What an incredible season!
I considered writing a season review in the week after the disappointing Champions League Final, but felt as if I needed a bit more time to decompress from a long and emotional season with plenty of highs and lows. Writing a simple season review just is not my style. I decided instead to give you the reader a little something different by organizing my thoughts by the track listing from Kanye West’s masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
I hope you will indulge me and read further.
1. Dark Fantasy
The 2010/2011 season in many ways can be epitomized by Wayne Rooney’s troughs and peaks in form. When the England international striker voiced his wishes to leave Old Trafford in October it was perhaps the darkest moment of the United season. The ambivalence that his remarks inspired among the faithful brought out the best and the worst in the support. Between the morons with pitchforks and torches outside Rooney’s home and the “Who’s the whore now Wayne?” signs showed the darker side of United. But when Sir Alex Ferguson came out and did the interview explaining the situation as he saw it, United fans had to feel as though their manager would bring back their one-time golden boy.
When Rooney decided to sign a new and improved contract to remain at Old Trafford for the foreseeable future, it took many supporters time to forgive Wazza. I will admit that it took me a while to start wearing my Rooney jersey in public again. But it cannot be denied that Rooney has done enough since his darkest days in our shirt to thoroughly be back in our good graces. Between his delicious and sumptuous overhead kick that won the derby against the bitters and his vital hat trick against West Ham, Rooney has scored both the beautiful and important goal. We all thought we saw the full version of Rooney 2.0, the player that was more than just a pure goal scorer last season, but I would argue that we saw the full breadth of his talent this season. Welcome back Wayne, glad to have you in our team.
Some of my favourite times watching United this season were also times when Dimitar Berbatov was at the treble for the boys in red. After many had spent the previous two seasons deriding and doubting the Bulgarian’s talents and place in the squad, he proved that his goal scoring boots were not in the White Hart Lane lost and found bin. He provided the goals during a time in which United were dealing with an out of form and disinterested Rooney, ensuring that United did not fall too far behind a streaking Chelsea.
Kanye raps on this track “this is more than my road to redemption Malcolm West had the whole nation standing at attention.” The same is true of Berbatov. This season was his road to redemption. It proved that he could carry the team over an extended period of time, for the most part on his own, in big games. His hat trick against Liverpool won the derby and his overhead kick was probably the second best goal scored by a United player this season. Whatever happens next, Berbatov has made sure that supporters would not have to wonder what could have been. Two titles in three years and a golden boot speak for themselves.
This season Luis Nani took that next step for which we had all been waiting. He is living in that 21st century and doin’ somethin’ mean to it. Nine goals and 14 assists in the Premier League this season proves that he managed to be a double threat on United’s left or right flank. His ability to both deliver the ball to a teammate and to score a goal himself will be invaluable to United going forward. Nani was voted by his teammates as United’s player of the season and with good reason. He provided a creative threat that the team desperately needed. And he is my player of the season. Viva Nani!
4. All of the Lights
When new players, especially younger ones, come to Old Trafford it is always an experiment. The lights are simply brighter at the Theatre of Dreams. For young players, putting on the same shirt that legends like Charlton, Best, Law, Edwards, Cantona and Robson may either inspire massive confidence or crippling doubt. For both Chris Smalling and Chicharito, all of the lights at Old Trafford simply illuminated their already immense talents. Smalling’s meteoric rise to the biggest stage in world football has already been well documented in a previous article, but not enough can be said of his composure in some of United’s biggest fixtures.
Similarly Javier Hernandez, best known as Chicharito (Little Pea), has experienced a rise to the cream of the Premier League striker crop reminiscent of one of those theme park rides where one is shot up to the top at a speed of 60 plus kilometres per hour. The snip of transfer snips at six million pounds, Chicharito delivered an impressive haul of 20 goals in all competitions. As the song goes, when United find themselves in times of trouble this season, Chicharito scored for them. And I expect nothing to change in his next season.
“I tried to tell you but all I can say…” indeed.
Well this one was just too easy. Everybody knows Nemanja Vidic is a mothaf*ckin’ monster in United’s defence. His consistent presence in the defensive third was absolutely vital to winning number 19. More than an isolated few doubted Sir Alex’s decision to make the Serbian international the captain this season, but by the end of the season it was abundantly clear why the gaffer made the move. Vidic is undoubtedly the best central defender in world football and is also an excellent example of the United way: courageous, driven and skilled.
