As the final whistle blew at Old Trafford on 23th April, a massive cheer went up in the heart of every Red Devil across the globe. Manchester United defeated Aston Villa 3-0 to move 16 points clear at the top of the Premier League, thereby claiming the title for a record 20th time.
“We played Liverpool a couple of seasons ago when they were fighting for the title, we beat them and got to the league before them and they’ve not been seen since. That shows the mentality and character that this club has.”
– Rio Ferdinand (after the 3-0 win against Aston Villa)
What makes this title victory all the more spectacular is the fact that we took the trophy back from Manchester City, our once-upon-a-time noisy neighbours. We took back the trophy to its rightful home. United were smarting over losing the title last season in the last second to Man City, and that too on goal difference. Personally, I am pretty darned sure that even “The Trophy” had been singing this song in its heart all along this season:
Take me home, United Road
To a place that I belong;
To Old Trafford, to see United,
Take me home, United road!
Over the course of the season, supporters and pundits left and right have said that this Manchester United squad was most definitely not the best ever, in spite of Ferguson’s comments in January about this possibly being his best Manchester United team. Definitely debatable. This team does not have an Eric Cantona or a Roy Keane or a Cristiano Ronaldo. This team does not have a recognized central midfielder (bitch please, I say! Carrick is better than most out there, but we’ll discuss that some other time). This team also has a ‘dodgy’ goalkeeper. This team has a @rioferdy5 who is past his prime (apparently). Rooney is on the Wayne (again, apparently), our full-backs are not trustworthy and our wingers are shambolic. Turns out, all that we have is Robin van Persie. We are accused of being a one man team, in spite of having 19 different goal scorers. Oh, and a certain Welsh dinosaur played his 1000th game for United in midfield as well. Against Real Madrid, that too.
So what is it that this team really has? We do not have the flair of David Silva, nor are we the “Champion’s League winner” Eden Hazard moved to. We do not have a certain now-nutmegging-then-handballing cannibal, nor do we have Le Professeur’s ever-lasting, ill-placed faith in players blessed with foreheads wider than the current gap between Manchester United and Man City (let us all please forget that United ever signed players like Bebe and Obertan, okay?). So, again, what is it that this team really has, apart from the various faces of Phil Jones?
It is said that a great leader is not necessarily the one who does great things. He’s the one that gets the people to do great things. We have this 71 year old colossus of a football manager at the helm of our club, who funnily does the exact same thing. He goes by the name Sir Alex Ferguson (He also happens to have a knighthood, you see). He has this insatiable hunger for trophies and chewing gum. I think the mere sight of SAF getting up from his seat in the dugout and walking to the technical area is enough to make the players run harder on the field already! What this great man has brought to Manchester United is what makes this club the dominant force it is. As for what he considers his greatest challenge, I think we all know that famous quote:
‘My greatest challenge is not what’s happening at the moment, my greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f***ing perch. And you can print that.’
– Sir Alex Ferguson, 2002
In sports, sometimes you just have to grind out result after result. You have to persevere. You have to be resilient. The fact that Manchester United could win 3 points game after game, in spite of not being at their best, spoke all that had to be said about the team’s determination to win back the title from the worst possible team that could have won it.
I refuse to entertain talks about how the rest of the league being inferior is a reason for us having won the title with 4 games remaining. It is definitely not Ferguson’s fault if Man City decided to buy Scott Sinclair and Chelsea decided to buy Victor Moses (and appoint Bubba Ray Dudley as interim manager). It is definitely not Ferguson’s fault if Jay Spearing and Charlie Adam weren’t good enough for Liverpool. It is most definitely not Ferguson’s fault if Arsenal will have to give a guard of honour to Robin van Persie, who won his first ever career league title at Old Trafford.
“United have been a machine who have kept killing. We haven’t. They were always going to come back strongly, and we intended to do the same. It’s just how the season panned out.”
– Manchester City goalkeeper, Joe Hart
20 English league titles. Of these, SAF and Ryan Giggs themselves have 13 each – equal to the number of titles Arsenal has won in their 120+ years of league football. With 84 points, and 4 games to go, we just might win all of them and finish at a record 96 points. Forgive me, but sometimes statistics simply have to be mentioned, for they speak for themselves. So much for not being the best team in the Premier League. That’s just us, Manchester United.
Not arrogant, just better