SO we have a new season just days away and soon it all begins again. There have been additions made to the title winning squad this summer during a time of unexpectedly high transfer activity. Three players came through the entrance and some have been waiting longer than others to join, Owen Hargreaves himself described his move as the worst kept secret in football. It took a Bundesliga record fee to prize Hargreaves from Germany and inflict what Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge called a big sporting loss on the club.
First things first I thought today was going to be all poetic and historic. As it happened, only the historic part caught on because we got our trophy back, or rather the Busby Babes delivered it back to us, nice touch I thought. But I missed the poetic part, the part where we sent West Ham spiraling into the fizzy cola leagues like the rest of the Premiership wanted, and finally gained payback for both of those days at Upton Park when they played their part in denying us championship success. That day when that West Ham no mark turned up and scored to defeat us in 1992, his one and only moment of West Ham glory, and that day when try as we might we just couldn’t put the ball in the net. It was all so poetic, we would finally get revenge and do what the whole of the stadium (bar the ones ‘forever blowing bubbles’) wanted: Send ‘em Down!
Of course the ability to perhaps send them down relied on us actually being able to play a half decent game today and despite dominating the game for huge parts of it, we didn’t seem to be able to shift the wall that the Hammers had erected. Despite my words of praise for Darren Fletcher elsewhere this season, nothing could convince me that Kieran Richardson is worthy of the same praise, certainly not today. You see I freely admit now that Darren Fletcher is worth the medal that hangs around his neck, when we needed him he turned in a solid performance or two. He is the microwave meal of footballers, you can probably get better but when there is no time for absolute total quality, he is adequate enough to fill a hole. You wouldn’t want a microwave meal all the time but when you need it, it is there for you. Like a microwave meal, you can sometimes be surprised by the quality you find in the finished product. I can only hope Kieran Richardson played today and most of the other times in the past few weeks, because Sir Alex wants to sell him.
The players we had out there should have had enough to win the game so to use the ‘weakened side’ argument is wrong and disrespectful to the players who were out there. Ronaldo, Rooney et al also turned up for the second half and still couldn’t break through. West Ham get one chance and bury it, and it happens to be the player that is at the centre of the storm. A good player he is too, one that I highly doubt will be wearing West Ham colours next season. Most of the league wanted West Ham to go down, me included, not only for the reasons already stated but for the fact that this player who is supposedly legally registered with the club, a fact that many managers and chairman elsewhere doubt, has been the focal point of their revival and possibly should not have been playing at all.
Dave Whelan says that he and other club chairman are prepared to take this further and see that West Ham are dealt with in courts. I do not know how much water any case will hold but I do know that in other cases points were docked and huge potentially crippling penalties were imposed. As a Lancashire lad born and bread I speak specifically of the Bury FC incident when they unknowingly fielded an ineligible player and were subsequently thrown out of the FA Cup and ordered to pay back prize money and gate receipts because of a simple case of one mistake with paperwork. West Ham on the other hand were knowingly deceptive in their dealings and admitted to such to the Premier League. Not for one minute would they have stood up and asked for the points deduction instead of the monetary fine but it does make you wonder. Bury, nor any of the other smaller clubs that this has happened to, do not have 5 million pounds to give away in fines but when a fine was suggested for the Shakers it was suggested by the powers that be that in the interests of equality the punishment should be competition based rather than financial. In the case of West Ham that has not happened. I seriously doubt that anything will now happen to the club, it may all be viewed as done and dusted by the Premier League.
I should also say that this is in no way an intended defence of Sheffield United or their manager Neil Warnock. Warnock has gone through this season blaming every single other person that he can for the results of his side, West Ham, Manchester United’s line up today, referee A, referee B. Quite frankly the man needs to look closer to home as to the reasons for his sides relegation. The sort of form his side put together recently was relegation form, his stubborn desire to stick to 4-5-1 did not help and I am glad that moaning loudmouth is out of the Premiership.
But then again, relegation is not my concern. I did after all just witness my team claim our trophy back. It was the last game of the season for me at the Theatre of Dreams and what a wet, cold, but unbelievably happy way to see out the season. There was this moment where everyone was gutted about the performance and urging us to score then a second later, as the clock showed only a minute remaining it was as if we suddenly remembered that we had a trophy to collect. We must play better next week at Wembley but I have a feeling we will, we would have done if this game had meant more to us in terms of winning the league, it would have been nice to end on a victory but it doesn’t really matter. The gap between us and Chelsea was SIX points at the end of the season, now that is a gap – it’s not the size of the gap it’s what you do with it but the fact that Chelsea didn’t claw us back to within one or two points is impressive.
Nine Premiership titles, 16 in total…we got our trophy back!
A season of fantastic highs and occasional lows essentially came to an end on Sunday with Chelsea’s draw at the Arsenal confirming Manchester United as the champions of England for a ninth time in the Premiership. Manchester United fans all around the world deserve to shout it out loud and truly revel in this moment because this has been a well earned success when few outside Man United actually predicted it. The ‘special one’ himself at various times in the season predicted that the table was false and that his Chelsea team would eventually topple United from the top and eventually win the league. They got close on a few occasions especially when our injury list got longer, and I actually believe that if we had been removed from top spot, Chelsea would have gone on to win the league. That they didn’t says an awful lot for our players, the ones that get the headlines and the ones that do not. I’m speaking specifically here of Darren Fletcher, who I have been critical of in the past but who, even I will admit, has risen to the challenge in recent weeks. Such players may not be first team material on a week in week out basis and there were times I wondered why we kept such average players around even for the bench. The fact that we did shows why Alex Ferguson is the manager and I am not. We built a team mentality that was not based on superstars in every role, but was instead based on players playing for the shirt whenever and wherever they were required. You do not need twenty two headline grabbers!
This has been the most exciting season I can remember, and it’s a great time to be a Manchester United fan. This is the most important part of the season, not because the games are more frequent (they are), not because the points matter more (they do) but because it’s ‘that’ time when all the season’s work kicks into gear and threatens to actually drive you to your destination. Of course, the car that is the football season could also splutter to a halt and die on the motorway. Success often promises the full distance but conks out just before the giant anchor building around the corner from the Theatre of Dreams.
Manchester United as a family affair. Given to Score investigates.
Many of us do columns, reactionary and opinionated and they make a good read but for this particular attempt I wanted a change and a challenge. For most of us it is not as simple as a choice of football team to follow, it is something much more than that passed on from someone else. I started thinking of the time when I first became aware of Manchester United, when I was first included on the match day rota at Old Trafford and the game that started it all, West Ham United, November 1991. My own journey following Manchester United is only part of the story; my first scene in this movie comes about half way through. The first one bitten in our family was my Dad, the reason I go to Old Trafford now is because of my Dad and the best match day company I can have is, you guessed it, my Dad. So for this article I thought it only fair to speak to the man who started all this madness off and figure out between us where Manchester United has been going in the years he and I have watched them. #
That’s it then. David Beckham has moved clubs for the last time in his playing career, if you believe what you read. His move from Real Madrid to LA Galaxy has been announced with almost as much fuss as the reaction that greeted his move from Manchester United toSpain. Years ago I spent some time working for a newspaper in the North West, inBlackburn, of all places. On the desk next to mine sat the sports photographer who figured out I was a Man United fan and thought I’d be interested to know he had just been to Bisham Abbey to photograph the new England caps. You will know the pictures if you see them, Gary Neville and co in horrible burgandyEnglandjumpers holding the flag of St. George. He gave me the David Beckham one and said I could keep it, I still have it, he said the lad would be worth watching. By then I’d been to Old Trafford to know he was worth watching.