Championship won, Sir Alex’ hard work starts here

Champions 2013

It really never gets boring, this lark of winning Premier League titles. Some 13 have now come during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign; the latest after his side beat Aston Villa 3-0 at Old Trafford on Monday night.

Perhaps none will be quite as giddily received as that in 1993, not after Steve Bruce’s late late double. Nor will there be as much euphoria as that generated in 1999, when the Premier League was achieved as the first leg of the treble. But make no mistake, this year is special. Special for every reason that last season’s loss was so traumatic.

Manchester City’s last-gasp victory in May 2012 hurt. And despite supporters’ bravado of the past week there was no genuine sense that the Blues had become but temporary custodians of United’s trophy. Not last summer at least.

Yet, Sir Alex’ side responded to last season’s defeat with a campaign of consistent performances. At times the genuine determination required to drag points out of nothing has also shone.

“Focus,” as Sir Alex calls it – not least his side’s ability to come back from opening-day defeat at Everton and win 25 Premier League matches in the next 29.

By stark contrast Roberto Mancini’s is a side that capitulated amid a flurry of infighting, complacency and rank poor man management. In that there is certainly a sense of smug satisfaction among the Old Trafford faithful, with City breaking down into bitter recrimination that may still result in Mancini departing this summer.

In fact, while the data says that in most key areas United hasn’t truly improved on last season – goals scored, passing statistics, attacking numbers and the rest – Mancini’s side has gone backwards. The Italian might end the campaign with another FA Cup, but there are some serious questions to be answered about his stewardship.

Abnormally, there has been scarcity of drama over the past eight months. No pivotal moment, no great clash between rivals to seal the title, nor a last gasp winner that has proven decisive. In truth there’s been little doubt about the Premier League’s destination since February.

United’s consistency ensured that.

“You can go on and on about losing the title,” Ferguson said in the aftermath of Monday’s victory.

“At the end of the day, our consistency for the last 20 years has been unbelievable. This club never gives in. From Sir Matt Busby, the Munich Disaster, to rebuilding and to win the European Cup, that tells you the history of United..”

“I think the focus of the team was good. The focus on the challenge from City. It’s amazing, 13th championship in the Premier League. Our consistency has won us the league.”

Still, it is a triumph that falls short of Ferguson’s very best: those of 1993, 1999 and 2008. Each redefined the club’s history. This year’ will do nothing of the sort, with a fair suspicion that the side is far from Ferguson’s finest.

That a certain stardust is missing is in not doubt. Since Christmas Ferguson’s side has retrenched into it’s shell – a  functional unit bent on claiming points. It is questionable whether this side will be revered in 20 years.

It is an assertion rejected by the Reds’ 71-year-old coach, who maintains that his current vintage compares favourably with any of United’s past.

“Nostalgia plays tricks in people’s minds,” adds Ferguson.

“The amount of times you’ve said ‘when I was a boy, things weren’t the same’. It’s nostalgia. Put it in context, we’ve got 84 points from 34 games, we’ve never done that.”

If there is an absence of magic then at least one player has made a real difference during the campaign. Robin van Persie’s 28 goals in all competitions has shaped a season, although it is the Dutchman’s charisma that has added most – a calming influence spawning a belief that a goal will come when required. It so often has.

There will also be words for Michael Carrick come the campaign’s end. The Geordie has once again held United’s midfield together with performances that now draw long past due eulogies.

Mention in dispatches is also reserved for the fast maturing Rafael da Silva and United’s outstanding young goalkeeper David de Gea. And with Danny Welbeck and Phil Jones also enjoying Ferguson’s enduring support, the Scot retains a strong base from which to build.

But the hangover of glory will be short-lived. It is the Fergusonian way. By May’s end thoughts will already have turned to retaining United’s Premier League title next season, and mapping out a route to one final night of European glory.

