United's Season - The Premiership
Are you ready? We assessed United's performance in the Premiership.
The glory of all glories. United led the pack from the start and lost their first place for only a mere week, back in September. We were the best team in the country this season, that can't be denied.
The key moments:
August 20: Manchester United v Fulham 5-1
Pundits were queuing to act as gravediggers during last summer: not one of Britain's respected (?) journalists had expected United to finish higher than third. Their predictions about the Reds' irreversible decline were proved wrong in spectacular fashion as we blew away the Cottagers to go top of the table after the very first game.
Chelsea's Christmas stumble
After the hiccups against Arsenal and Reading, United found their feet and kept Chelsea at arm's length until the game at West Ham. United lost whilst the Blues came back from behind to beat Everton and that could have been a turning point. However, United beat Villa, Wigan and Reading while Chelsea dropped points against Reading and Fulham and suddenly the gap was six points - and remained as much until our defeat at Portsmouth.
Victory at Anfield
The previous week saw United snatching a win at Fulham in dramatic fashion but that was nothing compared to the drama at Anfield. We were on the back foot for much of the game and were reduced to 10 men near the end. But United never gave up trying and they were rewarded when Ronaldo's free-kick came back from Reina, into the path of O'Shea who fired it into the roof of the net and opened up a temporary 12-point gap.
Chelsea's draw at Newcastle
The day before that game United had dropped two points against Middlesbrough and looked like to have lost their momentum. However, the Blues could not grasp their opportunity and they played a out a dull 0-0 draw at Newcastle without creating a single chance.
April 28 - Chelsea 2 Bolton 2, Everton 2 United 4
It was over and Mourinho knew it - just as Sir Alex who was dancing in jubilation after the final whistle. Everton went two up after 50 minutes and Chelsea led 2-1 against Bolton at Stamford Bridge. However, Kevin Davies equalised in London while up at Goodison, Turner's mistake allowed O'Shea to score and from then there was only one team on the pitch and in the title race: United tore apart Everton and won 4-2 with Rooney scoring the decisive goal - I felt that life could not get better...
United v Chelsea - The difference
Both teams had their fair share of injuries but while Mourinho could not stop moaning about them, Fergie always said he trusted his squad players. And he was rewarded for it.
Though Chelsea are feared for their resolute defending, United came very close to matching them this season in that aspect. What set up apart was our vastly superior attacking play: United scored 83 goals this season while none of their rivals reached 70... Scholes, Giggs, Rooney, Ronaldo, Saha - they were irresisitible and the others chipped in with their fair share of goals. Chelsea too often struggled to break down teams and one such occasion probably cost them the title: the draw at Newcastle.
I don't know if Ambramovich actually interfered at Mourinho's job. But the persistent rumours about it made it much tougher for Chelsea to concentrate on their real duties. Sir Alex, however, got full support from the Glazers who were quiet throughout the season.
The new signings
Michael Carrick did a lot to steady a midfield that looked shaky in recent years - he was our only signing in the summer but that worked out well. Henrik Larsson arrived in January and he made the impact we brought him for so thumbs up for Fergie. Chelsea signed Ballack, Shevchenko, Mikel, Kalou and Boulahrouz but only the Nigerian midfielder could be called a success and to a lesser extent, Kalou - the other three's contribution was insignificant in the case of Ballack and Sheva and sometimes disastrous, in the case of Boulahrouz.
But there's something else, too. The desire. Fergie did not give up neither the Champions League nor the FA Cup but made it clear that his priority was the Premiership. His team had the same determination, that was clear - and it was a crucial factor. Our Champions League exit was not a disaster - it was only a painful defeat but I believe everyone understood that it was only a bonus.
An excellent league campaign, we couldn't have wished for more. United surpassed all expectations to finish top and they did that with fantastic attacking football - so a deserved title.
Next review: Champions League campaign.
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