5. So Appalled
What is there really to say? The appalling audacity of Rooney to attempt a shot like that in a match in which he was not playing well showed the mark of a champion. His goal cemented his status as a beloved figure amongst the faithful and proved that he is a world-class player. And it’s a goal I could watch everyday of my life.
6. Devil In a New Dress
The two-year Michael Owen experiment at Manchester United has proven to be a bit of a mixed bag. Every supporter will remember his 96th minute goal to win the derby versus City and his memorably emphatic celebration proved he was quite comfortable in a United shirt. His excellent match versus Wolfsburg in the Champions League group stage illustrated that he was a useful reserve striker that is capable of poaching a goal or two when United need it. This season his goal at the Reebok when United were underwhelming to say the least spared our collective blushes. His classy finish in the final match of the season showed that his ability to be assured one versus one with a keeper remains as strong as ever. I am very pleased to have him back for one more season. His experience will be an invaluable asset to all of our young strikers.
As much as the media played up a close title race, United ended up running away with the Premier League, winning it by nine points, the undoubted champions of the league for a record 19th time. It is the kind of margin that belies the notion that United were mediocre this season. This season United simply ran away as fast as they could. And the result is difficult to argue with. To go undefeated at home is an incredible feat, one that is not as easily accomplished as the reds may have made it look this season. Hopefully Old Trafford will be a Fort Knox once again next term.
8. Hell of a Life
It is a true testament to a player’s legacy that even when their ages climb past 35 every single supporter would gladly welcome them back next season. And Paul Scholes and Edwin van der Sar are no exception. The pair’s retirement from football will mean the end of an era in midfield and between the sticks, with both players proving to be almost as difficult to replace as the other. While Scholes won more and was in a United shirt for much longer than van der Sar, both have stitched themselves into the cloth of United’s red flag. On behalf of all United fans, thank you Edwin and Paul for your continued excellence in our colours. To say you will both be missed simply does not go far enough.
9. Blame Game
For all of the plaudits I have given this season’s United team, there remains a lingering amount of criticism. The notion that when a team wins a league that they ought to be impervious to critique is what inhibits progress. This season many supporters played the blame game on the twitter, citing underwhelming performances by Michael Carrick and Darron Gibson in games United won or lost. The blame game almost became a pastime. Most of you know that I am not Carrick’s biggest fan, but I do think that he is a good Premier League player. He is just not world class. And that is what United need going forward if they cherish ambitions of not suffering repeats of the 2009 and 2011 Champions League Finals.
I think Darron Gibson is a very decent player in his own right. I am just not sure if he is right for United anymore. With young players like Tom Cleverley, Ravel Morrison, Ryan Tunnicliffe and Paul Pogba coming through the ranks in the midfield, combined with the improved Anderson and reliable Darren Fletcher, there seems to be no more room for one more Darron. If he does leave United this summer I wish him all the best. It just did not work out.
10. Lost In The World
Gabriel Obertan and Bebe will be remembered perhaps forever for an unflattering camera shot of the pair on their phones with headphones in their ears seated next to Ryan Giggs and just behind Sir Bobby Charlton. The arrival of both players at Old Trafford was met by a collective raised brow and the pair have shown their talents in the flashiest of flashes in the first team. Both seem a bit lost in the world that is United and yet appear closer to tapping into their talents than they did six months ago. The two have played well with the reserves and could potentially prove to be good business after all.
11. Who Will Survive In America
I will explore this topic in much greater depth in the coming weeks, but the preseason tour of the United States will at least prove to be more useful than us Klein men are with tools (not very useful at all). Unfortunately Danny Welbeck, Chris Smalling and Tom Cleverley will miss the tour due to their duties with the England U-21 team and Chicharito will miss it as well playing in the Gold Cup for Mexico, but there will assuredly be other youngsters on display for the Red Devils in the United States. Other more established (relatively speaking) players will try to prove their worth to the gaffer and cement a solid place in the rotation. The tour will be vital for players like Anderson, Carrick, Gibson, Fletcher, Jonny Evans, and the Da Silva twins among others. It could play a role in deciding which players will be in the squad in August.
12. See Me Now (Bonus Track)
That’s it from me! What a great season it really has been. When I think about it all, it’s hard to imagine it all happened in one year, but happen it did. Graduating from university on the same day United locked up number 19 is a time I will never forget. I even held my United scarf aloft as I crossed the stage. Hopefully like Berba predicted, number 20 will come next season. Glory glory.