In the span of seven days we saw City snatch the title away from us in the most egregious of fashions and then we saw the unthinkable happen when Chelsea went into the Germans’ lair and snatch the Champions League trophy. I haven’t been a United fan for thirty years like some people I know, but I doubt that the end of a season has brought on more heartache than this year’s campaign. It’s probably not advisable to write about the pain of this season so soon after the pain was inflicted, but I wanted to capture the angst of still being upset and the realization of what is needed going forward – while it’s still fresh.
It was this time last year that we had just signed Phil Jones and most people really had no idea who he was or where he’d play. They knew we had signed him from Blackburn and that was about it. Soon after, we signed Ashley Young and then David De Gea. The glaring oversight was still the hole in our midfield. Things were glossed over in the first few weeks when we beat Spurs 3-0, Arsenal 8-2, and Bolton 5-0 in successive games. Then things started to go bad. Cleverley was back from his loan spell at Wigan and was going to have to fill the shoes that Sneijder didn’t fill. Well, he got hurt. Then Anderson disappeared. Then City beat us 6-1. Then there were a few more injuries. Then there was Vidic. Then more injuries. I turned 30 in August and by December I’d had no less than three heart attacks on account of United.
And despite all this, we were somehow 8 pts clear of City on April 8th. I tweeted that day to @JuveUnited that we’d somehow muck it up or make it difficult and wasn’t that the truth. A loss to Wigan, a terrible last 8 minutes vs. Everton, and a 1-0 loss to City all happened and the 8 pts were gone. Before March, City had been favorites all season. At the beginning of April, we were favorites to win. And somehow, throughout it all, it came down to the last minute of this season to decide the winner. There were a million emotions that day, but in the week since it happened, I’ve sorted my feelings out and I’ve come away with five important lessons from this season. Here they are.
1) We might not have agreed with some of Fergie’s selections this year, but we aren’t the manager, are we? City have spent close to 500 million pounds to buy the team they have and Fergie basically duct taped a squad together for the 50 some odd matches this year. Yes, our record, and play, in Europe was awful, but with the amount of injuries we had compared to City’s, and the amount of money we spent compared to City, we still managed our highest point total ever and only lost on goal difference. To City’s best team ever. We’re all geniuses from our couch, or OT, or the away section of a United game, but that’s the extent of it. Say what you want about certain games, but Fergie is a genius and that’s that. Yes, you’ve heard that a lot, but it’s true.
2) City won’t be going away. In sports, we see the oddball team win a trophy and then disappear back into obscurity. That will not be the case with City. They were the favorites going into the season and they won the league. They will be favorites next season, so we have to get used to it. Sure, their history is cloaked in massive failure, but the team they fielded this year was the better team and that was obvious. They will continue to buy and field more expensive players than us. Let’s just get used to it. Yes, we have a much more successful history than City, but going into the 2012-2013 season, we’re the underdogs. Let’s run with it.
3) We need personnel changes. No, I don’t think Fergie should leave. I do think that he could do with an injection of different, more youthful coaches and trainers. But that’s not where it starts or stops. For seasons we’ve needed a dominant CMF. We haven’t gotten one. Speculation will run rampant, but I think part of the reason we didn’t go all out for the CMF we needed last summer was because we were the champions. We spent some money, but the type of money we spent on 3 players would’ve needed to go toward the hole in our MF. Maybe losing the title to City will mean we get the money for a CMF. Maybe not, but we can’t keep patching up the hole with Paul Scholes. We need young blood. Not just in MF, but all over the pitch. Let’s start there and address that first. The rest will come.
4) Money isn’t everything. Sure, in a sport where there is no salary cap, and where you can literally spend as much as you want, that doesn’t mean you always need to. City will spend and spend and spend, but we can get really good players without matching their spending. Players love big paychecks, but engrained in just about every athlete is the desire to win and to play. To get the type of MF we want, we will have to pay. But there are other players available who will fill much-needed gaps, but won’t break our bank. It’s about getting quality with what you pay for. There is plenty of value in the market. I don’t want to hear otherwise.
5) Sometimes it takes a massive heartbreak to realign your priorities and perspective. This year was a monumental blow to our confidence. Look at our success over the last 15 years, or 10 years, or even the last 6 years. We got spoiled. We won three in a row, lost it, then got it back, then lost it again. Winning is always fun, but without losing once in awhile, winning would mean nothing. It’s our job to take this season and not only learn from it, but act on it. United isn’t a team to stay stagnant. Things will happen for us. And like all other fans, I can’t wait to see what those things will be. City might be favorites, but United love a challenge. We’ll see how it all pans out next year. I’ll tell you this: I wouldn’t want to be a fan of any other team. Win or lose.
Written by Jason from Often Score Six