As hard as it is to come to terms with in the wake of the defeat to Barcelona, this season has been one of the most momentous and odds-defying in the history of Manchester United Football Club. At the start of the season even the most optimistic of supporters wouldn’t have imagined we’d contest all but four games possible (two League Cup Semi-finals, League Cup Final, FA Cup Final), winning the highly-coveted nineteenth title in the process.
It was a season that started and ended with a 3-1 scoreline at Wembley Stadium. That we were even there to contest the Final is a hell of an achievement that shouldn’t be overlooked – and remembered, if someone should attempt to moan about the outcome.
The season was as odd as it was odds-defying, when you take into account that in winning the League, United only won away from home five times and the first victory on the road wasn’t until late-October. Even more peculiar was that the team went undefeated in League competition until February 5th. For a while, the swashbuckling style of years gone by had been replaced by win-at-all costs functionality and the team were being described in some quarters as “The Crap Invincibles”.
A victory over Wigan at the end of February would prove vital in United finding their attacking flair for the rest of the season, as it heralded the beginning of the Rooney and Hernandez forward partnership. After suffering from a lack of form in the first-half of the season and requesting, then retracting a transfer request, a divine overhead kick against Manchester City kick-started Wayne Rooney’s season and he thrived with Chicharito, who he described as “the signing of the century”.
There were breathtaking performances and moments that will live long in the memory; Schalke away, the Blackburn 7-1, the comebacks at Blackpool and West Ham and the Quarter final performances over Chelsea to name but a few, so coupled with winning the title it’s incredible that this season has a slight feeling of “what if” surrounding it in light of the European Cup Final defeat.
The players deserve a hell of a lot of credit for what they’ve achieved this season; supposed deficiencies have been dealt with to a level that’s made Manchester United the most successful team in English League football – recording the best ever home record in the club’s history in the process. It’s been done without a single standout performer – a criticism that has been levelled at successful United teams in the past few years, rather individuals stepping out of the collective at the times they have been called upon.
If you’ll excuse me, I’ll finish this brief overview of the season with a cheesy – but appropriate, analogy: Sometimes it’s nice to have a cake without icing, especially if said cake is decorated with nineteen candles.
Goals for: 114
Goals against: 55
Most appearances: Nani 49 (7 as sub)
Top goalscorer: Dimitar Berbatov 21 (20 League, 1 Community Shield)
Goals of the season:
1. Wayne Rooney v Manchester City – 12/02/2011 – Second goal in a 2-1 victory
2. Dimitar Berbatov v Liverpool – 19/09/2010 – Third goal in 3-2 a victory
3. Ryan Giggs v Birmingham City – 22/01/2011 – Third goal in 5-0 a victory
4. Dimitar Berbatov v Blackburn Rovers – 27/11/2010 – Fourth goal in a 7-1 victory
5. Javier Hernandez v Stoke City – 24/10/2010 – First goal in 2-1 a victory
Performances of the season:
1. Schalke 04 0-2 United – UEFA Champions League, Semi final first-leg, 26/04/2011
2. United 2-1 Chelsea – Premier League, 08/05/2011
3. West Ham United 2-4 United – Premier League, 02/04/2011
4. United 7-1 Blackburn Rovers – Premier League, 27/11/2010
5. United 2-0 Arsenal – FA Cup, Quarter final, 12/03/2011
Players of the season:
1. Nemanja Vidic – 47 apps, 5 goals
2. Javier Hernandez – 45 apps, 20 goals
3. Dimitar Berbatov – 42 apps, 21 goals
4. Nani – 49 apps, 10 goals
5. Rafael da Silva – 28 apps, 0 goals