It has only taken seven years for Carrick to get his own song and the praise he deserves. The players aren't stupid though and voted him their Player of the Year. Think about this: United have never finished outside the top two with Carrick in central midfield.
David De Gea
So Fergie has been proved right once again. The Spanish kid who had some dodgy moments (although that mistake at Tottenham was grossly exaggerated) has evolved in to the Premier League's best goalkeeper. Only problem now is keeping hold of him when Real Madrid and Barcelona inevitably come calling.
The text message arrived from Paddy at 5:44pm on Friday the 26th of April 2013.
"You busy at 4pm on Sunday?"
"Was planning to watch football down the pub, you?" I replied.
"Was planning on watching football at the stadium. Fancy joining?"
Did I fancy joining!...It was a good thing there was no-one else nearby to speak to; had there been, my voice would have been hoarse with excitement.
Daniel Harris The Guardian and On the Road: A Journey Through a Season
Seems odd to admit to it now, but I'd always kind of looked forward to the post-Fergie era. New stuff is exciting, United are exciting, and I was interested in whether a fresh perspective could retain what was best about the old regime and introduce a few new bits.
I was about 12, and playing Playstation at a friend's house. After roughly our 60th head-to-head match, he suggested we start a career game together. He was one of those odd sorts that didn't support a particular team, "just the game in general", so we were Manchester United. "Ah", he said. "There's only one manager, and two of us.
Following his inaugural season, it seems slightly rhetorical to enquire, as Naughty by Nature did all those moons ago, who's down with RVP? Fittingly, almost poetically (well, at least if you're an accountant) our number 20 bags a hat-trick to secure title number 20. Forget Justin Timberlake's recently-released musical namesake, this season at OT truly has been "The 20/20 Experience.
Exactly 22 things happened/were worth talking about in April. One of them was Margaret Thatcher's death. Another was this picture of George Osborne crying. Here are the other 20. (20: what could possibly be the significance of that number?)
20 things (not quite in chronological order):
1: Take away this Cup from me
Manchester United had no cup football in April of last year: good, no distractions.
‘People say mine was a poor upbringing. I don't know what they mean. It was tough, but it wasn't bloody poor. We maybe didn't have a TV. We didn't have a car. We didn't even have a phone. But I thought I had everything, and I did: I had a football.'
On the final day of the 2000/2001 Premier League season, Manchester United played Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
It's easy to forget how, in the days between the formation and dissolution of the Sky Four, the Premier League was largely filled with utter dross. Stern John and Collins John would count themselves as solid, dependable Premier League strikers and Allardyceball was the dominant religion.
I've been trying to understand Sir Alex Ferguson's effect on Manchester United, and to do so I have had to go back in time.
About half my life ago – well, seventeen years back, but it sounds more grand when I express it as a fraction – I studied Medieval History at school. It was a privilege to take that course.
1. Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea, (1-1 AET, United win on penalties), European Cup Final, 2008
You probably remember how this one went, so rather than retell a familiar story, let's take the time to smash one myth about this game: Chelsea were in no way unfortunate to go into the shootout having not already won the game.
Ah, March: the weather slowly improves, as does the football. With the title race and the narrative of relegation to consider (SIX POINTERS EVERYWHERE!), it all starts to mean something. Or maybe not. In fact, forget football, what's the point of life?
Webbe (2002) observed that the nature of ‘life' means it's liable to "flip 180 in a matter of days" and it felt like that at times.
It's been a strange kind of season. Any reasonable United fan would have bitten your hand off at the start of the season for a fifteen point lead at the top and a shot at the FA Cup by late March. And yet, one miserable week at the start of the month saw dreams of the treble drift into the ether and the double become a far more challenging prospect.
There are a lot of people thankful for the place the world has become; which is mostly great, because it's nice when people are happy (except when it allows for some to write off the very serious issues: who was responsible for ‘post-racial society', anyway?) because things are, of course, different now and not like it was before.
There have been better United players. Ronaldo unquestionably, a handful of others arguably. There have been more charismatic heroes, characters with edge and a kind of madness that our fans adore. Cantona, of course, but also the likes of Keane and Schmeichel. Just as the Pope is regarded as God's representative on earth, these hardboiled figures obsessed with the notion of winning somehow seemed like their manager's representative on turf.
1. Real Madrid 3-3 Manchester United, 1968 European Cup Semi-Final
(OK, so it wasn't at Old Trafford, but this is the most important game United ever had against Madrid, and there are only four other home legs, and this column is called top fives. So be quiet.)
Determined to prove his prophecy that preceded Munich, Matt Busby's new side had won a narrow victory in the first leg and had the task of completing the job in front of over a hundred thousand fans at a packed Bernabeu, without the injured Denis Law.
