At the start of every season we are all pretty sure who will be in the shakeup come the end of the season. The top four/five are now easy to predict, but who will be champions is a subject that always splits opinion. At the start of this season, as expected, Manchester United and Chelsea were the teams of choice. The sensible money always goes on Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, but to be honest I wasn’t so sure.
I had a look at the United squad after the transfer window closed and thought it was probably not as strong as previous seasons and not as strong as Chelsea’s squad. But looks can be deceiving. United started the season with no established right-back, their midfield was ageing and lacking in depth, they seemed to have only two recognised forwards. I thought things might not be going their way this season.
Early signs were encouraging for United after they won the Charity Shield 3-1 beating Chelsea, but it was Chelsea that set the early pace opening the season with back to back 6-0 wins and being unbeaten until November. It was pretty much level pegging as United were also unbeaten, with a couple of draws for Manchester United the only thing separating the two sides. October came around and so did the shock news that Rooney didn’t want to sign a new deal at the club and wanted to leave in January.
This was a big situation for Ferguson to deal with and deal with it he did. He handled all the media attention in an experienced and calm manner and was open and honest with the press, putting the emphasis back on the shoulders of Rooney. Whether this tactic worked or whether it was the mob that assembled outside his home like a scene from ‘finding Eric’, Rooney had a change of heart, a fat-cat contract offer was signed and Rooney was back in the fold.
Throughout October all the uncertainty around Rooney was not helping him or the team and this showed with his performances in the first half of the season and Fergie decided to drop him. This didn’t matter as it was Berbatov leading the way for the Red Devils. It was Rooney’s absence from the team that allowed one of the stars of the season to throw his hat in to the ring. Javier Hernandez, ‘little pea’ came in to the side against West Brom and scored, by the end of the month it was ‘Rooney who?’ as Hernandez had hit 3 in 5 games.
The emergence of Hernandez was a major point in Manchester United’s season. No one was sure how he would perform at such a young age in his first Premiership season, especially when fellow youngsters like Macheda hadn’t quite done it and Bebe had also arrived. But the ‘little pea’ never looked back:he was involved in 45 games, scoring an impressive 20 goals in all competitions. Without the Rooney saga Hernandez would probably have had to have waited a lot longer for a chance and an extended run in the team, Manchester United managed to get a major positive out of what could have been a season changing negative.
It wasn’t just the Rooney saga that was an underlying issue for Manchester United, there were constant rumours about the future of Vidic throughout the summer and that Real Madrid were interested. But Vidic signed a new long term deal and Ferguson performed another masterstroke in naming him as Gary Neville’s successer as Club Captian. Vidic has really grown in to the role and this has cemented his commitment to the Manchester club.
For me Vidic is the best centre back in the Premier League. An unbelievable player in the mould of Jaap Stam, Vidic has the lot. One of Vidic’s most impressive stats this season is his 5 goals. He is the highest scoring centre back out of the top 5 and the second out of all the top 5 teams defences with Chelsea’s make shift right-back Ivanovic getting 6 goals.
Arguably United’s weakest area was in midfield and it felt like they needed someone to step up and lead the way and this season Giggs did just that. Nani also had a great year scoring 10 and topping the league for assists. He has stepped out of the shadow Ronaldo left behind and looks like the player Ferguson was hoping he would become. Park has also played a big part in United’s success. He’s always ready to step in to the team, especially for the tough games and he always performs chipping in with 8 goals.
There is no doubt that United are worthy winners this year. The table doesn’t lie. It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for Manchester United and they could not have won the title if they had been affected by what was going on around the club throughout the season with certain players.
This is a testament to Alex Ferguson and they way he conducts himself and runs this massive club. Manchester United without Fergie is hard to imagine, but surely there can’t be many more years left for him. For now Manchester United fans can look forward to a busy summer. Fergie has stated he is looking to bring in 3 or 4 players. The teams around United, especially Manchester City, will strengthen meaning that next year is going to be bigger than ever. Whatever happens though, Manchester United’s dominance of the Premier League does not look like ending any time soon.