Monday, May 07, 2007

We Are The Champions! Road To Glory

Finally, after 4 long years (way too long for us Man Utd fans who have been spoilt with success), the Premiership trophy returns to Old Trafford.

After seeing Arsenal's amazing unbeaten Premiership run that sealed them the title in 2003, then having to stand by as Chelsea's well-oiled Russian juggernaut crushed all in its path for the next two years, Manchester United can finally lift the trophy that, this season, they outplayed, outclassed, and outfought most of their opponents for.

Come on, even you Chelsea fans have to admit that this season United were in a class of their own right? Take a look at the table above (though it is by no means final):

We have won 4 more matches, drawn five less and only lost 4 matches all season than Chelsea (Chelsea, though, only lost 3). More amazingly, we have scored 20 more goals than both Chelsea and Arsenal. TWENTY. This makes our goals against column of 26 practically negligible.

Throughout the entire season, Sir Alex has demanded - and gotten - the brand of entertaining, attacking, free-flowing football that makes Man Utd both a threat and a joy to watch. Blistering wing-play, speedy counterattacks, runs from deep - all hallmarks of Manchester United, and this season, in full swing for almost every match. Could this be the start of another era of domestic success, with the fourth young team Sir Alex has built? We shall have to see. But for now, we shall recap our march to the title and how it was won.


What? Sir Alex Ferguson has sold Ruud van Nistelrooy? Our 150-goals-in-200-games striker? What IS that senile old man thinking? Does he expect Man Utd to rely on untried partnerships of Saha, Rooney, Smith and an ageing Solskjaer?

18... 18 MILLION POUNDS for Michael Carrick? A player that Tottenham bought for 3 million when West Ham went down? Why? What's so great about him? We got cheated!

And what is this? Cristiano Ronaldo wants to leave because of what happened at the World Cup with Rooney? Manchester United's season seems to be in a shambles before it even begins...

August: Open Season

Turns out the sale of van Nistelrooy and the "spat" between Rooney and Ronaldo doesn't seem as bad as it originally looked. Man Utd comes out with all guns blazing and makes their intentions clear with an opening-day 5-1 drubbing of hapless Fulham. Ronaldo scores one and makes another for Rooney, and the two boys hug each other for all to see. Wins over Charlton (expected) and Watford (the new whipping boys) follow.

September: Ouch that hurts

After yet another win against Tottenham, Arsenal inflicts on us our first defeat of the season, at Old Trafford no less. Unfortunately we are unable to pick ourselves up quick enough, managing only a draw with Reading after that. Chelsea top the table this week, but unknown to them that would be the LAST time they were leading...

October: The hairdryer treatment works

Man Utd bursts into October with 2 goals from an evergreen Solskjaer against Newcastle. Another 3 wins follow in quick succession. October ends as sweetly as it began, with Rooney's hat-trick against Bolton seeming to jolt the striker out of some rather indifferent form in the previous few months.

November: Title decider?

Man Utd's winning streak continue as they comfortably see off Portsmouth, Blackburn, Sheffield United and Everton. The most excitement, however, was generated by an Old Trafford top-of-the-table clash against Chelsea. It ended up a 1-1 draw, with United still 3 points ahead, but Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho claims that Man Utd "missed a great chance" to open the gap and insists Chelsea will make them pay for it. We all know how that turns out...

December: West Ham spoils the party

Man Utd wins 5 out of 6 matches in a horribly congested month. Our only loss comes against West Ham, but on the bright side we crushed Man City 3-1 in the Manchester derby and Chelsea aren't catching up.

January: Mixed bag of goodies

High-scoring wins against Aston Villa and Watford are balanced against a draw with Newcastle and yet another loss to Arsenal. Lady Luck is on our side though as Chelsea continue to slip up, though they are breathing down our necks.

February: Purple patch continues

Man Utd wins all 3 matches this month, though the manner of the wins could not have come more differently - first match a blistering 4-0 trouncing of Tottenham, last match a gritty 2-1 win over Fulham. Sir Alex says. "This is the stuff champions are made of."

