Reviewing the Season: DEFENCE
Though our season was made famous for our fast, fee-flowing football which we gained numerous plaudits for, much of our season was actually based on a strong, solid defence. In fact, our defence was so good, that our entire back-5 actually made it into the PFA Team of the Season.
However, in this short article, I wish to shine a light on each individual player which made up our defence, as-well as the fringe players which came in when needed. I will also be giving each of the players a total score out of ten, representing the player`s performance and contribution throughout the season.
Edwin, VAN DER SAR
The Dutch veteran had yet another excellent season, conceding just 25 goals in the Premiership. Despite such a solid start to the season, the 36 year old did begin to waver towards the end of the season, and there was one spell in which Van Der Sar was at fault for a lot of the goals conceded, with his inability to catch balls which once would have seemed like a piece of cake. However, he came through this short spell, and ended the season on a high, saving a last-minute penalty against rivals Manchester City to give a win, a result that would eventually crown us as Premiership champions.
Season Score: 7/10
Understudy to Van Der Sar for much of the season, Kuszczak saw his chances to shine too few and far between. Having said that, when called upon Kuszczak performed well, conceding just 2 goals. In his Premiership debut, he was drafted straight into the action, against a free-flowing Arsenal side. Despite conceding a penalty, he was able to erase the mistake by coolly stifling Gilberto`s low strike, and he was only opened up by a smart piece of play by Emmanuelle Adebayor. One possible reason for the amount of games which Kuszczak played may have been due to a problem which he suffered all season, his inability to deal with crosses confidently. In one such case, Kuszczak`s mistake cost us a win away at Middlesbrough in the FA Cup, and we were forced to play a replay which we luckily won 1-0.
Season Score: 6/10
What a season the Serbian had last season! Was it not for the exceptional performances of Cristiano Ronaldo, Vidic would have been our player of the season. After a disappointing start to his United career, Vidic started his first full season well, and his confidence grew. As the season progressed, Vidic`s confidence grew, and with it his performances got better. His strong, combative style of play seemed to complement Rio Ferdinand`s perfectly, and they built a solid partnership which opposition attackers seemed unable to penetrate. Vidic`s performance did not rely sorely on his defensive attributes, but he also contributed to the team in an attacking sense, especially form set-plays. It seemed as if every time the ball was crossed in from a corner, that Vidic WAS going to be on the end of it, and his 3 Premiership goals helped the team immensely. Vidic also famously grabbed the equaliser in the match against Benfica, a gaol which propelled the team to a 3-1 win, and set us on our way on our amazing Champions League campaign.
Season Score: 9/10
Ferdinand was an ever-present figure in the United back-line, and be it for a reoccurring injury late on in the season, which is still affecting him now, Ferdinand could have been our most played player. Ferdinand has always been one of my favourite players, and his cool, calm presence in the defence was there to see last season as well. There were many people, who felt that after Ferdinand`s lengthy drugs ban that he would never be the same again, but I believe that his performances last year proved his critics wrong, and he experienced one of, if not 'the` best season of his career. Throughout the campaign, Ferdinand built a strong partnership with Nemanja Vidic, and their differing styles seemed to complement each other perfectly. Ferdinand has also seemed to finally found his goal scoring touch, scoring a fantastic goal at home to Liverpool, a team which Ferdinand seems to continually score against.
Season Score: 8/10
Mr. Reliable was his at his consistent best last season. O`Shea was asked to play in a variety of different positions, across the defence and midfield, and even in goal, performing admirably when asked upon. Though the majority of O`shea`s contribution was in defensive positions, a major part of O`shea`s season relied on his goal scoring touch and with a shot-to-goal ratio of 80%, O`shea can hold his head up high as technically the most deadly finisher in the league. And it wasn`t as if these goals were part of 5-0 victories, these were HUGELY important goals that won us the match. For example, who can forget that day out at Liverpool on 3rd March, when after being truly battered for 90 minutes, John O`shea popped up with the winner deep into stoppage time to lift us a massive 12 points ahead of Chelsea, and sent out a clear message to our opponents that this would be our season. Also, his goal against Everton late on in the campaign which propelled the team from 2-0 down, to a 4-2 win, a day equally as important in our quest for the title.
