Supporting a sporting underdog can be a gruelling passion, as fans of a struggling team can find themselves traveling up and down the land for little reward at the end of it. The flip side of this is that every small victory they do see counts for so much more than it might for the fan of a team used to winning week in and week out. This is the underdog spirit that courses through the veins of so many British sports fans, whether they follow the England cricket team abroad, have fond memories of Tim Henman battling away at Wimbledon, or support Spurs.

Man Utd as a club have always proudly classed themselves as being above and beyond underdog status, playing the role of the big fish in a small pond. Perhaps that now needs to change. Maybe Ralf Ragnick’s men could do with a lot more of the dog that comes with an underdog mentality.

Here we take a look at some of the sporting world’s greatest underdog stories, to see what the current crop of underperforming Man Utd stars can learn from them.

The Theatre of Dreams is quickly becoming a stage on which nightmares are played out and something needs to change quickly if Man Utd are to cling to their status as a top club

Leicester City

In 2016 Leicester City achieved the unthinkable, outlasting all the Premier League big guns to win what was without doubt the most memorable EPL campaign ever. Claudio Ranieri became a legend and Andrea Bocelli even belted out a few numbers at the trophy giving ceremony.

Six years on and a lot has changed in England’s top league, but Leicester remain one of the toughest sides to beat and still believe they can upset the biggest teams even when they are not at full strength. The key to this mentality is in part due to good management, with Ranieri and then Brendan Rodgers providing visions and tactical plans that players could get behind – something sadly lacking in the Man Utd dressing room, perhaps until now.

However, the one thing that the current Man Utd squad could learn from Leicester is that there are no self-designated superstars in their side, just cogs who each play a crucial part in the Foxes machine. The likes of Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel have made appearances on Ballon D’Or shortlists and yet they never portray themselves as being above the team. This is undoubtedly what enabled them to pull off one of the greatest underdog victories in living memory, and is a valuable lesson to Man Utd’s prima donna stars.

Underdog stories in tennis are rare, but when they do happen, they can be truly compelling and show what can be achieved when a player believes in their strengths, and then plays to them

Goran Ivanišević and Emma Raducanu

These two players come from different generations but the one thing they have in common is that they have won a grand slam title apiece against all the odds.

Ivanišević was an ageing crowd favourite when he began his tear through the Wimbledon field in 2001, ultimately beating Patrick Rafter in an epic five set marathon final. Meanwhile, Raducanu came from nowhere to win the US Open in 2021. What Man Utd can learn from these two stellar athletes is that only by playing to your strengths can you overcome adversity.

Ivanišević recognised that his best chance of grand slam glory would come on grass, where his booming serve was most effective, so he gave everything he possibly could at Wimbledon that year. Likewise, Raducanu recognised that hard flat hitting and short rallies would see her through at Flushing Meadow, so she went all out in every set she played. United would be well advised to do the same and begin playing the high tempo football they built their reputation on under Alex Ferguson.