The latter depends on how United strengthens over the summer, with the Reds’ midfield in no shape to take on Europe’s finest. United might have been unlucky to exit at Real Madrid’s hands, but it is a fool’s errand to argue that Ferguson’s side is the continent’s best.

Potential summer moves for Borussia Dortmund’s Polish striker Robert Lewandowski and Benfica’s Argentinian defender Ezikiel Garay will do little to enforce United’s soft underbelly.

But will Ferguson break an six year streak and sign a midfielder? With Anderson’s time done, Darren Fletcher unlikely to return, and Paul Scholes surely on his way to a second retirement, it would be negligent not to.

Moreover, the domestic challenge will surely be stronger next season. In Abu Dhabi, City’s owners will unleash the state’s sovereign wealth once again. It is, after all, not much use owning a vanity football club if the team is beaten by such a distance. Clear blue water, Sheikh bin Zayed Al Nahyan might call it.

Chelsea may be a different beast, but owner Roman Abramovich, having spent not far off £200 million over the past two seasons, may have the taste for glory again. This will certainly be true if José Mourinho returns from six years in the continental wilderness.

On the continent Bayern Munich this week announced the arrival of German wunderkind Mario Götze, while Barcelona and Real Madrid are sure to invest heavily once again.

It is a challenge at home and abroad that will fuel Ferguson into a 27th campaign in charge at Old Trafford.

“The manager has great desire and a winning mentality,” said Wayne Rooney, whose own future is as yet unresolved.

“We all buy into that and want to do well for the club. When you lose the title, it’s hard to take. The way we did it wasn’t a nice feeling last time so we’ve all dug in deep and all worked together.”

But in football, Rooney also argued, it is foolish to take anything for granted – a good message for the summer. Ferguson now has an opportunity to build from the front. Once again England’s finest, the side everybody else must chase. Ferguson wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Comments

  1. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    We might buy, but it won’t be one of the big names… like you said, Bayern are now the team to chase, and Real, Barca, City, Chelsea, PSG… will all spend heavy… we won’t be able to compete… “no value in the market”…

    Hopefully Zaha is for real…

  2. Adam says

    In just one day Bayern Munich have raised the bar. They have smashed Barcelona 4-0 and now have one foot and a half in the Champions League final. On top of that, they have signed one of the most promising young midfielders in the world for £31 million, and they signed him from there main domestic rival. Its was an incredible performance and a really impressive signing for Bayern Munich.

    If we thought the challenge of catching Barcelona was difficult, the challenge of taking on this Bayern Muncih team is probably greater. They are a formidable outfit and are continuing to spend heavily in order to make their team strong and stronger. They splashed out 40 million euro to sign Javi Martinez last summer, and are already favorites to sign Robert Lewondowski.

    I’m starting to sound like I’m in love with Bayern, but I’m just stating that the challenge ahead is great. We did fantastically well to win the title, but the Champions League is a different kettle of fish, and our team currently is not at the level needed to win this competition. The hard work does start now and Ferguson will have to stretch the bar again in the transfer market if he wants to challenge Europe’s top dogs.

    We are one of the biggest and strongest teams in the world, alongside Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but we need to go strong in the transfer marker. We have a massive challenge domestically fighting Man City and Chelsea, which makes the need to make strong signings even greater. Of course I’m not talking about an overhaul, but I do believe 4 new signings are needed if the Champions League is to be a reality. There will be departures like Nani and hopefully Anderson. Scholes and Fletcher should call it a day. Rooney is the big question mark now.

    We have seen Munich go out and spend hard on strong midfielders, and we need to do the same now. We need a strong central midfielder and also a new wide attacking midfielder to join this summer.

