Jamie Carragher has cast his verdict on Manchester United’s chances of matching Liverpool in 2001 by winning the ‘Mickey Mouse treble’.
Carragher describes the 2000/01 campaign as his ‘favourite as a player’ as Liverpool won both the FA Cup, the League Cup and the (as it was then) UEFA Cup.
However, with that achivement mocked by United supporters as a ‘Mickey Mouse treble’, Carragher, writing in his Daily Mail column, thinks Jose Mourinho’s side have a chance of repeating history.
Carragher writes: ‘Even now, 16 years on, I can still see the banner hanging in the Millennium Stadium. I laughed when I saw it then and it still makes me smile now.
‘It was August 2001, three months after the favourite season of my professional career had ended in a blaze of trophies and a place in the Champions League, and Manchester United’s fans wanted to let Liverpool know what they thought of our unprecedented achievement.
‘We’d become the first English club to win both domestic cup competitions, as well as the UEFA Cup but, unsurprisingly, there was no recognition from Old Trafford. United’s fans dubbed it the ‘Mickey Mouse Treble’, two years after completing their own treble. They told us ours was inferior.
‘I’ve thought about that banner more and more since last Sunday, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic took centre stage at Wembley and won United the EFL Cup. One down, two to go. Would they call it the Mickey Mouse Treble at the end of this season?
‘United are in an outstanding position to emulate what we achieved under Gerard Houllier.
‘The League Cup has been secured, the Europa League looks there for the taking and the only possible cloud on the horizon is the collision with Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-final.
‘You can argue that United are the most in-form team in the country. They have lost just one of their last 26 matches in all competitions and in Ibrahimovic, they have got an iconic player who is dragging all those around him up a level.
‘This, however, is where they are going to find their pursuit of history starts to get difficult, when the fixtures mount up and there is no margin for error.
‘In some ways, trying to win cups is more fraught than trying to win the league, as one really bad night and everything comes crashing down.’
Carragher fancies United to win Europa League
‘United? They face a long trip to Rostov this week, but it’s a tie I expect them to negotiate. Should they progress, I don’t see many dangers lurking, other than the winners of the ties between Schalke and Borussia Monchengladbach and Roma and Lyon. United should beat them all.
When I look back now, it still seems surreal. We got on the kind of roll that United will be aiming to continue against Bournemouth on Saturday; we seemed to win every week and bounced from one big game to another.
‘There was also the unusual occurrence of playing two finals in four days. It’s not something that happens often. Look at United: they have existed for 139 years but the only time they had back-to-back finals was in 1999.
‘So that is the challenge facing Mourinho and his squad. Their performance against Southampton was criticised, but who cares? They don’t. They won.
‘Frankly, performances do not matter in the next three months. As the challenges get harder and harder, all that matters is getting the job done.
Mourinho has complained about the way fixtures are piling up – they already have two Premier League games against Southampton and Manchester City to re-arrange – but the more success they have, the more complicated it will become. We played 63 games in 2001. United may end up playing 66.
‘It is something they will have to put up with. If they progress in the Europa League, as I expect them to, the semi-final in May will be sandwiched in between Premier League games against Arsenal and Tottenham, their top-four rivals.
‘The Europa League gives Mourinho a safety blanket that Liverpool never had in terms of getting into the Champions League.’
FA Cup tough for United
‘Mourinho identified that competition early in the campaign and the biggest threat to their dream looks to be Roma. The final, in Sweden, is four days before the FA Cup final.
‘That competition presents the biggest problem. The quarter-final at Stamford Bridge will be decided on the night and while Antonio Conte’s men will be favourites, do not underestimate how pumped up Mourinho will be to avenge the 4-0 defeat Chelsea inflicted in October.
‘If they can clear that hurdle? I’d back them to beat any of the potential FA Cup semi-finalists, given Mourinho’s big-game experience.
‘So there it is. United and Liverpool, of course, will always be measured by league titles and European Cups, but three cups in a season? It’s no mean feat.
‘I just hope United’s fans don’t need to make another banner to mark this one.’