United immediate results and even subject them to ridicule but he’s steadfast in the belief that it’s the only way forward and determined to stay the course. There are no shortcuts to success, as the failings of previous and more accomplished managers have evidenced.
The performance during the 1-1 draw with Liverpool though finally gave fans a glimpse at what’s brewing behind closed doors.
There’s a sound that’s going around Old Trafford … and down the M16, and at Carrington, and within United as a whole. It’s gradually building from within and out of earshot of the outside world. We’ll just have to listen for the cymbal crash.
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