    • Prakash K says

      I couldn’t have articulated the challenge that lies ahead any better, Adam. Bayern is the new Barcelona, and with Guardiola to join their ranks next season, watch how he turns Mario Goetze into the next complete footballer, like Messi. It is nothing short of astonishing that we have managed to get this far over the last few seasons with such a soft underbelly. While Michael Carrick deserves fair credit for improving this season, our central midfield pales in comparison to the likes of Bayern, Barca, Real, and quite frankly City as well. Why Fergusun insists on not buying a powerful force of nature like Yaya Toure is beyond me. Not giving Pogba sufficient games and letting him go, while playing Wellbeck ahead of Hernandez I will never understand either. Pogba (agree he has a bit of an attitude problem) could have been our Toure.

      I suppose this is not the time to be questioning the Master’s thinking seeing that he has delivered another Premier League title with an at best, slightly above average team (with the exception of RVP, Vidic and Ferdinand of course).

      However, our constant failure at the highest level of continental stage clearly needs to be addressed if SAF wants to retire with at least one more Champions League trophy in the trophy cabinet.

      For the love of God, SAF needs to stop being stubborn for the sake of it, and get us one or two solid central midfielders. Else, he can kiss all dreams of further CL glory goodbye.

  3. bman says

    I’ve a feeling that Modric will be our “big signing” and Fergie’s solution for central midfield. Seems weird that he’d be for sale already, but Madrid are like that, there’s a lot of chatter about it for a while now, it is seems like the kind of thing that Fergie would do. Modric, Zaha, Draxler, some defender and a back-up goalie, that’s my guess for what our summer spending will look like. Ando, Nani, Lindegaard, etc out. Hernandez might force a move too.

  4. FanaticRed says

    We have a huge challenge ahead of us next season to be up there among the very best in europe, and we need to set our sights on the very best to strengthen our squad. I know this is a longshot but wouldn’t bale be just perfect? The flair player to complement Carrick’s control and Van Persie’s finishing, but its virtually impossible with his price tag, and getting him would mean that we’d have to sacrifice signing a Central midfielder, but if there is one person who can do that and make it work, its sir Alex.

  5. Pikey McScumPikey McScum says

    captainhormone said:
    Tbf the 3 posts above are pretty much spot on..well done

    The post below the 3 posts above was pretty poor in comparison

    tbf

  6. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadffs says

    tbf bayern play the football we used to play
    massive bollocks in midfield with schweinsteiger and martinez, xfactor an pace on the wings and up front
    we’re about four players off that, all in midfield
    taggarts love of playing players out of position and his loyalty to past it players and average dross means we’ll get a striker and rooney can get used to coming off after an hour shattered

    LKHF

    faffing

  7. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    We’ve got a top young keeper, good strength and depth in defence, some real quality up front…
    And absolute shite, right across the middle… and that’s the way it’s been for years…
    It is simply incredible how Ferguson has ignored the midfield year after year… everyone with half a football brain has been pointing to our midfield as a weakness, but Ferguson claims he’s happy with his squad… “best he’s ever had” he claims… but then he has to bodge, and shift players all about, to make a midfield that he obviously knows he doesn’t have…
    Why he won’t sign class in midfield, only he knows… but it’s the lies/spin/ politics that I’m getting sick of.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  8. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadffs says

    anderson hargreaves carrick kleberson djemba and veron have been his last six midfield signings, its clearly a blind spot, in that time rooney jones giggs phil neville oshea rio park rafael jones have all been used in midfield
    he knows its shite of he wouldnt have brought back scholes
    he’ll ignore it though and keep championing jones and substandard players from the youth side, after fletcher gibson and clev its probably tunnicliffes turn next year

    LKHF

    faffing

    • Jim says

      Yeah the midfield signings going all the way back to Veron won’t be on the positive side of the ledger when Ferguson’s years as manager of United are looked back on.Only Carrick can be called anywhere near a success. Really unlucky with Hargreaves, but he was a risky signing. in the first place With regards to the rest,there was a lot of money blown on shite.
      One other signing unc., I think belongs on this list, was the great Liam Miller.

