Season review and ratings 2009/10

May 10, 2010 Tags: , Opinion 29 comments

Manchester United’s season closed with a win over to Stoke City yesterday afternoon; the bittersweet taste of success tempered by the title heading to London after more than 1000 days in Manchester. If the season’s outcome was somewhat inevitable after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo then at least the side’s shortcomings are clear.

Remedy is perhaps a creative midfielder, some thought away and better luck with injuries away. Whether Sir Alex Ferguson has either the financial means or desire to invest in the transfer market is moot.

United’s league form has largely frustrated. Five defeats before Christmas threatened to derail the Reds’ campaign. In earlier seasons so many pre-Christmas defeats may have ended the title bid. This time round competitors’ inability to find any consistency kept the race close.

Some of United’s performances before the year’s turn – think Aston Villa at home and the catastrophic loss to Fulham at Craven Cottage – were hampered by injury to key defenders including Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Nemanja Vidic.

Indeed, injury has been a season’s theme, with a dozen players missing at least a month this campaign. Perhaps relying on squad over-filled with aging stars­ and those with a history of injury means that the crisis should have been far less surprising than it seems to many supporters, unprecedented in scale though it was.

The end of 2009 was not wholly gloomy. One of the season’s highlights came in the autumn – the stunning 96th minute Michael Owen winner against Manchester City at Old Trafford. Owen’s acquisition on a free transfer worth it for that moment of magic alone, although the former Liverpool forward contributed little else. Former  United favourite Mark Hughes called foul over the official’s timekeeping. He was proven wrong and departed his job before January was out.

United coasted through a Champions League group that brought few highlights. Defeat to Besiktas at home in United’s fifth game necessitated a stunning performance against Wolfsburg in Germany with a back three that included Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher.

As the year turned, defenders rehabilitated and Edwin van der Sar returned to the side, United’s performances picked up, save for the humiliating FA Cup third round loss to Leeds United at Old Trafford in January.

It was however, United’s Carling Cup semi-final two-legged victory over City that sparked some life into Ferguson’s campaign. Victory over Villa followed in the final at Wembley, although Vidic’s foul on Gabriel Agbonlahor could have brought yet another dismissal for the Serbian.

Victory in Milan in the Champions League first knockout round and then again at Old Trafford brought even greater belief, while David Beckham’s decision to don a green and gold protest scarf sparked a storm of media coverage. When has the former United midfielder not?

It proved a false dawn though, with defeat at Everton in the Premier League, at home to Chelsea in April and the tame draw with Blackburn Rovers derailing United’s domestic season. Referees failed to help United’s cause but failure is an internal problem to address.

Ever greater disappointment came in Europe, with four goals shipped against a Bayern Munich side high on attacking endeavour but very low on defensive talent. That the Germans faced a distinctly average Olympique Lyonnais in the semi-final, with Barcelona beaten in the other half of the draw, only adds to the sense of frustration at Old Trafford.

An opportunity lost in a season of far too much mediocrity.

If United’s current side is far from a Ferguson vintage then a great deal of credit is earned for the team’s response to the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo and recovery from a severe injury crisis. Ferguson’s drive has, if anything, taken his team to greater heights this season than the squad should have achieved.

Indeed, United has scored more goals in the Premier League than last season and conceded fewer than any of its competitors over the course of the campaign. In all competitions United hit the back-of-the-net on 115 occasions, 11 more than Rant predicted at the season’s start, although the side’s 86 in the Premier League fell someway short of Chelsea’s 103.

The question that United supporters will now ask: what has management learned from a season that has failed to hit the peaks of the previous three and how the squad will progress from here?

The worry is that the board’s short-term goal may no longer be domestic and European superiority, even if Ferguson is absolutely focused on returning United to the top.

The board, burdened with £716.5 million of Glazer debt must cut costs and reduce transfer market spending. The American’s bond prospectus outlines just where the majority of United’s free cash will head for the next seven years – into debt repayment and mysterious management fees.

This season’s disappointment may – in the face of competitors’ planned transfer market assault in the coming summer months – become the norm.

It means United will rely heavily on the unproven talents of Federico Macheda, Mame Biram Diouf, Gabriel Obertan and Javier Hernandéz next season.

It is to Ferguson’s eternal credit that United came so close this season. Now he’ll need to squeeze even more out of the squad if United is to return to the top.