March: More entertainment please

Another tight win follows as John O' Shea is an unlikely hero for us against the Scousers, scoring a last-gasp goal and silencing the Kop. Despite Sir Alex's assertion that tight, gritty wins spell the stuff of champions, we as fans are spellbound by the free-flowing football that yields 4 goals against Bolton (again) and Blackburn (our "bogey" team) each.

April: The REAL title decider

April goes off to a bad start as our defense begins dropping like flies, with Ferdinand, Vidic, captain Gary Neville, Silvestre, Park Ji-Sung and for a while Evra all keeping the Man Utd physios busy. On the pitch, the makeshift backline of Brown, Heinze, Fletcher and Evra/O' Shea shows its shakiness as April begins with a loss to Portsmouth. Man Utd pick themselves up with a win over Sheffield United, but are derailed again by a draw against Middlesborough.

However, the turning point comes when they play Everton at Goodison Park, while Chelsea are entertaining Bolton at Stamford Bridge. We are 2-0 down at the hour mark, while Chelsea are leading 2-1. Man Utd fans all over the world have their heads in their hands, seeing our lead cut to just goal difference.

Abruptly, John O' Shea opens the floodgates with a 60th minute goal. Old boy Phil Neville scores an own goal in a goalmouth scramble (he later reveals Paul Scholes thanked him for the goal and he called Scholes "a jammy bastard" in return. Sir Alex goes on the pitch after the match and ruffles his hair). Wayne Rooney adds a fourth. One of the most stirring comebacks ever, and our joy is compounded when we discover brave Bolton has held Chelsea to a 2-2 draw. United celebrate like the title is won, Stamford Bridge is silenced, 5 points ahead with 3 games left, and then-Bolton manager Sam Allardyce gets "a hug and a kiss, maybe two kisses" from a jubilant Fergie.

May: Trophy's coming home

The Manchester derby has double significance as it could well be the match where the title is wrapped up. After a host of disgraceful stamps, trips and fouls, Man Utd retain their class and composure and finally win a penalty, which Ronaldo coolly dispatches. In the 83rd minute, as Man Utd fans are already singing and cheering, referee Rob Styles gives away a soft, soft penalty to City. Edwin van der Sar SAVES it, and justice is done.

The next day, all eyes are trained on the Emirates Stadium as Chelsea battle desperately for a chance to claw back the 8-point deficit. Unfortunately for them, Arsenal hold them to a 1-1 draw and the title is Man Utd's with 2 games to go.

Forever afterward, the 2006/2007 season will be remembered as the season we won the league at City. Take that, you damn stomping Blue bastards!

Mourinho, "gracious" as always, announces he will put on a guard of honour for us when Man Utd visit Stamford Bridge next week for a now-worthless match that has been billed all season as a title decider. BUT at the same time, he insists injuries cost Chelsea (never mind the fact that Man Utd's entire first-choice back line was out for over a month), and that Chelsea were the better team - the team "with more points" are champions - never mind that Man Utd scored 20 goals more and, in the process, entertained football fans for a whole year. But all credit to Chelsea - they never, never gave up, right to the final whistle, and they kept on our coattails all season.

The season is not done yet - there is still the Double to play for. But for now, Man Utd fans can sleep sweetly knowing that our players played fantastically all season, dug in when it was most needed, and in so doing, brought back the Premiership trophy to Old Trafford for a record ninth time.

Ryan Giggs, United's most decorated player and the Premiership's third most decorated, had better start clearing some space in his cabinet.


At 10:48 PM, May 07, 2007, Blogger JayWalk said...

Good piece. But hor, Gary and I spotted that you have omitted Larsson.

His stay may be short but his contribution is no less significant.

I think we a part of our success to him as well.

At 1:07 AM, May 08, 2007, Blogger C.O.O.L said...

Jan and Feb were the months that Larsson was in.. and yet no mention of him.. wah lao..

i think this is also one factor where mourinho didnt see it coming.. now man u have to buy players without letting the media know, if not chelsea will outbid them..


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