The buzz from my Boddington’s is building to a crescendo, whilst the sun shines brightly on a beautiful Pacific afternoon, and this translates into the best time to write up my full Manchester United Season In Review. Let me just crack open another one here.
I am adamant that if last year’s Manchester United would have remained unchanged, we would likely have finished 2nd or even 3rd. The real shining success from this season is a tough thing to pinpoint precisely, but I think Fergie’s astute signings are the main talking point of the season, despite the incredible emergence of Cristiano Ronaldo as a genuine contender for best player in the world. More on him later, but first, let me explain my hypothesis.
Our early 2000’s team blew pretty hard despite the presence of some bigger names and some success on and off the field. The Van Nistelrooy years stand out to me as an era of poor signings that, while they may have been skilled players, didn’t fit into the United system and the likes of Seba Veron, Kleberson, Djemba X 2, Diego Forlan and Liam Miller all proved to be floppish. While I’m not doubting the ability of some of them (namely Forlan and Veron, Miller is still shite though, Djemba has dropped off the face of the earth) these were the wrong types of signings.
The players that Fergie picked up this year all added a different element to the team, without detracting from our overall style of play. Each of the players are extremely dynamic and while regular readers will know my thoughts on Nani (who I think needs more composure to compete at the highest level) each of these four have played a key part in United’s campaign, thus far. While I’m on the topic of Nani, he did singlehandedly deliver three points early on in the season for us in the match against Middlesbrough. While his actions the other week against West Ham were not the type of football I like to see played at United, the lad obviously has the skills to pay the bills. He needs to spend more time soaking up advice from top pro’s like Giggs, Scholesy and Ronaldo in order to reach that level of maturity and composure necessary to compete in the big games. Look at what happened to Rooney this year, Nani needs a dose of that. But watch this video as testament to Nani’s gamebreaking ability.
Oliveira Anderson has provided something unique for United this year- an element of the unexpected. In retrospect, he was our mystery player this year- nobody knew much about him coming in. People had seen a bit of Nani and people more or less knew what to expect from him. Anderson was a different deal altogether. I expected the young Brazilian to come in and act like, as one of my readers predicted, “THE creative midfielder.” Anderson adapted quickly to the pace and hard-hitting nature of the EPL and he shined as a box-to-box midfielder with vision and guile. Like Tevez, he possesses a low center of gravity and this makes him hard to knock off the ball and also gives him the ability to creep up on opposing players and quickly snake the ball from him. He was much more defensive and mentally aware than any of us predicted at the start of the season. While he finished goalless, his contribution was telling in that other teams still haven’t quite figured out how to deal with Anderson. He will wear a United shirt for many many years.
Somebody’s put together a little Anderson tribute here. I think it’s fitting. Give it a look.
As a Canadian, seeing Owen Hargreaves take to the pitch in a United uniform always fills me with pride. Watching this good old boy from Calgary AB out there kicking ass in the name of Man United is one of the greatest pleasures I have. I admire the man’s commitment and professionalism and while he grew up playing for Bayern, he brings the grit and get’er-done mentality that Canadians bring to everything they do. He is our ambassador to England and the Premier League and I think he is an excellent example of the type of versatility Man U have lacked in previous seasons. He is Phil Neville times three. All the versatility and ability to slot in basically anywhere, but he brings free-kicks and hard, lazer-guided tackles to the fore whenever he steps over the white lines. Hargreaves delivered the points at Arsenal and while he was hampered by injury all year, Hargreaves stepped up when he was called upon. Something that can do every Canadian proud.
This will go down as one of the greatest United freekicks of all time. I was shitting myself when he scored this one. These three points made the difference and Hargreaves fucking delivers.
And now, we’ve got Tevez. What more can you ask for from a player? While he isn’t a 30 goal a season man in the vein of Torres, old Michael Owen or Ronaldo, him and Man United formed a symbiotic relationship this year. Manchester United has brought out the best in Carlos Tevez and Carlos Tevez has helped Manchester United get better. Everybody said that him and Rooney were too similar to succeed and that turned out to be one of the talking points of the season. Him and Rooney are similar, and contrary to predictions, it made them a better strike force. They can track each others runs expertly and both can drop deep, while both can play as out and out strikers. Tevez’s versatility is one of the things that allows Man United to play the free-flowing attacking game that we all know and love. He is short, stout, and has the heart of a lion. It’s an honor to watch this man go to work in the service of our team. He is on course to be a Man United legend and I have a feeling that he’s a favourite in the dressing room.
He has a habit of scoring important goals. Case in point:
Now that I’ve addressed my four reasons why we won the title, let’s get to the season’s other main talking point- THE EMERGENCE OF CRISTIANO RONALDO AS THE BEST FOOTBALLER IN THE WORLD. I will argue it with anybody. Nobody plays the game like this guy and what he accomplished this season helped him break the bank, win the the title and shock the world. Over 40 goals from a right-winger is absolutely unprecedented in English football and I will also defend my theory that Ronaldo is blurring the lines between midfielder and striker. He alternates a Jeckyll and Hyde-style double-bill as a winger and old-fashioned center forward, scoring goals for fun and making opponents trip all over themselves. Always labeled as a one-trick pony thirty seconds away from a shampoo commercial, Ronaldo grabbed the team by the scruff of the neck and delivered the goods. This guy is the one who will sell “soccer” to America, not David Beckham. People in North America want to see goals and they want to see exciting stuff. Ronaldo plays football from another planet and the Glazier’s know that he is their best chance at selling the game to the North American audience once and for all. That is why this guy is going nowhere.
Here’s a few highlights from this season to whet your whistle. I’ll have a full bio and review on him coming up in a few days.
The other main point worth mentioning is our defense. The central partnership of Rio and Vidic has been absolutely unparalleled in recent memory and the two will be operating in tandem for almost a decade, they’re flanked by Wes Brown, who finally emerged as the top player we all knew he was (particularly in the second leg against Barca), and Patrice Evra- a more complete version of Roberto Carlos. These guys and Van Der Sar are the unsung heroes of the season. Like they always say- offense wins games, defense wins championships.
And that’s exactly what our boys did today. Ryan Giggs scoring to put the icing on the cake as he matched the all-time appearance record for the team is a story that you just can’t make up. I think you can’t forget how important it was that Chelsea slipped up against Bolton when it mattered most. That gives us the big mo’ going into the Champions League Final.
Drink up United fans- it’s been a long season and we’ve delivered the goods.
Bring on Moscow.