The Guardian’s Rob Smyth has a fascinating article where he eats humble pie and ranks Manchester United’s nine Premiership titles.
Curiously enough, I have also given this matter a lot of thought over the weekend. I place this title second after Alex Ferguson’s very first Premiership victory back in 1992-1993. Not because that team was better (it wasn’t) but because of all the history, the expectation, the broken dreams, the false dawns in preceding 26 years and the satisfaction of lifting the title and finally knocking Liverpool off their perch.
However, I was living in hope rather than expectation for this campaign. Chelsea had won the title (easily) for the past two seasons and strengthened further with the summer acquisitions of Ballack and Shevchencko.
United had significantly paid over the odds for Michael Carrick. I questioned the wisdom of offloading Ruud van Nistlerooy and feared Paul Scholes’ best days were behind him. I was convinced Ole’s next goal would be in his testimonial and doubted Ferguson’s assessment of Patrice Evra ability who I considered no better than Silvestre.
United had a fair share of luck in this campaign; Ferguson’s squad remained injury free for the majority of the season, the goalkeeping error and Neville own goal at Everton, Vassell’s missed penalty. The list goes on.
However, United did play some fantastic football this season (Fulham on the opening day, Roma, Bolton away) and Cristiano Ronaldo’s first-half display against Bolton was absolutely superb. Playing and winning the United way.
Ferguson’s luck deserted him towards the end of the season with injuries to a watertight defence coupled with Van der Saar’s shattered nose (and confidence). The gulf between the sides in the two legged semi-final against AC Milan was embarrassing.
If Chelsea had won the title three years in a row, I think the gulf between them and the rest would have widened still further and been even harder to bridge. It’s tempting to think Chelsea were decimated by injuries mid-season but they actually lost fewer games (3) than United and have an incredibly strong squad.
The various points totals from each campaign make interesting reading. United already have 88 points with two games left which is the third highest total (behind 92 points in 93-94 and 91 in 99-00). I think it illustrates how high Chelsea have raised the standards required to win the Premiership and what a fantastic achievement winning it really is.
Up The Reds !