  9. han says

    all this anti SAF sentiments used to wind me up & notwithstanding he has worked a minor miracle with limited players in midfield, i still can’t understand why pogba was left out last season and left to depart; morrisson is another matter but if SAF could handle the likes of Cantona & Keane, then that was a small fish in comparison…

  10. Denton Davey says

    Alfonso Bedoya @ 10:15: “We might buy, but it won’t be one of the big names”

    I’d agree with that.

    I’d like to think that TheWayneBoy can be given the ScholesRole and that will give Chicharito more playing-time.

    I’ve lost patience with Anderson and am “frustrated” with Nani who has great skills but seems to be mentally-weak and/or injury-prone. Don’t get me started on Ashley Young who is, unfortunately, un-sellable. AV7 could be “the new ThreeLungPark”.

    With regard to “won’t be big names” – rumours on the GuardianOnline (and elsewhere) suggest that SAF is looking at both Nigel De Jong the DutchDestroyer and Joleon Lescott, who is left-footed, can play centrally or as the left-sided full back, is good in the air and might provide very useful squad depth which probably means that SAF isn’t impressed with the kids, although maybe Fabio might be good enough to step up.

    I can see the “logic” in those rumours – neither De Jong nor Lescott is a big name but both are solid professionals with a lot of experience of playing in the EPL and winning a championship. Those two additions would be squad-depth which would allow MrJones and BigManSmalling more time to step up to the level needed for UTD to be able to transition away from the remarkable Rio/Vidic partnership in the heart of the defence.

    • ForeverRed says

      The last thing we need is more squad players. We need midfielders who would command a starting role in the best teams in Europe. Nothing else will suffice if the Champions League is our goal.

  11. Denton Davey says

    uncleknobhead @ 10:08: “bayern play the football we used to play
    massive bollocks in midfield with schweinsteiger and martinez”

    Schweini is the best midfielder while Javi Martinez was a very, very, very astute off-season recruit – real quality (often you get what you pay for !)

    It was a joy-and-a-pleasure to see ThePanzers stuff Barcelona; more so because Barca are now a shadow of the team that toyed with UTD in 2011. Emperor’s Old Clothes ? MessiDependencia ??

  12. Leroy Cain says

    I can see us trying and probably failing for Fellaini, trying and maybe getting Wanyama, and not trying but getting anyway a bloody Jorge Mendes client for inflated amounts…

  13. captainhormonecaptainhormone says

    Commenter said:
    I can see us trying and probably failing for Fellaini, trying and maybe getting Wanyama, and not trying but getting anyway a bloody Jorge Mendes client for inflated amounts…

    Translated for rant

    I can see us trying and probably failing to get that cunt Fellini, trying and maybe getting that shithouse cunt Wankyamama, and not trying but getting anyway a fucking Jorge Mendez cunt got shitloads more than we need when we could have got mata for the same amount….fergie you gin soak shitcunt bastard twat

  14. says

    Good posts, and lots of good discussion

    Errr

    This is Uniterant.co.uk… right?

    I’m with most of the board, Young is damaged goods and I’m not sure we can sell him, Ando and Nani will be gone, Fletcher and Scholes will surely retire, Giggs is 20 games a season of quality and 10 of meh. Valencia needs to get his head right, Zaha better be up to muster, Powell has been underused, Cleverley is awesome quality and needs good game time.

    A midfielder must be the top priority, and a top one at that. It doesn’t need to be a fancy one, like Kagawa – it needs to be a nails, cajones the size of the moon style midfielder.

    De Jong would be a fantastic signing, mainly because he is a hard no nonsense eat my studs vicious barsteward who can also pass a ball further than 10 yards.

  15. Pikey McScumPikey McScum says

    Ben Hulston said:
    This is Uniterant.co.uk… right?

    If it burns when you pee and your arse resembles a cheese grater then you’re probably in the right place tbf

  16. Just1n says

    De Jong would be a great signing. Real DM. City missed a trick when they replaced him with that useless Garcia but we will need a DM plus a CM.