Season Score: 8/10
Much like O`Shea, Brown was as consistent as ever last season, performing admirably in a variety of different positions when called upon. Had it not been for the emergence of Nemanja Vidic, Brown could have seen his opportunities in the heart of United`s defence a lot more. I personally feel that Brown is one of the most underrated players in our team, and I think that outside of the top-4; brown would probably be a consistent starter. Brown also acts as sufficient cover for Gary Neville, and in the captains lengthy absence last season, Brown cemented his place at right-back, a position in which Brown excelled. His performances last season were so good, that he was drafted into England`s first team, beating off competition form Liverpool`s, Jamie Carragher.
Season Score: 7/10
Though the end of the captain`s season was blighted by injury, his performances at the start of the season merited him a place in the PFA Team of the Season. His pace and ability to run the line, helped Ronaldo massively, as when in a tough spot, he always had an outlet in the form of Neville, who set up countless goals with his inch-perfect crossing. Barring Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, Neville probably has the best delivery of a ball over large areas, and to have that attribute as a fullback is invaluable to a team, and whist he was out injured we missed him profoundly.
Season Score: 7/10
The emergence as Evra as a top quality left-back, who can keep out Argentine international Gabriel Heinze, is as impressive s the emergence of Nemanja Vidic, and a credit to the player. Evra, who much like Vidic, suffered a miserable start to his Old Trafford career ironically wouldn`t have been first choice had Heinze been fit for the beginning of the season. However, Heinze`s desperation to take part in the 2006 World Cup blighted his United career, so Evra was drafted in. His fast-paced, attacking style of play, differed from Heinze`s, and his runs from full-back encouraged the team to play fast-paced and his clever runs led to many goal scoring opportunities. Evra was also not afraid of having a go himself, scoring 1 premiership goal, and setting up numerous others, most notably the goal scored at the Emirates against Arsenal, where Evra`s whipped ball was inch-perfect for Rooney to header in.
Season Score: 8/10
Ironically, Heinze`s injury blighted the beginning of his season and led the way for Evra to settle in the squad, but late on in the season, Evra suffered injury which thus enabled Heinze t ore-instate himself into the first team. His combative style of play acted as a breath of fresh air for our tiring squad, and his introduction into the squad seemed to inject an extra energy into the team, an extra bite which the team needed. His consistency was superb, and bar a few mistakes (such as the lazy pass-back in Milan which gifted Milan a goal) he proved to United fans that he still has the ability to be our number one left-back. Sadly, Heinze is just too good a player to be left on the bench, and the emergence of Evra suggests that Heinze could be on his way out, but nevertheless if Heinze does go, he will always be remembered for his tough-tackling style of play which made him real fans favourite.
Season Score: 7/10
Now, Silvestre has never been my favourite player for Manchester United, not because his attitude to the game (which is exemplary) but because plain and simple, I don`t think he has enough talent to ever break into the first team. Unfortunately, Silvestre`s last season was one that will not live long in the memory, with injury blighting his season on countless occasions. However, with the news of Heinze`s (probable) departure, Silvestre may have a larger part to play next season if he can stay fit, because as I have previously said his attitude to the game is exemplary, and unlike Heinze, he does not mind t sit on the bench and wait for his chances, and squad depth is vital if we are to retain our title.
Season Score: 5/10
Here are the scores in full:
Edwin, VAN DER SAR - 7/10
Tomasz, KUSZCZAK- 6/10
Nemanja, VIDIC- 9/10
Rio, FERDINAND- 8 /10
John, O`SHEA- 8/10
Wes, BROWN- 7/10
Gary, NEVILLE- 7/10
Patrice, EVRA- 8 /10
Gabriel, HEINZE- 7/10
Mikeal, SILVESTERE- 5/10