JOE JORDAN knows what it feels like to be a Manchester United player in the midst of a horror slump.
Hated rivals Liverpool are European champions and United are struggling to recapture past glories — the same situation Jordan faced during his Old Trafford career.
And the parallels between then and now, of the struggles to bring back the success United enjoyed under Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson, are not lost on the Scotland legend.
Reminiscing in his Victorian home in Bristol, Jordan said: “Like the team now, the Manchester United I went to had had a slump.
“They’d had a relegation and there had been changes of manager.
“It was tough for me and everyone else. They were trying to get the club going again, back to what they had been used to with Sir Matt and Denis Law and Bobby Charlton and George Best.
“The task was to be ahead of Liverpool. At Manchester United, a club of that stature, it was a pressure, to try to match them.”
Jordan joined United from Leeds in 1978 — after his favoured move to Ajax fell through — and was made to choose between them and Liverpool, who had just won their second European Cup.
Jordan said: “I met United at Elland Road. Dave Sexton and Sir Matt came back to my house and wanted me to sign then and there.
“I said, ‘I promise I’ll sign but I’ll come to Old Trafford tomorrow.’
“Next morning Leeds boss Jimmy Armfield said, ‘Here’s a number, Liverpool want to talk to you.
“I made the call and Bob Paisley says, ‘We want you.’ I said, ‘I’ve given my word to Man United.”
When Jordan left Old Trafford three years later, boss Sexton had been sacked for failing to close the gap on the Anfield mob.
Like Jose Mourinho, Sexton came with a big reputation and guided United to second place in the league in his second season.
But the following season started badly amid growing complaints about the football, a charge also levelled at Mourinho.
Jordan said: “It’s about winning. If you’re challenging for the championship, the people above and the supporters will stick with you.
“If you are not, then they look at the football. If that’s not right, then you’re under pressure.
“But in the end, it’s about winning.
“Dave Sexton had been a great coach at Chelsea and at QPR — but being second, certainly at Man United, ain’t enough.”
Were there players at United then who could not cope with the pressure? Jordan said: “There were. I couldn’t tell you their names, but without a doubt.
“There is a burden. There’s everything that goes with it. Some people say it’s the biggest club in the world and it’s certainly up there.
“I can see players there now who are suffering under that pressure — because things aren’t going well.
“You’re looking for the experienced players to have the composure. At the moment, I don’t see that.”
United’s failings in the transfer market are also nothing new.
Sexton’s big signing was Garry Birtles, who never came close to justifying his £1.25m fee.
Meanwhile, Liverpool’s policy saw them carefully add one or two a year to an already successful team — the kind of thoughtful recruitment now paying off for Jurgen Klopp.
Jordan said: “Liverpool in that era got it right, not just in the dressing room but in the club structure.
“The chairman John Smith and secretary Peter Robinson, they all knew what they were doing.
“Liverpool were continuing to do what they had done, add to the team and maintain that consistency, there was a competitiveness in the dressing room.
“United have some injury issues but, for the money spent they don’t have the back-up that is required.
“Lukaku will always score goals but Manchester United are looking for something as well as that. But they haven’t really replaced him.
“Other than replacing, you have got to have competition for places. If you go back into Fergie’s era, they sometimes had four strikers.
“Manchester United at the moment haven’t got that.
“Liverpool lost Alisson, who was voted the No 1 keeper in Europe. Adrian’s come in and they’ve gone through this run successfully.
“Other problems were solved, too, like centre-back when they signed Virgil van Dijk. There is an overall strategy.”
Liverpool’s return to prominence can be looked at two ways through United-tinted spectacles.
As a blueprint for turning around one of football’s biggest ships — or as an indication of how long it takes.
Jordan — who joined Leeds in 1970 and helped win the second English title of the Don Revie era in 1973-74 — said: “When I went to United, I did notice the rivalry.
“Not so much in the dressing room, but on the terraces. Liverpool proved to be the better team.
“But Liverpool haven’t won the league for 30 years which is something you could never have convinced me would happen.
“Fergie came and sorted United out, then the shoe was on the other foot. Now Manchester United have to match Liverpool and Manchester City. It couldn’t be worse — the team next door and the team down the road.”
Yet Jordan does not want to see United axe boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
He said: “I can understand why they went and got Solskjaer when they were looking to calm things down and get the dressing room right.
“It did work. But now he’s under pressure. I don’t think doing anything with Solskjaer is going to mend things.
“I don’t think they gave Moyesie enough time. Then Louis van Gaal. Then Mourinho, one of the best of this era. It’s not the managers. Something else isn’t right.”