Sunday, May 11, 2008

Striker gamble ensures United are back-to-back Champions, again ...

United retained the title at the JJB Stadium on Sunday after Ferguson once again gambled on the fitness of Wayne Rooney. The England striker didn't look to be 100% match sharp against Wigan especially in the opening twenty minutes, but unlike against Chelsea recently, this time the gamble paid-off handsomely as the former Everton star went on to win the Reds a first-half penalty and then lay on the second crucial goal for substitute Ryan Giggs.

Going into the game reports suggested that Rooney was an injury doubt, and exit bound Louis Saha's inclusion on the bench as insurance was further evidence that the Reds had concerns over starting with Rooney up top.

Ferguson now has a nice break before the Champions League final in Moscow on May 21st; it will be long enough to ensure that the players are rested and fully ready for the clash with Chelsea who have their own injury concerns over Drogba and skipper John Terry.

However, all thoughts on Moscow were put to one side going into the final league game with Wigan, it was win or bust for the Red Devils and all the talk centred on what Steve Bruce and his players would do. "In the name of fair play" many in the media tried their best to ensure that justice was seen to be done - while at the same time the media managed to more or less completely ignore Bolton's duty to perform against title challenger's Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The fear was that Wigan might roll-over for the Reds, those fears were completely washed away after the first 20 minutes at the JJB, with the home team edging the contest. United looked a bit nervy in the opening exchanges with Scholes and Carrick gifting the ball back to the other side and up top Rooney, Tevez and Ronaldo were giving the army of visiting fans little to shout about.

Rio Ferdinand (my man of the match) was given the benefit of the doubt by referee Bennett with a dubious looking hand-ball decision inside the United penalty area. United would have had few complaints if a spot-kick had been given.

Then on 33 minutes a United attack led to Rooney being decked in the Wigan penalty area and this time the referee pointed to the spot. Ronaldo scored in some style to ease the Reds nerves, but not long after Scholes who had already been booked made another late and stupid trademark challenge, worst case it could have cost United the title, but bizarrely Bennett only lectured the former England star on this occasion.

There was the usual post-match inquest on Bennett's performance, this a referee who has made some awful decisions against United over the last few seasons, was he attempting to redress the balance somewhat, or was it that Bennett did not want to court yet more controversy given he'd sent off Ronaldo twice? Whatever it was the stopped Bennett issuing a red card to Scholes he may well be back on Fergie's Christmas card list.

Having already given United a penalty they were denied a cast-iron second-half spot-kick when Scholes was hacked down by Bramble and once again it was Rooney who'd supplied the killer pass, but this time Bennett gave the benefit of the doubt to Wigan. Steve Bruce later described the referee's performance as 'horrific', objective United fans couldn't argue really; the rest will not care one jot...

Giggsy came on to equal Bobby Charlton's all-time United appearance record and he fittingly hammered the final nail into Chelsea's title hopes when scoring on 80 minutes following United's best move of the game which again ended with Rooney supplying the killer pass.

The Giggs finish was exemplary, like the Ronaldo penalty it was coolness personified. The Welshman first checked that he was onside while at the same time realising that he was in space, before receiving the Rooney pass then turning after just one touch and firing smartly beyond the reach of Kirkland to send the Red Army into raptures.

The fact that Giggs has matched Charlton's record is nothing short of remarkable in the modern game; it was the perfect way to end to this game on what turned out to be a magical day.

Giggs is now being rightly held up as a model professional both on and off the pitch, the fans are hoping that he goes one better in Moscow and helps to secure that elusive Champions League trophy.

Back at the JJB the news just got better when it emerged that Bolton had equalised at Stamford Bridge and with it came the knowledge that the race for the title had been finally won.

The joyous scenes at the end of this game showed exactly how much this title victory meant to everyone at the club. Ferguson hasn't celebrated like he did at the JJB since the win in Champions League final in Barca in 1999. It's the perfect 10 now for Fergie and the speculation is that he might carry on until he's won another couple in doing so overtaking rival's Liverpool.

We can now look forward to the trip to Moscow with something to show for a season's hard graft, failure to do so yesterday was unthinkable given the task ahead.

The experts are saying this has been the most competitive top division in England ever. Few, perhaps only Liverpool fans would argue...

For most of the campaign Arsenal have played some great football and only ended up four points behind United. Chelsea after an unbelievable end to the season finished just two points behind the Champions. All three clubs have had to endure injuries to key players. Gunners fans will be wondering what would have happened if Eduardo had not had his leg broken. United lost Rooney and Vidic and Chelsea have lost Drogba, Carvahlo, Ballack and Terry.

Yet for all the injury problems coupled with the criticism of the Premier League, we had three teams in the quarter finals of the Champions League and two in the final.

For these reasons United can look back with pride at their wonderful achievement of retaining the title. As Mark Lawrenson opined on MOTD2 "They've scored the most goals, let the least in, United never give up, they always attack you - they only know how to play one way" and that isn't a bad summary even for a plastic Scouser...


  1. Well done!!!

    Truly deserving for a team that has played with passion, pride, stylish and elegant.

    This is how I would like the word Champions to be defined.

    Now lets get the big one Moscow shall we.

    As a passionate Carlos Tevez fan, I'm a happy man. He deserves this finest moment, perhaps the best possible to look back in his career.

    I've made a special tribute to him on my blog. Would certainly appreciate all Man Utd supporter to drop some comment about him on my blog.

    Your thoughts/opinion will be highly appreciated...

  2. Great performance by United, although the referee and United themselves could have handed the game to Wigan.

    We must also note that we have also had the luck of champions this season, and Arsenal fans will no doubt complain that their injury worries were far more serious than those of United or Chelsea. However, the fact that injuries matters so much means that they had a thin squad on offer in the first place.

    Park came back only on the knockout phase against Roma, and Saha just takes wages for enjoying the club's facilities. Vidic's and Rooney's injuries took extraordinary efforts from the squad to overcome, and Vidic's inspirational performance at the JJB is testament to that fact.

    Also, we must note that United have not only played brilliant attacking football, but they have also played defensive football when they need to, I have noticed this especially in Champions League games. They have beaten Italian teams at their own game, Roma, and have beaten former European champions only so long ago by tactically shutting down the game (1-0 on aggregate is no reflection on playing only 'attacking football'.)

    As champions, they are as good a team of the ball (sans Scholes), as they are with the ball, and that fact has accounted for their tremendous defensive performances over the whole season.

    Overall, Ferguson will surely finish the job at Moscow, and we shall see where we go from there.

    Ferguson is still say he doesn't want to retire by the way, has he proven himself if he gets the double?

  3. Uday, good comments. I agree with everything you've written there. The only thing I'd add is that Fergie has proven himself domestically umpteen times, but in European that's another matter. His record in Europe isn't really that great given the number of times we have reached the latter stages of the CL. Though we have to give him credit for getting us into Europe so often.

  4. Uday, can you email me please:

    I have a question for you...

  5. I think Fergie will want two more titles (and another Champion's League title or two) before he walks.


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