Date:Monday May 26 2008
Champions of Europe, champions of England - an almost perfect season. There were many outstanding moments and it was a big task to select a few that can be called the very best.
Player of the season
I'm sure you can guess who. The best player in the world right now was the best of United's campaign. 42 goals. From the wings. Consistent brilliance. Top scorer in the Champions League and in the Premier League. Scored against Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Sporting, Roma... Brilliant, worth his weight in gold.
Three of the others, in my opinion, deserve a mention: Rio Ferdinand was a rock all season, Patrice Evra's powerful displays cemented his status as the best left-back in the world and Carlos Tevez did remarkably well in his debut season, scoring countless important goals and some brilliant ones.
The greatest goal of the season
Throughout the campaign, United scored majestic goals. Rooney's against Roma, Tevez's against Chelsea, Nani's against Spurs and Middlesbrough, Tevez's against Wigan and Middlesbrough, Nani's against Liverpool, Ronaldo's against Portsmouth, Newcastle (the second one, at Old Trafford) and Villa... and I could go on and on and on.
Yet considering its importance as well as it's sheer brilliance the winner must be Paul Scholes' 14th minute thunderbolt against Barcelona. The moment of magic that United needed to swing the tie in their favour: Scholesy picked up Zambrotta's rash clearance 25 yards out and unleashed a ferocious rocket into the far corner. It took us to Moscow.
The best performance of the season
Once again, there are plenty of candidates and though the first half of the Champions League final was as good as it gets, the FA Cup game against Arsenal gets our vote. Even without Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Owen Hargreaves and Ryan Giggs, United were unstoppable, Nani, Fletcher, Carrick and Anderson totally dominating Fabregas, Gilberto Silva and co., Rooney ran Toure and Gallas into the ground and they just could not cope with him. The 4-0 scoreline flattered the Gooners in the end...
The best individual display of the season
Ronaldo against Newcastle United at Old Trafford. He scored a hat-trick and he was unplayable on that day, dribbled past defenders with a nonchalant ease. Arguably his greatest display in a United shirt - well, maybe apart from his heroics at Highbury in 2005.
The most pleasant surprise of the season
Anderson, without a doubt who's our young player of the season, too. Nobody expected him to deliver so soon and in a position that was thought to be unfamiliar for him. His displays against Arsenal (twice) and Liverpool (twice) were spectacular and he rammed home the penalty in the Champions League Final.
The best, most thrilling game of the season
The memories are still quite fresh and totally vivid: the big game in Moscow lived up to the expectations and thus wins the Vital Award. United dominated the first half and could have been 3-0 up by half-time but a very, very fortunate goal handed Chelsea a lifeline and with their usual dogged tenacity the dominated the second half and hit the post. In extra time both teams tried to win it, Lampard hit the bar and Giggs' effort was headed off the line by John Terry. A great game, settled by a dramatic penalty shoot-out.
The sweetest win of the campaign
Apart from the Champions League final and the title clincher at Wigan, the honour must go to the 3-0 victory over Liverpool. It was a most satisfying rout, made all the sweeter by Mascherano's richly deserved red card and his petulant behaviour afterwards.
The most understated player of the season
Michael Carrick. Wes Brown did a great job but there was much talk about him regarding his contract and many noted that he played the most games in the squad. But it was somehow forgotten or ignored what a bedrock Carrick was during the Champions League campaign. Only Ferdinand played more minutes than him, he was involved in 11 games as a starter and in 1 one as a substitute. His passing and reading of the game was instrumental during the second half of the season.
Best team move of the campaign
No contest there: Carlos Tevez's first goal against Middlesbrough. Hargreaves passed the ball to Anderson who lobbed it brilliantly to Tevez. The Argentinian chested it down for Rooney who backheeled the ball back into Tevez's path and his colleague slotted home with ease. Brilliant.
Best defensive display of the season
As rock-solid defending was a hallmark of United all season it's only right that we pick the best piece of rearguard action. It was of course the Champions League semi-final first leg, at the Nou Camp: United, without Nemanja Vidic, restricted Barcelona to a couple of half-chances. Samuel Eto'o was nowhere to be seen.
The greatest moment of the season
All hail Scholes' strike against Barcelona and Giggs' title clincher at Wigan - but it's no contest really. Anelka's penalty in Moscow wins it easily, it's streets ahead of anything ever experienced since 1999. I've been watching it every day since Wednesday and just can't grow tired of it. As Edwin points to his left then dives to his right to palm away the shot. Then he stands up raises his arms and celebrates standing there until he's swallowed by the oncoming horde of United players. The defining image of 2007/08.
Date:Monday May 26 2008
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