  17. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Just1n said:
    De Jong would be a great signing. Real DM. City missed a trick when they replaced him with that useless Garcia but we will need a DM plus a CM.

    Plus a RM and a LM.

  18. Just1n says

    De Jong would be a great signing. Real DM. City missed a trick when they replaced him with that useless Garcia but we will need a DM plus a CM.

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    Plus a RM and a LM.

    We should get the French youngster who is shining for Juve tbf

    Missed a trick right there. To busy trying to get Giggs and Scholes extensions ffs

  19. Denton Davey says

    Ben Hulston @ 4:47: “De Jong would be a fantastic signing, mainly because he is a hard no nonsense eat my studs vicious barsteward who can also pass a ball further than 10 yards.”

    Nigel De Jong was a striker when he was a kid at Ajax; he was moved into midfield because, like BigBadLeroyBrown, he was the meanest man in the whole damn town.

    He’s got adequate “offensive skills” and, while crude, is a rock-solid DM – being crude doesn’t seem to have impaired Sergio Ramos’ career !

    Pikey MCScum @ 1:54 – I’m old enough to be your daddy, if you know what I mean !

  20. Coach Herbie says

    Dortmund just destroyed Real Madrid and Lewandowski scored all 4 goals. That means now SAF will step up to buy Lewandowski or Falcao because after this heavy defeat, Mourinho will be out the door and on his way to Chelsea.
    SAF said that with Mourinho at Chelsea, Chelsea will be our biggest threat next season. Man City and Chelsea will spend big this summer and SAF will spend big also, he has no other choice! Watch and see. We have more money to spend this season than we did last season. SAF will move early for players before the bidding wars set in.

  21. Denton Davey says

    Coach Herbie @ 11:37: “SAF will move early for players before the bidding wars set in.”

    The deals are likely to be already done.

  22. Jim says

    If United were ever in the running for Lewandowski, then his performance last night has probably priced them out of the market.

  23. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadffs says

    tbf even if we sorted the midfield out we’re still miles away from that quality of football while we have a manager happy with hoofball and crossing dross, its like a different sport ffs

  24. Pikey McScumPikey McScum says

    Commenter said:
    Pikey MCScum @ 1:54 – I’m old enough to be your daddy, if you know what I mean !

    Seems they’ll let any inbred, retarded fuckwit be a daddy then

  25. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Commenter said:
    If United were ever in the running for Lewandowski, then his performance last night has probably priced them out of the market.

    I’ve seen rumours that Bayern have him signed as well…

  26. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    uncleknobheadffs said:
    tbf even if we sorted the midfield out we’re still miles away from that quality of football while we have a manager happy with hoofball and crossing dross, its like a different sport ffs

    That’s the real problem, isn’t it?… and it’s why Fergie would rather play Jones or Rooney in midfield… he doesn’t know how to use the new class of midfielders.

  27. Pikey McScumPikey McScum says

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    I’ve seen rumours that Bayern have him signed as well…

    Yeah, seems to be doing the rounds now

    Gutted, as we really could have been doing with another striker…

  28. Just1n says

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    That’s the real problem, isn’t it?… and it’s why Fergie would rather play Jones or Rooney in midfield… he doesn’t know how to use the new class of midfielders.

    yep , I agree with this. Wonder how much it will help if we get a continental assistant coach with some fresh ideas but then will Fergie even listen.

  29. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Just1n said:
    yep , I agree with this. Wonder how much it will help if we get a continental assistant coach with some fresh ideas but then will Fergie even listen.

    That won’t happen either… Ferguson has had some good assistants, but the better they are, the more chance of them getting offers to manage their own club… he’s got a loyal arse licker in Big Mike now, and as long as Phelan wants the job, he’ll keep it… and what’s worse, I think Phelan will at least, be considered for Fergies job when the old drunk finally packs it in.

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