Rant’s Ratings

Sir Alex Ferguson –  7/10 – Ferguson’s assertion that he alone chose not to spend vast sums available from the sale of Ronaldo on established stars left United vulnerable to an aging squad, with unproven youngsters and cheap acquisitions. The serious charge that the Scot migrated his side to a tactical formation reliant on – or perhaps because of – Wayne Rooney’s form and fitness is proven; disastrously so once the Scouser succumbed to groin and ankle injuries late in the season. Worryingly Ferguson is talking up next season’s prospects without changing the make-up of his squad or adding additional class. His assertion that nobody bar Lionel Messi or Ronaldo would improve his squad is miles wide of the mark. Ferguson is still the master but he is working on limited resources. The frustration is that he won’t admit it.

Edwin van der Sar – 7/10 – another solid season after an injury and illness effected start. Will spend one further campaign at the club before retirement in June 2011.

Tomasz Kuszczak – 6/10 – an able deputy through the Autumn months, although only finances will dictate a permanent spot past van der Sar’s retirement.

Ben Foster – 4/10 – given his big chance at the season’s start, the former Stoke City ‘keeper largely disappointed with some high-profile mistakes and confidence sapping nervousness.

Gary Neville – 6/10 – remarkable comeback from the United veteran, whose determination is a lesson to the squad’s younger members. Poor against Bayern Munich and Chelsea in crucial games exposed his advancing years.

Rafael da Silva – 5/10 – injury has disrupted the youngster’s season with the Brazilian regressing this campaign. Positional naivety and a tendency to pull back speedier opponents must be stamped out.

John O’Shea – 6/10 – solid and dependable when fit. The Irishman will never generate headlines but a vital member of Ferguson’s wider squad.

Patrice Evra – 9/10 – another outstanding season from one of only a few genuine world-class talents at Ferguson’s disposal. Untied fans will hope that rumours of a transfer to Madrid this summer are without foundation.

Wes Brown – 6/10 – 29 games is one of Brown’s better efforts over a carrier blighted by injury once again. Solid at right-back or the centre of defence, Brown is still an important squad member.

Rio Ferdinand – 5/10 – the Londonder’s career is now at a crossroads. Ferdinand’s class is without doubt but injury has severely affected his form and appearances over the past 18 months. It looks chronic.

Nemanja Vidic – 6/10 – afflicted by a mystery nerve problem and a suspicion that the Serbian is no longer committed to the cause. Denials of a summer departure are not helped by an agent who continues to hawk the defender around Europe.

Jonny Evans – 7/10 – a new four-year contract rewards another season of progression from the Irishman.  Frustrating late autumn ankle injury caused a mid-season dip in form but Evans is now a genuine contender to permanently take over from Ferdinand.

Antonio Valencia – 8/10 – an outstanding début season at the club. Grew in confidence as the campaign progressed. He is no Ronaldo, of course, but Valencia’s long-term Old Trafford future is assured.

Darron Gibson – 5/10 – Ferguson is convinced but aside from the midfielder’s shooting, his distinct lack-of pace, wastefulness in possession and inadequate technique are worrying.

Nani – 7/10 – talk about a season of two halves. Poor before Christmas, Nani nearly left the club in January. Ferguson kept faith and Nani has excelled during the run-in. Further progression next season and Nani will become a hugely potent weapon.

Paul Scholes – 7/10 – still technically the finest midfielder of his generation. Give time and space Scholes will still dominate a match in a way no other midfielder can. Sadly he is rarely given such time and space these days. Will retire next summer.

Ryan Giggs – 6/10 – excellent in the opening weeks of the season, the Welshman’s performances have deteriorated post-Christmas. Worrying tendency to lose possession.

Anderson – 5/10 – billed as the Brazilian’s last chance by Rant, he’ll probably be given yet another one to prove he isn’t the expensive jack-of-all trades and master of none that many suspect.

Michael Carrick – 5/10 – by far the worst of Carrick’s four seasons at the club. At fault for two of Bayern’s goals in United’s Champions League exit. Regressed badly and may leave in the summer.

Darren Fletcher – 8/10 – that United have so rarely missed Owen Hargreaves’ dynamism is largely down to the Scot’s energy this season. One of the most improved players in the modern era and a certainty in Ferguson’s first eleven.

Gabriel Obertan – 4/10 – injury delayed the Frenchman’s debut before a run of promising cameos. Failed to make the side post-Christmas and at 21 must progress next year.

Owen Hargreaves – ? – less than 30 seconds of action. At least the former Bayern Munich player is now fit. We think.

Ji-Sung Park – 6/10 – dependable and energetic, United’s ‘defensive attacking midfielder’ is a little short on class but high on consistency and endeavour.

