LONDON (Reuters) - The year was 1986 and with just three league wins to their name by the first weekend of November, Manchester United dismissed Ron Atkinson as manager and appointed Alex Ferguson.
The rest, as they say, is history as Ferguson won 38 trophies — including 13 Premier League titles — during his 26 success-laden seasons at Old Trafford.
Fast forward 28 years and there is a sense of deja vu in Manchester.
After losing to fierce rivals Manchester City on Sunday, United, under the guidance of Louis van Gaal, have won three times in the league by the first weekend in November.
But while Atkinson’s reign came to an end after a slow start to that season which saw them win three, draw four and lose six of their opening 13 matches in the old First Division, there have been no calls for fiery Dutchman Van Gaal to be given the boot despite United’s early season struggles.
When Van Gaal took charge at Old Trafford after leading the Netherlands to the semi-finals of this year’s World Cup he asked to be judged after three months in the job.
Those three months have come and gone and with United languishing in 10th place, 13 points adrift of leaders Chelsea, Van Gaal has admitted it was “stupid” to be able to transform the club’s fortunes in such a short space of time.
While David Moyes failed to win the support of the club’s fans or board during his ill-fated 10 months in charge, Van Gaal has been backed heavily in the transfer market and spent over 150 million pounds ($240.05 million) on new recruits including Real Madrid’s Angel Di Maria.
But against City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, United’s expensively assembled squad did little to justify their hefty price tags, slipping to their third league defeat of the season and forcing Van Gaal to admit his side have work to do.
“The fans know the boys are willing to give everything for the shirt of the club,” Van Gaal told the club’s website after the defeat.
“We have 13 points out of 10 matches and Chelsea have a lot more, as do Manchester City so we have a problem.
“We need to improve and prove that we are not close but better. We will improve, that I promise.”
Despite City’s fourth consecutive derby win over United, the first timke they have achieved that since 1970, captain Wayne Rooney is positive his team mates can turn things around once they have adjusted to Van Gaal’s style of play.
“We’re working on different things, which a lot of us haven’t been used to. We’re certainly heading in the right direction,” he said.
“We’re progressing each week and playing some nice football. We need to turn that into results and I’m sure we can do that if we keep working, keep learning and keep doing what the manager wants from us.”
At the end of the 1986-87 season United finished in 11th place.
Van Gaal will be hoping the similarities between the two seasons comes to an end in November.
Reporting By Michael Hann, edited by Mike Collett