Chelsea are the champions. Congrats to them… now piss off, this is a Manchester United review, no more shit about Chelsea.
I still remember the unease I felt after the opening day unconvincing win over Birmingham thanks to a solitary strike from Wayne Rooney. My doubts werent found baseless as United slumped to defeat just three days later at newly-promoted Burnley. When you’re champions, you cant afford to lose that early in the season and to teams like Burnley with much, much tougher tests to come.
But United had a good record of bouncing back after defeats and had a good record against Wigan and they maintained both with a thumping 5-0 win at the DW stadium. Still not convincing and United had to up their game and up it quick because the next three games were against: Arsenal (H), Tottenham (A), Manchester City (H).
Arsenal came to Old Trafford with a better start to the season than the hosts and took the lead through Andrei Arshavin’s long-range strike. To be honest, I thought United never looked likely and did not deserve to get anything from that match. But they did, Rooney scored from the spot and Abou Diaby scored an own goal to give United a morale-boosting 2-1 win which they took to Tottenham and produced their best performance of the season so far as goals from Giggs, Anderson and Rooney cancelled Jermain Defoe’s first minute strike.
I was feeling confident ahead of the Manchester derby with City but nothing could’ve prepared me, and I think any football fan, for what was in store in that match.
Wayne Rooney’s third minute goal set United on their way early in the match but Gareth Barry equalized for City with an assist from former Red, Carlos Tevez. Darren Fletcher popped up with two goals but Craig Bellamy scored two of his own to make the score 3-3 heading into injury time. What happened next was dramatic, heart-breaking (if you’re a City fan) and summed up what football is all about.
Six minutes of injury time added on and into the sixth, ex-Liverpool striker Michael Owen pops up to score the winner in his first Manchester derby to send United fans into raptures and immediately endear him to the United faithful. One of the best (well most dramatic atleast) matches of the season. United ended September with a comfortable 2-0 win over Stoke at the Britannia.
First game of October and United suffered a setback as only a last-gasp Anton Ferdinand own goal gave United a point at home to Sunderland. United next welcomed Bolton and overcame the Trotters 2-1. Next was a trip to arch-rivals Liverpool and if there were doubts about United’s title challenge this season, they certainly became more than that and questions were asked of United’s defence as they slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Anfield with some awful defending.
Manchester United showed us glimpses of the true MU in the next match against Blackburn with two superb goals by Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney giving United fans some hope that the title may still be staying at Old Trafford.
November started with a daunting trip to top of the table, Chelsea, as the first and second teams in the league collided and, although United had the better of the game, they suffered a demoralizing 1-0 defeat thanks to John Terry’s controversial goal which gave Chelsea a five-point lead as early as November. United visited the league’s worst side Portsmouth next and Wayne Rooney helped himself to a hatrick and Ryan Giggs grabbed his 100th league goal for the club in a 4-1 triumph.
A win by the same scoreline was observed next at Upton Park as United brushed aside West Ham. Just as United fans were getting hopeful with eight goals scored in two games by their team, United drew blank at home against Aston Villa as Gabby Agbonlahor’s header gave the Villains their first win at Old Trafford in 24 years. United’s title hopes were being dealt blows just as they seemed to be gaining momentum.
Wolves were the next visitors and were comfortably beaten thanks largely to an under-strength side put out by Wolves manager Mick McCarthy. That 3-0 win turned out to be another false hope however as United suffered a crushing defeat at Fulham next by the same scoreline and United were now third with Chelsea and Arsenal looking down upon them. United went to the KC next and picked up all three points as Wayne Rooney played a role in all four goals in United’s 3-1 win.
If ever a practise session was needed, call upon Wigan Athletic. Demolished 5-0 in their own backyard in August, United did the same to them in their next match at Old Trafford. January, the transfer window, started with a trip to Birmingham and a Scott Dann own goal gave United a point in a largely forgettable performance. Burnley and Hull, the next two visitors to Old Trafford, were brushed aside by the score lines of 3-0 and 4-0 respectively, and Wayne Rooney helped himself to four goals against the latter.