Wayne Rooney – 9/10 – a wonderful season from the Scouser, who has adapted to yet another new role in his six years at Old Trafford. PFA/FWA awards fully deserved for 34 goals this season. The striker failed to score post April injury against Munich.

Dimitar Berbatov – 5/10 – frustrating and brilliant but no longer in equal measure. The Bulgarian’s talents too often wasted or eliminated in a tactical system that does not suit him. He’s not lazy; he just doesn’t fit at Old Trafford.

Mame Biram Diouf – 4/10 – loads of goals in the reserve team point to a bright future but it hasn’t manifested itself yet. Injury has hampered his progress in six months at the club to date.

Federico Macheda – 4/10 – persistent injuries and reports of an attitude problem have limited the Italian’s progress. Much more is expected from the teenager next season.

Michael Owen – 5/10 – nine goals, including goals in the Carling Cup final and the derby, before succumbing to the utterly inevitable long-term hamstring injury the player’s history always suggested he would.


Munish Gupta - May 10, 2010 Reply

I totally agree with most of your ratings. But to challenge for next season, we definitely need some really good signings as few players are taking their places for granted and the younger ones are not yet up to the mark.

cantona7 - May 10, 2010 Reply

well.. i couldnt have agreed with you more..

Duncan - May 10, 2010 Reply

I could have disagreed more.

gazno77 - May 10, 2010 Reply

Can’t argue with most of those ratings (though I think Scholes’ 7 is generous, as a late-season renaissance has seemingly airbrushed the really patchy mid-season form from peoples’ memories) – but still love the ginger genius, though.

This season could have been a disaster with all our injury worries, but finishing a point behind a very decent Chelsea team and still managing to have the best defensive record in the league is something we can be upbeat about.

i won’t be sorry to see squad players like Park and Owen leave to give the youngsters a chance

realist - May 10, 2010 Reply

when did fergie say only messi and ronaldo could improve our squad? i think its you whos maybe wide of the mark. he simply said he wouldnt spend loads of money on players who werent worth it and remarked that ronaldo would and messi would be the kind of players that he would spend silly on, even tho its highly unlikely.
i,d say its a whole lot more clear today than it would have been to guess this time last season, on where the squad needs improving/changing, just like the boss has already stated he,s going to do.

realist - May 10, 2010 Reply

p.s. also, seen as our squad seem to have rated so poorly in your opinion. doesnt this mean, using logic, that the boss has rated at a 9 or 10 out of 10 to even get us to the brink of outstanding success this season?
can anyone recall a team in recent memory taking the title down to the wire with a defensive injury crisis on the scale of the one we came through with flying colours this year?
no, me neither. looks like we have another blogster that thinks he knows more than the boss here. god help us when he leaves, god help us all! ;S

Ed - May 10, 2010 Reply

No it’s just an opinion. What’s your rating then? Got an opinion you’d like to offer? If United’s treble season was 10/10 … what does second in Premier League, European QF, 3rd round in the FA Cup plus Carling Cup add up to? I think 7 is utterly fair.

Rob - May 10, 2010 Reply

Yeah I reckon most of the ratings are correct. We weren’t far behind but with a bit more luck we could have won.

Zi Indefatigable - May 10, 2010 Reply

Michael Carrick should have got a 2.

And that’s fucking generous.

Mitch - May 10, 2010 Reply

Have to diasagree strongly with some of the marks. Evans had a better season than Vidic? Are you mad? Evra was excellent but clearly not as influential as Rooney. And Rafael deserves more than a 5. Are you basing that digit on one naive tug back on Ribery? No matter how costly that was, you can’t analyse a whole season’s performance on it. oh and Michael Owen didnt score the winner in the Carling Cup final

Ed - May 10, 2010 Reply

He only played 16 times mind you and also the tug has been repeated elsewhere, notably against Manchester City.

Mitch - May 10, 2010 Reply

Rafael will be one of the best right-backs in the league within the next 3-4 years. His first half showing against Bayern was outstanding. We all know he’s got a lot of learning to do but he could do without being blasted by his own fans for the mistakes his inexperience inevitably brings. Fair enough he did concede a penalty against City that was actually outside the box and we could mention coming off the line against Spurs but he’s going to be a class act

chintogtokh - May 10, 2010 Reply

If we’d just hadn’t lost to Burnley, we could have won the league… *sigh*

realist - May 10, 2010 Reply

i wont be giving a player by player rating. not the time unfortunately. however, an opinion i have, and u have already had it, and replied to it!
your question of, “what does 2nd here 3rd there etc etc add up to? i think 7 is fair,”
well, i think that sums ur post up. 1st u fail to see my original point about givin the boss 7 out of 10. my point being, if the players have been as poor as youve said, then surely a 7 for getting us as close as qwe have to a 4th title deserves a rating of more than 7 seen as most of our squad(iyo) have been rubbish?!
also like how u stated exactly, where we,d finished in the lg, ch, lg and fa cup but just said, “and the carling cup as well,” without mentioning w ewon it, lol, a very biased and poor blog with no logic.

