New CaughtOffside contributor Ryan has a few reasons why he can’t see past the boys in red as this year’s champions.
9 points clear going into March, “squeaky bum time” as Sir Alex calls it, and the great underachievers of recent domestic years are looking Premiership Champions in all but name. Saturday’s win over a dogged Fulham side left Chelsea, their closest and only genuine rivals for the title playing catch up once more. Mourinho’s platitudes of being “very much in the race” are looking more and more redundant by the week and he’s resorted to his tried-and-tested backup plan – bitter rantings. Injuries, European precedence over the Premier League, and a run of tricky fixtures to come see’s Chelsea as big 2nd favourites. If Mourinho were to drag United back from here, he could genuinely lay claim to being *the* Special One.
It’s unlikely though. Chris Coleman’s side pushed United to the wire, and can count Saturday’s loss as undeserved, but even the most ardent A.B.U. supporter would begrudge them their domestic success this season, or label them ‘lucky’. Fortune as the adage goes, favours the brave and given the adventurous, free-flowing football that Scholes, Giggs, Rooney, and the irrepressible Ronaldo have played all season, they’re welcome to claim that any ‘luck’ they’ve fallen upon has been well and truly earned. Critics and cynics queued up to denigrate the achievements of the ’99 Treble-winning side, with all manner of us decrying Bergkamp’s missed penalty, Bayern’s unbelievable misfortune, and Giggsâ€™ wonderfluke, but Ferguson would be only to delighted to see his side replicate that ‘lucky’ success 8 years on.
They’re the best side in the country, they’re coasting in the Champions League, and they’ve done so off the back of a relatively inexpensive summer transfer wheeler-dealing. They haven’t been lucky, they haven’t had the usual plethora of refereeing decisions go their way, and they haven’t had games go into the 99th minute for them to nab an equaliser.
They’ve managed to get back to being that big intimidating monster Ferguson pines for. The one that has teams beaten before games even start. The one that pushes the opposition back from the first minute, and lays siege on their goal until they’re broken down. Unlike Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool who’ve made the misguided mistake of over-relying on their same two or three top drawer players to drag them out of holes, United’s front 4 or 5 have all been on fire from game 1 in August. Giggs and Scholes are playing the best football of their careers, Rooney’s back approaching top form, Saha and Larsson have inter-changed encouragingly, and everyone’s favourite Gay Portugese Waiter has been sublime. Ferguson deserved his own share of credit for re-invigorating Beckham post-World Cup ’98 when he was public enemy Number One, he’s succeeded again with Ronaldo.
He’s Player of the Year in lieu, and he epitomises everything that’s been great about United this season; shackle-free, daring, risk-taking football that’s manna from heaven for any football ‘purist’ bored into submission by Chelsea’s rigid, unadventurous play of recent years, and the Manchester United of old that surely even their most hopeful of supporters surely couldn’t have seen coming after successive seasons of malcontent.
If it means that Wenger, Benitez and Mourinho free their sides up to be a bit more adventurous, then United’s play this season will have been to the benefit of everybody, and augur well for future of the League.
They’re League winners in waiting. It’s just a pity they’re such a bunch of prats.