It’s hard to gloat when your team has been embarrassed in the semi-finals of the Champions League and you still have an FA Cup final to play.
But over the course of the season, there has been plenty to celebrate for Manchester United. And at the heart of this has United’s attacking form and their ability to score a glut of goals, almost at will.
Here are 5 of Manchester United’s best performances this season – although I’m hoping the next three games (Chelsea on the 9th, West Ham on the 13th and Chelsea again on the 19th) provide at least one more classic.
Sunday, 20th August, 2006
The first game of the season. All the pressure. All the hype about Chelsea and Liverpool running away with the league, and United being left behind scrapping for 4th place. United’s own fans were questioning the team more than ever.
It took 14 minutes – from the 1st goal in the 5th minute to the 4th goal in the 19th – or 4 minutes (United’s 2nd, 3rd and 4th goals) – to show everyone that Manchester United were in title-winning form. Predictions be damned, Manchester United laid down the marker on the first day of the season and challenged their rivals to match it. Only Chelsea rose to it.
If there’s ever a time you were driven to tears by watching football, this is it. After the pressure and speculation, this was the perfect reply, and the perfect start.
Tuesday, 10th April, 2007
This game will be remembered for a long time in Manchester United’s history, standing alongside the 6-1 drubbing of Arsenal as one of the best games of Manchester United’s history. Detractors will point to a suspect defence (including shoddy keeping) and luck, supporters will point to the squad’s all-conquering potential.
As these things stand, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Roma were bad, Manchester United were irresistable and a 2-0 / 3-0 win became an emphatic, 7-1 win.
It also re-established Manchester United’s position as one of Europe’s elites. Granted, they were outclassed in San Siro, but they have shown good form to get to the semi-finals after such a long time and this season’s European achievements will give the team a lot of confidence next year.
Saturday, 28th April, 2007
This game gets a big mention for the drama that went on throughout the game (with respect to the title race) and the sudden change of fortunes after half-time.
At one point, Manchester United and Chelsea were even on points – Chelsea winning 2-1 against Bolton at home and Manchester United losing 0-2 away to Everton.
A Bolton goal, a keeper error and a Phil Neville own goal (one of the most important goals of the season for United) started the turnaround and with Bolton holding on at Stamford Bridge, United charged to a win thanks to goals by Rooney and Eagles.
This game sealed the fate of the Premiership – and converted those doubters who hadn’t been convinced by the first game of the season 🙂
Saturday, 31st March, 2007
If Everton was ‘lucky’, there wasn’t a hint of ‘luck’ here for Manchester United. They lost Vidic early on to a shoulder injury and then Blackburn scored before sitting back and resorting to kicking Scholes, Ronaldo and Rooney off the park. Rio Ferdinand was given enough space to roam up front and run into the Blackburn penalty area – even getting caught offside when running on to a through-ball.
It was a frustrating situation that Paul Scholes – that little master – changed completely with a jinking run where he dodged several Blackburn defenders over 5-10 metres and then coolly slotted home the goal. With all the pressure, it was an excellent comeback by United and started Blackburn’s rout as the red devils finished the game 4-1, ripping Blackburn to shreds in the last 30 minutes.
Chelsea may have scrapped through till the end, but none of their comebacks were quite like this – the whole team playing together to rip the opposition apart with gluts of goals.
Tuesday, 26th September, 2006
4 goal defeats of Bolton (home and away) and Tottenham (away) were probably more impressive, and United’s home win against Benfica (3-1) more important in terms of European football, but the sheer value of the away win against Benfica cannot be doubted.
Manchester United’s previous season had seen them knocked out bottom of their group, and their confidence in away games was at an all-time low. To top it off, United had lost to Arsenal at home and drawn to Reading away in the league. It was a tough game and at the team everyone called United poor (including me).
In hindsight, this was a watershed win for United in Europe and allowed Manchester United the confidence to grind out wins the hard way away from Old Trafford in Europe.
It’s time for you to pick your 5 best games of the 2006/2007 season. Let me know what you think about the above list, and make your own additions as you see fit.