While Manchester United and Chelsea were headed to Moscow (and to a last-day title decider) and Liverpool were after Barry, Arsenal and Tottenham were both looking across Europe for an experienced midfielder to shore up the squad.
Managers rarely do what they’re supposed to but it hasn’t stopped fans from expecting them to do the right thing – witness the public calls for both Wenger and Ramos to go shopping for an experienced ball-winner in midfield (something that had been asked for the summer before as well for both teams, mind you). However, Wenger rarely shops for developed players and Ramos never had the chance to pick his own transfer targets, so…
Looking back, it’s funny how we thought both clubs would see reason and actually bring in reinforcements for the one area they were most lacking in (experience) when their track records have proven the opposite.
In Spain we had Madrid winning the league, humiliating Barcelona the next week and perhaps most significantly, Atletico Madrid qualifying for the Champions League the week after. Barcelona had now ‘lost’ two titles in a row and were looking to change things around (including putting Ronaldinho, Eto’o and Deco up for sale) while Madrid were fully focused on that boy Ronaldo.
Financial accounts for Manchester United and Chelsea were made public knowledge, leading to incessant analysis and speculation. The short story? United need to keep winning to service their punishing debt and Chelsea need to keep Abramovich onside. For the more detailed versions, read the following: Man Utd Debt and Chelsea Debt.
Manchester United were still the most valuable club in football and the success of English clubs in Europe along with their transfer policies in bringing the best young talent from around the world to the Premier League was causing concern at UEFA and FIFA headquarters. FIFA talked about imposing a home-grown players quota, known as the 6+5 rule (1, 2) but that would be countered by UEFA who, understandably unable to go against EU laws, proposed softer measures.
The Premier League season ended with Manchester United winning the title on the last day, although if some reports are to be believed the final league table would have looked much, much different if referees had gotten some of their decisions right (let’s put it this way – Everton would have qualified for Europe instead of Liverpool). The losing managers couldn’t wait to get their excuses in and they were right – their clubs had faced significant obstacles, just like every other club had had its share of problems.
It’s all about coping with what comes your way, and in the end Chelsea and Manchester United were the teams that coped the best. Easily the two best teams in Europe on domestic and continental form, the two went toe to toe (literally) in Moscow before Manchester United won the game on penalties. The game had numerous talking points (the ‘slap’, the ‘spitting’, the ‘slip’, the ‘sulk’, the ‘medal ceremony’, the ‘tears’, etc etc) but one person’s actions (for better or worse) overshadowed all others – John Terry was the star of the show albeit for all the wrong reasons.
Along the way we also saw Manchester host the 2008 UEFA Cup Final, with Zenit St Petersburg lifting the title having beaten tournament favourites Bayern Munich in the semifinals. Losing Rangers fans proceeded to trash the city. Classy.
May ended with the whole of Europe looking to Austria and Switzerland expecting a cracking Euro 2008 and England’s finest journalists making monkeys of themselves by alternatively celebrating England’s failure to qualify and unnecessarily hyping up the quality of football on display during the tournament proper.
Back to Soccerlens’ 2008 Review.