One of the most eventful season of recent times concluded this weekend. United fell short at the final frontier, as FC Barcelona out classed Fergie’s men at the Wembley Arena. Nonetheless, Man United and Sir Alex can walk away with their heads held high; the fans appreciate what the club has achieved and take pride in their accomplishments.
At the beginning of the season, the Red Devils would have given anything to see the league title come back to OldTrafford. Number 19th was all they wanted, and 19th is all they got – a dream realized for so many who have bore the taunts from the red half of Merseyside over the years. Manchester United are 19-time champions of England, and that is finally a fact.
The season had all its usual ups and downs, and some rather surprising turn of events that no one could have dreamt of even in their wildest dreams. All said and done, after all the smoke has cleared and the dust settled, Sir Alex Ferguson’s prophecy came true, to the joy of every Mancunian and the envy of every Scouse.
How the season unfolded:
United given a taste of their medicine:
After winning the community Shield against champions Chelsea, confidence was high at the Theatre of Dreams. However, with Rio Ferdinand out with an injury and the hitherto dependable Jonny Evans lacking confidence, Man United struggled to hold onto leads away from home. Ferguson’s teams, known for winning games from the jaws of defeat, were at the receiving end, losing leads and dropping crucial points at Goodison Park and Craven Cottage. Revelations of Wayne Rooney’s private life made matters worse, as the Englishman flattered to deceive and looked a shadow of his former illustrious self.
Berbatov and Paul Scholes kept the red flag flying with some inspirational performances, especially at Old Trafford. Nani was the sole provider of ammunition from the flanks, as United suffered a major setback with the horrific injury to Tony V.The Ecuadorian would return towards the run in and make his presence felt.
Rooney Gate and the season went into turmoil:
As Chelsea looked to be storming their way to another league title, another tornado was brewing in the confines of Old Trafford. Wayne Rooney announced his desire to leave Manchester United, and the fans became irate. The manager looked dumbfound and the players disappointed, as their abilities and clubs position were questioned by one of their own.
On the field, United continued to struggle away from home but managed to remain in touching distance with Chelsea and Arsenal. In the absence of their usual superstar, a new hero emerged, one who would take the limelight and embrace it with delight. Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez brought smiles back on glum faces, playing with infectious synergy and joy; his effervescence made him an instant hit with the Old Trafford faithful.
The Unbeaten Run and the Berbatov show:
Despite all the hurdles, the Wayne Rooney saga, the Antonio Valencia blow and string of not so impressive away days, Man United couldn’t be beaten. The run of 29 games in the league without defeat was based on some sterling displays, none more impressive than the 7-1 mauling of Sam Allardyce-led Blackburn Rovers at OT. The game, now known as the ‘Dimitar Berbatov Show’, was the zenith of United’s attacking prowess, as the Bulgarian dismantled a hapless Rovers side with a five star display.
Wayne Rooney returned to patch things up with the supporters, and the United family, after showing signs of indifference, came together to forgive their forlorn hero. Ferguson was quick to nip the controversy in the bud, and the club followed suit.
New comers Blackpool threatened to end United’s unbeaten run, only for the Devils to respond in their customary swashbuckling ways and mount a famous comeback at Bloomfield Road. United topped both the Premier league table and their Champions’ league group as January drew to a close.
Twist in the tale and the eventual wobble:
Mic Mcarthy’s lowly Wolves were the surprising candidates that finally put Fergie’s men to the sword, defeating them at the Molinuex. The Premier league realized that the mighty Devils seemed susceptible like never before, and Chelsea and Liverpool heaped further misery on the league leaders, as United lost three in five. A controversial defeat at Stamford Bridge and a comprehensive drubbing at Anfield dented United’s title bid, and Chelsea looked to seize the opportunity.
Amidst all the carnage, Man United however defeated their neighbors ‘money bags’ City by a goal, that earned redemption for a fallen hero. Rooney scored the goal of dreams in the Manchester Derby, and his apologies were accepted.
Final push and the Road to glory
Man United never die; that’s the mantra of the club, and that has been the sole secret of success over the years. After defeats had threatened to derail the United juggernaut, Fergie’s men picked themselves up and brushed aside all challenges in their way. French champions Marseille were dispatched and then nemesis Chelsea eliminated, as the European Cup reached its climax.
On the home front, another marvelous characteristic comeback against West Ham provided fans with a moment to cherish, as the Rooney-Chicharito dual attack was in full bloom. United were on the cusp of a title win, but Chelsea stood between them and the record breaking 19th title, defending their crown till the final whistle. Déjà vu struck United fans, as memories of the previous season came flooding back. But the Nemanja Vidic-led side didn’t falter this time around, and Chelsea were beaten at fortress Old Trafford, bringing the title within sniffing distance. A draw at Ewood Park gave United their cherished 19th league title, and the party began across the M6. Jeers directed towards Merseyside followed for the coming days and weeks. Man United are on the perch, as 19 plays 18 for those who might have lost the count, somehow.
