By Mark Young
It is finally time to stand up and salute the Champions elect. Controversial penalty decisions and Manchester City throwing a huge point gap away should no longer be acknowledged as Manchester United stand on the brink of a twentieth league title.
There have been all sorts of mutterings and moaning since Sunday about how Sean Derry was sent off when he shouldn’t have been. Fair enough but before that sending off it wasn’t as if QPR were playing an expansive and exciting style of football that was troubling United. I remember United having a mere 92% of possession within the first ten minutes so clearly that was not going to be a game changing decision. With eleven men Rooney and Co would have probably scored more than two because if anything, United switched off at 1-0.
United do get a lot of 50/50 decisions in their favour at Old Trafford but so do all big teams with partisan crowds. It is very rare that an opposition player at the Bernabeu or at the Camp Nou or even at Stamford Bridge get decisions going the home sides way.
This is a debate that could go on for a while but the fact of the matter is that this Manchester United team, a team in transition and bursting with potential could well end up with a record points total in what is apparently the most competitive league in the world.
There are arguments to suggest otherwise but when English clubs do well in Europe we are the best, according to most.
Sir Alex Ferguson needs to be given a great deal of credit for what has happened this season. When City won 6-1 at Old Trafford in an early stage of the season it looked like the season was going one way and one way only but with a string of tightly fought games including a few scrappy 1-0’s they gave themselves a chance.
City were beating everyone left and right at a canter but United were scrapping for three points and got them a lot of the time. The amount of times United have had a sequence of scrappy victories on the road to winning championships is unbelievable. It is the know how of winning when you are on the back foot that Ferguson instils in these players.
Nemanja Vidic had been ruled out until next season in December and the Champions League was a distant memory as more doom and gloom seemed to preside over Old Trafford.
Ferguson found a partnership that at the beginning of the season didn’t look likely in Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans, the latter starting to fulfil his early promise. He is now a key man and his future at The Theatre of Dreams seems secure whether it is back up to Vidic and Ferdinand next term or first choice centre back, he has proved himself a vital fixture of the back line.
Another consistent performer at the heart of United this season has been Michael Carrick. The former Tottenham man wasn’t getting a look in at the start of the season as Anderson and Tom Cleverley looked to be building a solid and exciting partnership in the centre of an ambitious and attacking United team but when there were injuries and troubled times Ferguson called upon Carrick to dictate play and bring a steady head into proceedings. The Geordie fitted the bill perfectly and is someone else who will continue at Old Trafford next term.
To the right of Carrick we have the explosive Ecuadorian, Antonio Valencia. He has had some injury problems but since December his form has been sensational, especially in this home stretch where he has been immense. Away at Wolves and away at Blackburn were two games where he shone and he will continue to do so as he is now one of the first names on the team sheet.
David De Gea has also shown his outstanding talent since Anders Lindegaard was injured and is a far cry from the goal keeper that struggled against Blackburn on New Years Eve. He is getting stronger, older and better. He is a number one for at least the next decade.
These four have been key as has the Sir Alex Ferguson masterstroke in bringing back Paul Scholes. Patrick Vieira described it as weak but someone needs to ask him how if United are unbeaten since his return and on course for a title it show weakness? Someone across Manchester must be regretting these words but if City showed the strength to realise their weaknesses then we may still have a close title race on our hands.
David Silva was close to burn out and players picking up injuries. Carlos Tevez returning was a good move for a desperate man so why didn’t Mancini select him to play? Just because it should have been a good move doesn’t make it right. Balotelli is seemingly an accident waiting to happen hence why Mourinho couldn’t handle him but the young Italian is now a scapegoat and City can try and pin the blame on this meteoric crash on him but they shouldn’t.
Mancini has struggled to handle the pressure of United breathing down their necks every step of the way. He has to go because of the nature of the crash. He has looked out of control and his trust in Balotelli may have lost him the dressing room.
But enough about City, this is a time to praise United and Ferguson and the supporting cast for an unbelievable job. If this is one of the worst title winning United teams ever wouldn’t it be ironic if they broke records. With Wigan, City and Sunderland still to play away and Aston Villa, Everton and Swansea all visiting it would not be a surprise if the title was won at a landslide. If this was to happen then this team might finally start to get some credit.
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