Ed - May 10, 2010 Reply

Very easy to criticise somebody else’s views when you’re not big enough to offer some yourself.

Biased with no logic? No idea what you’re on about. Biased for or against what exactly? Logic… well there’s 1,700 words of explanation. Better than you’ve managed I might add.

As for the Carling Cup.. I think the leading clubs’ selections say all. United played the kids until the semi. Fantastic winning it and a brilliant day but United’s fourth priority last season

Kings - May 10, 2010 Reply

We need a striker with pace, simple as that.

David Finnegan - May 10, 2010 Reply

We did ok this season.
Biggest disappointment – Losing to a very poor byern Munich (yes I know it was on away goals, but we still went out)
Cant believe they will be playing in the CL Final.

2nd Biggest disappointment – Berbatov. I dont think its unfair or over critical to expect more than 12 goals from a 30 million pound striker!
I also have to disagree with the assertion ‘He just doesnt fit at Old Trafford’.
If he is as gifted as some insist he is then he should be able to adapt his play.

Rooney has played right wing, left wing, lone striker, and still produces.
Giggs has played right wing, left wing, lone striker, central midfield and still produced.
Even Nani has played in different positions and put in decent performances.
Berbatov has largely played where he is supposed to and still did not produce.
Good riddance.

Bill - May 10, 2010 Reply

Obertan’s 4 was a bit harsh. He did reasonably well when he played, and is only 21. He was a victim of Valencia’s and Nani’s form in the tail end of the season. Can only continue to star in the reserves and hope Fergie puts him in the first squad. With Fergie favourites Park and Giggs also in line for the wing spots it makes it even a harder to get in the squad

cantona7 - May 11, 2010 Reply

actually i think Obertan didnt merit any rating at all this season. He played very a little time.. We ought to leave Obertan out of the list altogether.

anyway, well done Ed. I hope those immature critics will learn how to respect others.. Even though you can’t agree with somebody else, you don’t have easily call him poor or mad or other names..

captainhormone - June 1, 2011 Reply

great article


Alfonso Bedoya - June 1, 2011 Reply

I can’t agree with a lot of those numbers at all.

Ferguson… only a 7?… if I told you at the beginning of the season that he’d get this lot to the title, and the final of the champs league… you’d have called me mad.

Rafa… only 5?… injuries messed him about a bit, but he’s definitely established himself as a first teamer…

Evra… 9?… I think this has been his worst season since his first.

Evans… a 7, while Rio and Vidic get 5, and 6?… I don’t understand that at all.

Rooney… 9?… he finished well, but his early season form should reflect his score.

Berbatov… 5???? … and you give Rooney a 9… When Rooney was suckin wind in the first half of the season, Berbs carried us… and had he not been overlooked for Chico, he might have scored a lot more goals.

Alfonso Bedoya - June 1, 2011 Reply

Wait a minute… why the fuck are you reviewing last years team?

Ed - June 1, 2011 Reply

Alfonso – you’re replying to the wrong post. Ha – think this has accidentally re-posted on the forum. Ignore it. Clue’s in the title 😉

han - June 1, 2011 Reply

note to alf:
must read whole post before posting

captainhormone - June 1, 2011 Reply

Alfonso Bedoya said:
I can’t agree with a lot of those numbers at all.

Ferguson… only a 7?… if I told you at the beginning of the season that he’d get this lot to the title, and the final of the champs league… you’d have called me mad.

Rafa… only 5?… injuries messed him about a bit, but he’s definitely established himself as a first teamer…

Evra… 9?… I think this has been his worst season since his first.

Evans… a 7, while Rio and Vidic get 5, and 6?… I don’t understand that at all.

Rooney… 9?… he finished well, but his early season form should reflect his score.

Berbatov… 5???? … and you give Rooney a 9… When Rooney was suckin wind in the first half of the season, Berbs carried us… and had he not been overlooked for Chico, he might have scored a lot more goals.


derr doofus

Alfonso Bedoya - June 1, 2011 Reply

captainhormone - June 1, 2011 Reply

squigs - June 1, 2011 Reply

Ha, Owned Alfonse.

Alfonso Bedoya - June 1, 2011 Reply

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