Then came a big match – big, big match for Manchester United. Could be called a must win even at that stage of the season. Arsenal vs Manchester United. United went to the Emirates having never won there in the league before and we were in for a footballing classic. United put on a clinic and raced to a 3-0 lead with three superb goals by Luis Nani, Wayne Rooney, Ji-Sung Park before Thomas Vermaelen pulled one back for Arsenal in a match which was all about United’s spectacular counter-attacking display with Luis Nani giving a man-of-the-match performance.
United faced Portsmouth at home next and mostly failed to penetrate the Pompey defence with an unconvincing attacking performance against a weak defence but managed a 5-0 victory thanks to three own goals. United travelled to Aston Villa next looking to avenge their only home defeat of the season so far but due to Nani’s moment of madness which saw him sent off, they couldnt snatch a win and ended up doing well in holding Villa to a 1-1 draw.
United went to Everton next with the pressure on with unconvincing performances and their known pedigree for being strong finishers to the campaign diminishing before them. Another major setback, Everton beat Chelsea and United in two consecutive weeks, undoubtedly the more damaging one to United. United saw off West Ham 3-0 in their next match but they were up against it now, knowing too many more slip ups and the title would be off to Stamford Bridge.
A last-gasp goal by the evergreen Paul Scholes gave United a 1-0 victory at Molineux against Wolves and the Red Devils avenged their 3-0 defeat to Fulham in December by the same score at Old Trafford. Liverpool were the visitors next in a crucial, crucial game for United. Fernando Torres gave the Reds an early lead but Wayne Rooney and Ji-Sung Park gave United arguably their THE most important win of the season so far.
Ji-Sung Park scored three of his four goals in the season against the likes of Arsenal, AC Milan and Liverpool… not too bad a collection. A United side without player of the season Wayne Rooney brushed aside Bolton at the Reebok with Dimitar Berbatov stepping up with a brace in a 4-0 win.
Next came arguably the match which ended up deciding the destination of the title. The visit of Chelsea to Old Trafford and injuries to Wayne Rooney and a lack of steel in midfield cost United as a controversial Didier Drogba winner gave Chelsea a priceless 2 point lead.
United suffered another blow as they drew 0-0 at Blackburn in midweek but a goal in the last twenty seconds of the match by Paul Scholes at Eastlands against noisy neighbours City and Chelsea’s defeat to Spurs on the same day gave United an outside chance at the title going into the penultimate round of matches 1 point behind Chelsea.
Chelsea visited Liverpool in the early kick-off and a dreadful Steven Gerrard back pass gave Didier Drogba a gift which he could not resist and Chelsea went 1-0 up. They later sealed it with a goal from Frank Lampard and United knew they had to win at Sunderland later in the day to keep their faint hopes alive, anything else and the title was Chelsea’s even before the final day. United dug out a 1-0 win with a gutsy performance and the title would be decided on the last day with most likely the destination being Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea faced Wigan at home knowing if they match United’s result, they’d be the champions. United faced Stoke at home knowing their fate was not in their hands. Chelsea took the lead early against Wigan and the lights dimmed on United’s season as Chelsea went on to an 8-0 romp against the Latics making whatever United did against Stoke – which would be a 4-0 win – irrelevant.
Chelsea were the champions, and United were left to reflect on what could’ve been. A season that started with Cristiano Ronaldo’s world-record transfer to Real Madrid leaving a gaping void in the team, United did indeed silence the critics who questioned how far the team would go without the best player in the world.
Injury ravaged throughout the season, United did well to take the title to the wire, they lost by only a single point and one must think what would’ve happened if United had not been lacklustre in matches they were expected to win like Burnley, Villa and Fulham. Dependance on Wayne Rooney may be another factor but the team more than proved they can go forward even without Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani’s emergence with some eye-catching performances and a great season overall is definetely something United fans will be hoping he takes into next season.
Overall, a good season but by Manchester United’s great standards, only the Carling Cup is not what the club asks for. Hoping for a great next season, looking forward to seeing United surpass Liverpool’s 18 league championships record and become the undisputed all-time champions of England.