Where Does This Title Rank Among Fergie's XI?
Manchester United won the Premier League for the third time in a row. Remember the last time we managed to do that? It was in 2001 when we were so far ahead of the rest that we could afford to take only four points out of our last five league games and still won the league with a 10-point advantage.
And there was a definite sense of anti-climax there: we quickly dropped out of the FA Cup (thanks to Di Canio's offside strike at Old Trafford) and were knocked out in the quarter-final of the Champions League by eventual winners Bayern Munich.
As we were already 11 points ahead on New Year's Day, the last two or three months of the season were, well, dull. After thrashing Arsenal 6-1 there was nothing remarkable and after the Champions League exit it all became a dragging procession. Everyone knew we were going to win the league but it was the minimum - and we failed on all other fronts.
This year's not the same, however. Fortunately, I have to add. First, there was a title race even though we never really relinquished our advantage in 2009 even though Liverpool topped the table for brief periods, having played more games. But the consecutive defeats to Liverpool and at Fulham opened it all up when it seemed it could become like 2001 (indeed, had we held on to our lead against Liverpool, the title race would have been over in March).
So it was definitely more exciting than 2001 or even 2000. Talking about 2000, though, one must admit that in that season we played fantastic football, scoring 97 league goals, racking up a points record. That felt like a real achievement and the Championship Day, against Spurs, was fantastic, there was no sense of the anti-climax that was to plague the celebrations a year later.
This season I must admit that the fantastic football went missing: we were efficient and consistent, yes, but not spectacular, a few games aside. Indeed I'd even venture to say we've never won the league with such mediocre football before, not even in 1997 which is by far the least remarkable Premiership season I witnessed. We haven't scored too many goals and relied on our defence way too much for my liking.
There's the sweetness factor though which places it far above 2000 and 2008, not to mention 1997 and 2001: we equalled Liverpool's haul of 18 titles, holding off the challenge of Liverpool themselves. Benitez's rant and his pathetic excuses and his absolute gracelessness in defeat made it wonderful.
But all in all, I must conclude that his league title, though I immensely enjoyed winning it, is not even in the top five of Fergie's table-topping campaigns. My top five is made up of these:
o journalist, pundit, media man or fan predicted us to finish higher than second, some expected doom and fifth place. Chelsea were supposed to dominate for a decade. And look where we are now...
ou'll never win anything with kids. And (whisper it) it was even true as more than anyone else, Schmeichel and Cantona won us this title - which was as unexpected as wonderful after a hugely disappointing summer.
he very first one... which, like 2007 but a hundred times more, was characterised by many fans' overwhelming fear that we could somehow blow it in the end, again. We didn't and Captain Marvel finally got his hands on the league trophy.
he Treble season had its own magnificent title race: neither United nor Arsenal lost a league game between December and May. In the end, the irresistible force moved the unmovable object but the league title was only the beginning that year.
ame old story: written off criminally but coming back strongly. We blew media-darlings Arsenal away with our performances during the run-in, the 6-2 destruction of Newcastle stands out as it was probably United's finest away performance in the history of the Premiership.
And that's it - this record-equalling success only comes after these.
However, if we focus not only on the league but the entire season, this one could get a lot higher ranking - especially if we win our last competitive game of the campaign, in Rome...