Agony at Wembley
Sir Alex and Manchester United came up short against a menacing Barcelona side, as the Barca midfield totally outclassed their United counterparts. The Champions League Finals was a bitter pill to swallow, and a rather melancholic way to end yet another glorious campaign.
The One man army:
Nemanja Vidic is the captain Sir Alex was looking for, as the Serbian led front the front and almost single handedly kept United in games. His partnership with Rio is perhaps the best in modern day football all around Europe, and has been the cornerstone of United’s continued brilliance. The one man wrecking machine continues to terrorize attacks, as the Fernando Torres myth is now a thing of the past.
The missing act:
As long as one remembers, Patrice Evra has been one of United’s premier performers; however, the mercurial Frenchmen went missing this season. United fans dearly want the Evra of old back; hopefully, the break from nonstop football will do him a world of good, and Paddy can return to his former ruthless incarnation.
Unexpected breakthrough performance:
While the world goes giddy over Chicharito’s rise to prominence, one must remember the young English Center back who has risen above any pre-season expectations. Chris Smalling has been a rock at the back in his debut season for the Devils, giving assured performances ala the one Rio Ferdinand. Smalling has deputized in Rio’s absence, and it won’t be much of an exaggeration to say the Englishman has matched up to his compatriot’s dizzying heights. Johnny Evans needs to wake up, as Smalling looms large.
A Mexican wave at Old Trafford:
He came, he saw and he conquered. Chicharito is the new face of Manchester United – exciting, electrifying and refreshing. The Mexican, in his short time, has gathered a cult status at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’; 20 goals in his debut season has added to the charm. No one since Rudd has ever captured the imagination of the Old Trafford crowd quite like Hernandez.
Nani’s rise and rise:
Portuguese sensation Nani finally realized his massive potential and drove United forward every time the chips were down. Nani’s form dipped a bit towards the end, but not before he had contributed handsomely to the United cause. 9 league goals and 18 assist – the Portuguese was rightly adjudged by his fellow United players as their player of the year.
The much maligned Bulgarian silenced most of his detractors by winning the golden boot award this season. Although Berbatov was used sparingly in the later stages, his hat trick against eternal rivals Liverpool will linger on in the memory of every Red. He might have won the goal of the season honors too, but his good friend Rooney had other ideas.
United’s Rolls Royce
Well there are two- Michael Carrick and Rio Ferdinand. The English duo hardly ever put a step wrong and at times seems to cruise through games unnoticed. The casual fan might berate Carrick’s performance, but four league titles in five seasons at Manchester United as a first team regular seem to suggest a different story. Michael Carrick played the holding role, with no fuss and with his characteristic assurance.
Rio Ferdinand is all “silks” – calm, composed, and absolutely never in rush. The Englishmen and the Serbian at the back are like the “Wall of Gibraltar”, unshakable and immovable. It also helped that Rio managed to “Stay on his feet” for the majority of the league campaign.
Forgiven and Forgotten:
Wayne Rooney - the apple of the eye of most United supporters – went public about his desire to quit the club. However, better sense prevailed and Wayne back tracked. After months of not-so-Rooney like performances, Wayne found his “mojo” and continued to prosper in his new role behind the front man-Chicharito. His goals against Chelsea, Man City and the season defining hat trick at Upton Park finally removed the black mark off his record, and Old Trafford could again chant his name with the same fervor, well almost.
A dozen for the irrepressible
Nothing quite gets better with age like a glass of wine, but Ryan Giggs sure does. At the ripe age of 37, Giggs seems to be miraculously getting better, playing in positions all around the pitch and generally “taking the mickey out of” normal football norms. Twelve league medals now for the ultimate professional – yoga seems to be doing the trick. Take note, @rioferdy5.
The Brazilians Rafael and Fabio continued their development, and played pivotal roles at the back for United. Rafa was at the fore front as the season began,but Fabio seems to be nudging ahead at the moment. The future is bright for the two fiery twins; Samba is here to stay at Old Trafford.
Gary Neville, United’s passionate ex-captain, called it a day. Neville embodied the United spirit like no one before. The United Right Back will always be a fan at heart, and his name always sung loud in the terraces of Old Trafford. A Man United legend, if ever there was one.
Edwin Van Der Sar’s swan song ended in defeat at Wembley but not before he had proven once again that the Flying Dutchman would go down as one of the all time greats of the game. Van Der Sar’s replacement has been lined up, but his towering presence will surely be missed.
Paul Scholes, the greatest English midfielder of his generation, walks off into the sunset with ten league medals to his credit. Never the one to hog the lime light, Scholesy can never ever be replaced; his stature in the eyes of United fans would easily dwarf any modern day superstar. No words can ever describe Scholes’ contribution to United’s illustrious history; no amount of praise will ever be enough.
Anderson performed admirably at the comfort of Old Trafford, but needs to clean up his act in those tough away games. However, the undoubted potential was there for everyone to see.
John O’Shea filled in more than handsomely, at Center Back, Left Back and Right Back. Sheasy to step in as the successor to VDS? Well, don’t really be surprised if the Irishman even pulls this one off.
Honorable mentions go to the 3-lung Park and Tony V, who returned just in time to ignite United’s dwindling title challenge.