We want our champions to be better than what Manchester United have given us this season, although Alex Ferguson keeps telling us how proud he is of the team that consists of Robin van Persie, Shinji Kagawa and Wayne Rooney, that didn’t make it past the Champions League knockout stage but claimed the Premier League title with a remarkable run of scores and without any competition whatsoever.
If anything, their 20th championship is an testament to the ability of Alex Ferguson to make the most out of a team that has had so many ups & downs during the season, going through phases of exciting football while having no defense before shifting into a longer period of boredom, to them and to the viewers, but at least they stopped conceding goals.
Ferguson understands something – keeping local dominance is the most important thing. That’s why it’s so unusual to see them finishing below second place over the last 21 years. That’s why Phil Jones and Michael Carrick become much more than they would be for any other team. That’s why even with Wayne Rooney being such a huge source of discontent and unrest, while the second most talented player on the team, Nani, has mostly been an afterthought for most of the season, this has been one of the most dominant titles, if not the most, the Premier League has ever seen.
But what about Europe? Maybe that’s why there’s such a huge shopping list lined up for the summer. Alex Ferguson was burned by Barcelona twice, in 2009 and 2011. In 2011 it seemed to be a real strike to his ego and his view on what football is all about, at least in the global sense of it, thinking that the team he’s leading deserves more than two Champions League trophies in the past 20 years.
And then came that 6-1 defeat to Manchester City, shifting and rocking his world once again. Despite all the talk of being just another day in the history of the club, these losses leave scars, and United moved towards a defensive mode, boring the league, almost into submission. They just couldn’t beat their city rivals, and eventually fell short of winning the title.
This season was the same story once more. It looked like United didn’t know what they are, until losing at home 3-2 to Tottenham. Ferguson decided this means he can’t trust his defense or his tactics. Simple gung-ho attack with four forwards on the field when necessary, until Robin van Persie stopped scoring, or a little bit before that, once the defense got a little more stable. Michael Carrick was in charge of that, but also Rio Ferdinand slowly playing better, and Jonathan Evans when he was healthy.
And United only needed 15-20 minutes of decent football to win matches, while the rest of the competition – Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, fell like flies with a bit more style than the would-be champions, but without the consistency, the most important aspect a championship side needs.
Ferguson is that consistency, but in order to live out his dream, he’ll need more than that. Numbers sometimes lie, and tell us the story of the league, and not the team that won it. Years from now, know one will remember the 2013 version of Manchester United as a great side. Just a good and efficient one, no matter what spin their manager tries to put on the story.