It was far from a brilliant display, but it was also far from a brilliant season. A goal from a penalty that some refs wouldn’t have blown their whistle for was a perfect way for Manchester United to clinch their title this season. They did beat Chelsea last week in a must-win game for them. They also lost to Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea earlier. They were far from dominant. Their away form? The poorest of any Premier League winner. Still, they did just enough plenty of times along the way to deserve their 19th league title and 12th in 19 seasons. All with Alex Ferguson as manager. All with Ryan Giggs as a player.
A long long time ago, back when it was still 2010, Manchester United looked nothing like a team on their way to win the title. They were doing fine at home, but just couldn’t get away wins – draws against Fulham, Everton, Bolton, Sunderland, Manchester City and Aston Villa. All this by mid-November. Wayne Rooney was talking of leaving. Chelsea were rampaging through the league. Manchester United’s away form didn’t vastly improve as the season progressed – They’ve won only 5 games of their 19 away matches. Same as Blackpool at 18th. Their home form however –
Nearly perfect – 17 wins and only 1 draw, a 2-2 draw with West Brom, back in the bad days of late 2010. Three players stood out above the rest in this season – Nemanja Vidic, Luis Nani and Ryan Giggs. Vidic made it through the season without Rio Ferdinand by his side for a big stretch of the way. Ryan Giggs – Well, there’s not that much to say anymore about Ryan Giggs. He just won his 12th league title with Manchester United. He has nearly 900 games for the club. He looks like he can carry on forever.
Nani, at times, looked like United found their Ronaldo replacement from within. Nine goals and 14 assists, he was their best offensive player for most of the season. With Wayne Rooney turning from goal scorer to something else – attacking midfielder or some sort of central midfielder in many games, the burden of carrying the offense was on Nani. Sure, Berbatov and Hernandez provided plenty of firepower, but Nani seemed to be involved in almost anything positive in United’s attack. Rooney’s better form late in the season, Antonio Valencia’s return, all seemed to have hurt Nani who hasn’t put in an impressive game in quite some time.
Alex Ferguson, do we need to mention him again? Suspension, battles with the media, the constant commenting on referees. Ferguson stole the show this season. There isn’t a bigger personality than him in Manchester United, not since Ronaldo has left. His team isn’t as good. The Premier League isn’t as good – The pitiful fight Arsenal and Chelsea gave United down the stretch was more than disappointing. Still, Ferguson had one of his greatest seasons as a manager. Bringing out more and more from players such as Park, the Fabio-Rafael tandem nad his Chicharito signing deserve all the praise in the world. He has one more title to win in Wembley this year to mark one of his greatest campaigns ever, despite not getting too much praise for the way United played this season. Ferguson and Manchester United are here to win, for titles. To do enough, not to entertain. There’s Barcelona for that. Ferguson did the most he could with the tools at his disposal.
I liked what Ryan Giggs said during a post match interview while his teammates were celebrating with the fans at Ewood Park – “Yeah, we’re rubbish. We’ve just won the title and we’re in the Champions League Final.” After all, in a few years time, it’s the number of trophies we’ll all remember.