Manchester United’s season was a big success – Premiership champions, CL semi-finalists and FA Cup finalists.
And we’ve already talked about some of the best moments from United season.
Today though, I wanted to talk in more general terms and take the best and worst aspects of our game from this season.
Manchester United’s best
The best part about Manchester United’s game this season was the team spirit and the collective responsibility that the players took in spreading the goals around and tackling attack and defense as a team. Everyone tracked back to defend and a notable transformation in that was the sight of Ronaldo tracking back to cover Neville and Rooney coming deep to defend.
They attacked in packs too – Evra, Heinze, Neville and Brown were often camped in the opposition half, playing true to the concept of attacking fullbacks. Vidic and Ferdinand were a threat from set-pieces and in crunch situations Ferdinand even took it upon himself to try to score from open play – something I’ve rarely seen central defenders do and for me is a mark of commitment towards the club’s cause.
United and Ferguson have to hone this spirit and keep this flame burning for the big games – the ones we lost this season.
And speaking of those games…
Manchester United’s worst
Arsenal’s league double over Manchester United hurts more losing to Southend United in the 3rd round of the Carling Cup. The manner of our loss to Milan in San Siro and the defeat to Chelsea at Wembley were also hard to swallow, but it would be churlish to put unnecessary blame on the squad or the manager – you lose some and you win some, and unfortunately we lost those games.
Overall, however, I noticed a similarity in all our losses.
One, we relied too much on Ronaldo. At times he was neutralised, at other times he was simply tired. Manchester United more options on the bench and they also need Rooney to take more responsibility to help them win games. Rooney has to have a phenomenal season next year, the sort Ronaldo had this season. In addition, we need our other players to do more damage – Carrick and Saha from the current crop, and all three new signings.
Two, defensive tactics work if we have a goal-poacher the style of Ruud van Nistelrooy to kill other teams off. We missed Ruud in all our losses this season – his presence could very well have seen us as at least FA Cup winners and beating Arsenal twice instead of losing to them (against Milan we had other problems). If Ferguson doesn’t buy a target-man, Rooney or Rossi have to give us that goal-scoring edge. My money is on both, but let’s see how the next season pans out.
Three, Manchester United bottled the Milan game because of tactics – and despite our sterling success this season in Europe, we simply must get our tactics right for the big games next season. You can’t go into a Champions League semifinal with our players afraid to make tackles, and you can’t play a team of individuals when spreading passes and possession can help you score easily (as is United’s style).
In times of desperation, United more often than not pulled out aces from their sleeves and put the games away with amazing comebacks (Blackburn and Everton). They need to do the same when the big games roll along. And if they can’t do that, at least the tactics should be spot on.
Let’s hope Ferguson can work these kinks out for next season.
Personally, I don’t blame Queiroz for us playing 4-5-1 – at the end of the day it’s Fergie’s call and he should know how the team should play.
And whatever the case, we can never play against a big team the way we played at San Siro.
This article is Part 6 of our 7-part Manchester United 2006/2007 season review coverage at Soccerlens.