As Giants Fall Around Us...
Barcelona, Arsenal, Liverpool, AC Milan and Roma; just some of the team`s which have experienced a rather abrupt end to their season. Yet while these teams sit and lick their wounds, two teams - Manchester United and Chelsea - still stand together battling out for both the right to named England and Europe`s best.
Now, don`t get me wrong, ever since Abramovich took over at Chelsea; they have come a very close third in my list of "hated" clubs to Arsenal (sorry, but Liverpool just make me sick to the very bottom of my stomach; their fans, their manager, their captain.....but that`s another story.)
No, this article is about us and Chelsea, and as much as it pains me to say; you gotta admire what they have done this season. Crippled by the loss of their most successful manager ever and without arguably their most influential players through the ridiculously placed African Nations Cup, even the most ardent Chelsea fan must have feared the worst. However, through determination, doggedness and a generous help of luck the club and their manager have already eclipsed anything Arsene Wenger, Rafa Benitez, Frank Rijkaard and many others could achieve this season. Yes, they haven`t been great to watch, and it may be a little rich coming from a fan of a club that have been able to combine both exciting football and success; but prizes aren`t given out for style....just ask any Arsenal fan.
Perhaps this strong-minded attitude was not better shown last night by a certain Frank Lampard; who showed tremendous strength in playing a full 120 minutes just 6 days after the death of his mother, getting on the score sheet in the process. True, I have been guilty in the past of criticising Lampard from a footballing point of view, and in all honesty, that won`t change; but last night I saw a new side to Lampard that I didn`t think existed, and for that I founded a new respect for him. I know these views have been echoed by many in the last day, and I don`t want to dwell too much on it, but fortunately I don`t know what Lampard has been through on the past week, and to be honest I hope I never do; but the courage he should yesterday in just turning up left me genuinely hoping he would score a goal, and it may seem strange from a bona fide United fan....but I`m glad he got it.
In a similar way, I feel the actions of Avram Grant at the final whistle had a comparable effect. Again, I am not going to pretend I`m a lover of the man, and 'yes`, I have mocked him from time to time. But in all honesty, I felt all the stick he got from fans from ALL teams in recent weeks has been wrong.
But before I start sounding like a closet Chelsea fan (god no!!!!) I`m gonna cut the crap, and speed up the analysis a bit. Essien+Ballack+Cech=Good, Drogba, A.Cole, Mikel=Bad. Quick enough?
And alas we come to United. I feel as though Zae has summed up the views of most United fans in recent articles, so I`m going to keep it short. Coming on the back of a hugely successful season both on the pitch and off it, we were (rightly or wrongly) deemed favourites for almost every cup we went in; however to claim that somehow our achievements this season have been any less impressive as Chelsea would be ignorant, as with expectation comes huge pressure. Just look at the big gun`s mentioned in the first line, where are they now? To talk about something is one thing, to actually do it is another, and we are three games away from it now.
Indeed all the plaudits in the world have been given to Ronaldo this season, and rightly so. He has been by far the best player in the world this season, and those who question his impact on the big stage, harping on about Milan last year, reek of jealousy. If opposing fans look deep in themselves, as I did with Lampard earlier, I feel they ALL feel a great deal of admiration for Ronaldo. How can any person in their right mind question a winger who has already scored 38 goals this season, and created countless others.
Perhaps an even bigger high for us has been the performance of our defence. It seems as if every part of our team has just got better from last season, including Ronaldo and in particular the defence. Van Der Sar has been very very reliable, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have been absolute rocks at eh heart of our defence, Evra has quietly won over fans all across the world and is a genuine argument when discussing the best left-back in the world. As for Brown, well I feel he has done tremendously. Alot of people forget we have been without our skipper for over a year now, due in large to the performances of Brown in replacing Neville.
I don`t really like picking out particular people as I feel our whole squad has performed admirably this season, but other notable contributions have come from the likes of Carrick, Anderson, Tevez and Rooney; who have all enjoyed marvellous seasons in their own right. But, as I say everyone deserves a pat on the back for what has been a great season.
Now, their might be some who question the timing of this article, with three crucial games left to play. However, I feel now was the right time to post such an article, as right now my views are less tainted by footballing rivalries and with three weeks still to go before the champions league, and with us still in a commanding position in the league, I`m feeling confident. Yes, it could all blow up in our faces, but regardless of what happens, this season has been remarkable, and I`m sure I speak for every United fan when I say that.
So, as a famous chef once said, "Let`s be having you!"