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United Can Draw Comfort From The Memories Of 2006

Remember the summer off 2006? It wasn't a long time ago so you should. I'd say the resemblance to the current summer's events is uncanny, although with obvious differences.

Back then we had sold our leading goalscorer, the man who scored 150 goals in 219 appearances. We had lost our inspiration captain, too and replaced neither of them. No striker arrived and only Michael Carrick was purchased to boost the midfield options. A 'band aid for a bullet wound', as it had been described.

United have never looked back since, winning three consecutive league titles in style. But this summer, everything changed: we sold our leading goalscorer and didn't replace him properly... Familiar, huh?

There are obvious differences, of course. First, one must acknowledge with a certain sadness that great player Ruud was, he's no Cristiano Ronaldo. With him in the team we became so one-dimensional in the end that it was difficult to believe. He wasn't someone who struck fear into every opposition, who could win games single-handedly - he was simply a top class goalscorer, a world-class player but highly reliant on his teammates.

With Ronaldo, it's the other way round: the teammates became highly reliant on him. But back in 2006 nobody believed that would happen. Everyone talked about where the goals would come from for United and no hack, pundit or fan could imagine that we could improve our attack without making any new signings. But that happened, simply because Cristiano Ronaldo (and to an extent, Louis Saha) stepped up the plate and we ended up scoring more in 2006/07 than we did in any of the previous four campaigns.

And thus we won the league after being widely tipped to finish third or fourth - even fifth was mooted as a possibility with Spurs overtaking us. Now, in 2009, we are again tipped to finish third behind Liverpool (never mind they sold the brain of their midfield and replaced him with a player who's about as injury-prone as Hargreaves) and Chelsea. Once again, summer shopping is dismissed as insufficient. But are there any players at the club who have the potential to step up as Ronaldo did?

Emphatically, yes. The most obvious candidate is Wayne Rooney: he enjoyed a telephatic understanding with Ronaldo but there's no denying the fact that catering for Ronaldo's whims and building on his strengths meant a lot of donkey work for Rooney which is somewhat of a waste for such a brilliantly gifted player. It's an indication of his talents that he still managed to be a key player and scored very important goals. Now he needs to do it all the time.

The other one is Anderson. He's got a huge season ahead of him as it's time for him to show his real talent. The aging of Scholes and Giggs means he will have plenty of opportunities - actually, he'll probably be a key player. He's fast, skilled, strong, creative - he's got the lot. The question is whether he can channel his raw abilities into a more refined form? I think he can and will be a huge hit.

Their emergence, with Dimitar Berbatov hopefully taking on more responsilibites, could see United return to the smooth, spectacular attacking football of 2006-2008. We can score 68 league goals without Ronaldo, of that I am certain. Because, like it or not, that's not a very great total of goals scored...

So, see, there's plenty of similarities with 2006 and a great deal of comfort might be drawn from the memories. The reason why I think we won't win the title is the most obvious difference between the two situations. In 2006 we were looking for our first league title since 2003 which became embarassing for the likes of Ferdinand, Giggs and Scholes. Especially the two veterans were who stepped up the plate and played with renewed vigour and hunger.

This won't happen this time: there's no more left in the tank of Giggs and Scholes and United won the last three league titles. Quite simply there's nothing of the 'we'll-show-'em' attitude, the raw hunger and ambition which was so important in the drive for success in that first Ruudless season. Or to put it even more simply: winning four in a row is bloody difficult, no wonder no team have managed it yet...




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The Journalist

Writer: Zae Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday August 6 2009

Time: 5:35PM

Your Comments

Yes yes yes. What have been saying for a long time. The similarities are almost incredible. Wouldn't say we relied on Ronaldo - he pushed himself forward a lot. We managed in games he didn't play - remember 07/08? It was Rooney's absence we couldn't win in and everyone looked lost. No doubt Ronaldo was influential, but our team is United not Ronaldo. And still is. Still think we have a good chance of the title though - the rest of the top four has hardly done fantastically throughout the summer - only Chelsea have escaped unscathed, but do they have enough, especially with a new manager to get all his ideas in again? Liverpool have lost Alonso, and if Torres/Gerrard get injured... Arsenal have lost a key striker and defender and don't look like replacing. Traditionally, we play well when no one expects us to. We have the Barcelona game to spur us on, and also making history in winning a fourth, besides, we have a point to prove that it wasn't just Ronaldo that made our success; we weren't a one-man team. And that's without individuals - Anderson, Nani and Berbatov are still to properly prove themselves with United; with Owen to show he's not finished yet (and to a certain degree, Scholes and Giggs); Rooney's got to come to the fore and be our star performer and scorer without Ronaldo... Foster wants to prove himself before World Cup... youngsters like Macheda and Welbeck will be keen and newcomer Valencia... any more motivation needed? Because I think i've said plenty...
Man utd champions
I'm not sure there will be much european success next season, but at the moment I can see no reason to doubt that we will be any less successful domestically next season. Hopefully, with fewer games and less travel the squad should hold up a bit better and with a more conventional set of wingers, I think our strikers can look forward to being presented with twice as many goalscoring opportunities as last year. To be honest, if we can't score more goals than last season we don't deserve to win the league.
tuscan3000
United will have a fine League season and FA run. I do however agree that in Europe they will most likely struggle some
Paulinho
I wouldn't rule out European success just yet. A lot of its down to the luck of the draw and what league or domestic cup games are played before and after the ties. If we're in a similar situation as last season when we played Porto and had Villareal or Arsenal to play. I'll fancy our chances. This is eerily similar to the summer of 2006 and although it was just a friendly, Valencia's performance against Valencia w,as fantastic. Finally replaced Kanchelskis, so I expect to see plenty of headed goals from our strikers this season. Something that we have been lacking for a while now. Its a two-horse race next season. Us and Chelski. Scousers & l'arse not even a threat in my eyes.
NotoriousRedDevil
I can't remember 2006. I think I was drunk.
Tosswink
I don't know what the rest think but for me this would be the sweetest of all titles if we manage to win this one.So much has been made of ronaldo's departure and yes everyone believes he is one of the best if not the best but the work that our defence and goalkeeper put in has been totally unnoticed.
Antriksh (abmtd)
I can see all the arguments from other teams fans now. When we're top we're going to be told it won't last because of no Ronaldo. If we're not top its because of no Ronaldo. Be prepared for a lot of idiotic comments this season coming. People and more importantly the media (who fool these mornic individuals) forget that football is a team game.
NotoriousRedDevil
what no Community Shield Preview?
merlin
 

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