By Mark Young.
(PL) United 3 – 1 Aston Villa
(PL) Wolves 2 – 1 United
(PL) United 2 – 1 Manchester City
(FA) United 1 – 0 Crawley
(CL) Marseille 0 -0 United
(PL) Wigan Athletic 0 – 4 United
February was an interesting month for the Reds. As soon as momentum seemed to have been lost it was picked straight back up again. There was disappointment mixed with ecstasy as the unbeaten run came to an end but that was all put right by the rejuvenation of the white Pele in the middle of the month.
Man United faced two midlands teams within the first week of the month but results varied. It was a standard three points at home against Villa which included a Rooney double. The problem was that the away blues continued and the first loss of the league season came at Molineux, an unlikely loss but they deserved it and their form against the top teams more or less saw them safe this term.
The big moment was to come at home to the noisy neighbours. United led through Nani before David Silva equalised. The game looked like it was going to finish as a draw before a spectacular overhead kick from Wayne Rooney nestled in the back of Joe Hart’s net. City were stunned and Old Trafford started to believe. This was more or less the return of the magnificent Rooney, who had a big say in the season’s end.
Rooney added one more goal before the month was out away at Wigan where Fergie’s men won 4-0. Chicharito bagged a brace at the DW and Fabio finished off the demolition.
There were two bits of cup business to sort out in February. A first leg second round Champions League tie finished goal less in Marseille just days after United beat non-league Crawley Town 1-0 through a Wes Brown goal. It was a disappointing performance from the likes of Bebe and Gabriel Obertan.
(PL) Chelsea 2 – 1 United
(PL) Liverpool 3 – 1 United
(FA) United 2 – 0 Arsenal
(CL) United 2 – 1 Marseille
(PL) United 1 – 0 Bolton Wanderers
March was huge for the Red Devils and it started with four very awkward looking games. Away games at Stamford Bridge and Anfield came before a visit to Old Trafford by Arsenal and then Marseille in the cup competitions.
The very first day of the month saw United play Chelsea and it was a very good performance but the second defeat of the league season was to follow a promising start. The ever improving Rooney put United one up on the half hour mark before Chelsea’s new defensive signing David Luiz equalised. The Blues were then awarded a questionable penalty which Frank Lampard converted to give Chelsea a huge boost. Fergie was not happy at the end of the game and his comments about the referee, Martin Atkinson saw the boss given a touchline ban. He would sit out some vital games.
Next came the biggest rival, Liverpool, the team who United could surpass as the most successful domestic side with a 19th title this season. Liverpool had other ideas and on a disappointing afternoon Dirk Kuyt scored a hat trick for United’s second defeat of the week. It seemed like it was all falling apart.
United then had a break from league action and knew that a win against the Gunners in the FA cup would see them face a semi final at Wembley. United breezed pass Arsenal 2-0 with goals from Fabio da Silva and Wayne Rooney. They followed that up with a victory against Marseille to send them through to the quarter finals of the Champions League. United would play Chelsea in Europe and Manchester City at Wembley. Big games.
The month was rounded off in typical United fashion with a last minute Dimitar Berbatov goal at home to Bolton. An uncharacteristic Jussi Jaaskelainen mistake had set the Bulgarian up and he snapped up the chance to gain their first points of March. On to the business end of the season.
(PL) West Ham United 2 – 4 United
(CL) Chelsea 0 – 1 United
(PL) United 2 – 0 Fulham
(CL) United 2 – 1 Chelsea
(FA) Manchester City 1 – 0 United
(PL) Newcastle United 0 – 0 United
(PL) United 1 – 0 Everton
(CL) FC Schalke 04 0 – 2 United
The biggest month of the season was about to get underway. What happened in April would more or less decide where the trophies would end up come May.
There was a season defining game for West Ham and United at Upton Park at the beginning of the month. United’s away record looked as if it had cropped up again as West Ham took a 2-0 lead through Mark Noble’s two penalties. But whatever happened at half time really fired up Rooney who managed to bag a hat trick and a two game ban for swearing into the camera after the third goal. Hernandez ended the scoring and United won 4 – 2. Epic.
United picked up seven more Premier League points in April and set them on their way to title number 19. It was definitely squeaky bum time. A routine 2-0 victory at home to Fulham and a goal less draw at St James’ Park meant that victory over Everton was vital. United were threatening throughout but it was another late goal by Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez who sealed the victory. IT was a vital goal.
Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick were on fire in the Champions League in April as they tore apart Chelsea over two legs and in Germany against Schalke in the semi final. United were 1-0 victors at Stamford Bridge after a fantastic Rooney goal set up by Carrick and then Giggs gave them the lead. They held on as Chelsea struggled to threaten.
Torres started up front for the Blues in the return leg and they again struggled. Hernandez and Park scored the goals to put United through although a Didier Drogba reply did have bums squeaking. Schalke were waiting in the semi finals but United made light work of them in the away leg putting in a superb performance. It was only Manuel Neuer stopping the net from bulging until Giggs and then Rooney scored to put United on course for a Wembley final.
The one sore point of April was the Wembley semi final against Manchester City. Dimitar Berbatov missed two early chances and Nani hit the cross bar from a free kick but a solitary Yaya Toure goal sent City back to Wembley to play Stoke in the FA Cup final. It was a poor performance from United and that defeat hurt.
(PL) Arsenal 1 – 0 United
(CL) United 4 – 1 FC Schalke 04
(PL) United 2 – 1 Chelsea
(PL) Blackburn Rovers 1 – 1 United
(PL) United 4 – 2 Blackpool
(CL) Barcelona 3 – 1 United
May saw United battling on two fronts. They were one leg away from facing Real Madrid or Barcelona in the Champions League final and a couple of wins away from a 19th league title.
It didn’t start well as another lack lustre away performance saw United lose to Arsenal to give the Gunners hope of catching them. United replied with a breathtaking performance at home to Chelsea a week later. Hernandez scored within the first two minutes and Vidic doubled the lead 20 minutes later. Frank Lampard replied but United were strong and looked stunningly potent in attack with Park and Valencia in particular impressing.
The title was sealed the next Saturday lunch time away at Blackburn Rovers. Brett Emerton put Rovers ahead after sloppy play from reserve goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak and Jonny Evans left him free at the back post to slot home. United were then awarded a penalty which the in form Rooney converted and the point was enough to bring the title home. Both teams were playing for the draw and they got what they wanted.
Schalke were once more demolished in the Champions League by Fergie’s second string in the second leg of their semi final. It was the mid week before playing Chelsea so he thought he had done enough in Germany to secure progression. Valencia, Gibson and an Anderson double put them comfortably through to the final to then face Barcelona.
There was a party to be had on the last day of the season at home to Blackpool as Fergie had finally overturned Liverpool in domestic supremacy. Taunts to their scouser neighbours were heard all afternoon. United beat Blackpool 4 – 2 and unfortunately sent Ian Holloway’s team down to the Championship. They were 2-1 up and put on a spirited show this season and their entertaining brand of football will be missed.
Attentions quickly turned to the 28th May. Wembley for the Champions League final, the competition Fergie felt that he needed to do better in but they were not up against any old side in the final. This was a Barcelona side dubbed “the best ever” even before the game. They did not disappoint. United were outclassed. Pedro opened the scoring before a brilliant one-two between Giggs and Rooney sent United in at half time level. The Catalan’s fitness levels were much higher with their high pressing game and it eventually told on a tiring United. Messi and Villa rounded off the scoring and a good season ended in somewhat disappointment. Barcelona are the best team in the world and there is no shame losing to them.