Since the draw was made its fair to say that most United fans have been eagerly awaiting this tie. Of course we have history with Real Madrid, a history which stretches back to the early days of this tournament. But it is recent events which makes this tie so exciting, as it is an opportunity to welcome back an old friend and a few old adversaries.
January, you'd be happy to hear, was a good month for Manchester United. And it is, on the simple premise that January will nearly always be more important than September, their best of the season yet. United were able to preserve their seven point lead at the top, beat Liverpool and ensure there were no defeats, with thanks to Robin van Persie and company (haw haw, outsiders can get their one-man team jokes out of the way now).
Having experimented with 4-4-2 midfield diamond tactic in a number of matches this season, Sir Alex put the formation to one side following the Champions' League group phase and then it reappeared for the FA Cup game at West Ham. Within the diamond he also tinkered with personnel; take Rafael against the Hammers where he trialled him as the inside midfield player on the right hand side.
Today marks eighteen years to the day since Eric Cantona launched himself into the stands at Selhurst Park and attempted to, quite literally, kick racism out of football. It was a watershed moment for the game in this country, an episode which split opinion and prompted hours of feverish debate. It is easy to see the moment as the JFK moment for a generation of United fans; where were you on the night of that infamous kung-fu kick?
We've all seen the argument before that the reason why our success is different to Chelsea's, and more recently, Manchester City's, is because we used our own money, hard earned cash put through the turnstiles and so on. Almost an admission, that the only reason United ended that painful 26 year wait for a title, was due to our transfer activity being greater than our rivals.
Whereas true golden years and genuinely titanic struggles usually require an ensemble cast squeezing every drop out of a hugely talented squad being a feature of both ‘99 and ‘08 seasons which are dominated by an individual tend to instead be focused on what fate was avoided rather than what was won.
For as long as we have been watching United our team has always played with width. So we can all be forgiven for not seeing this one coming. Yes United have played a 4-3-3 formation on the odd occasion, and with some success, (notably at The Emirates in recent years), but United are known for their wingers.
In the first chapter of Genesis, God tells mankind (yes, I know) to go out and conquer the
world, and ever since (yes, I know), we've been gripped by a paranoid, neurotic desire to
understand everything. But however hard we try, it's simply not possible: whether its spontaneous
combustion, kicks in snooker, or red trousers, cardigans and fascinators, some things will forever
lie beyond human comprehension.
At some football clubs it's not that difficult to be remembered by the fans as a "legend". For one club, it might be someone who has scored a lot of goals, for another it might be someone who is half decent and rejected offers from other clubs, at another it might be the person who scored the winning goal in a cup final or promotion play-off.
It seems strange to think now but when I heard that Manchester United had sold Cristiano Ronaldo for £80m I was glad. He had stropped his way through that last season, but still amassed an impressive 26 goals, and was a crucial element in us winning that record equalling 18th title. Following the heights we reached in the previous season, 08-09 was fairly anti-climatic, in terms of what we achieved and the football we played.
It was interesting to see Roberto Mancini claim that United's 15 point lead was down to being "lucky".
"Until now, United have been really lucky with everything, they have won a lot of games in the last minute – like against us when they really didn't deserve to win," Mancini told reporters.
Rio Ferdinand has been a Manchester United player for over ten years, but unlike other players who have given the majority of their career to the club, he still splits opinion amongst the fans. We can address all the reasons for and against Rio's popularity as we go along, but the turning point for most fans came back in 2005.
City fans claim that Manchester is blue and that the only reason why we have more fans these days is because of the glory supporters that have latched on to the club since our period of dominance which started with the days of the Premier League and Sky Sports.
This is a myth.
Manchester United have been a better supported club than our local rivals since World War II and the stats below can prove it.
There will be plenty of people who are relieved that Dimitar Berbatov has now left United,
myself included, but there will be varying reasons behind this feeling. Relieved because he wasn't
good enough, relieved because he deserved to play week in week out, relieved not to have to hear
the same moronic criticisms or relieved because he was already on borrowed time.
Nobody turns failure into fuel like Sir Alex Ferguson. His response to a trophyless season is
usually pretty uncomplicated: he just goes round collecting trophies like a giddy old broad in a
supermarket sweep. Since his breakthrough in 1990, Ferguson has only failed to win something in
five out of 22 seasons.
Paul Scholes was brought out of retirement after Manchester United struggled with injuries in
midfield, with Tom Cleverley, Anderson and Darren Fletcher all ruled out for a period of several
Having not played any competitive football for seven months, aged 37-years-old, how did Scholesy
When Wayne Rooney released a statement last week denying the story that he had changed his Twitter bio to omit "Manchester United player", you knew he wanted to leave. That week the press had also reported that Rooney had met with Sir Alex a fortnight ago to tell him he wanted to leave, but Rooney made no comment to deny that.
Wayne Rooney's first goal of the season came on October 20th. In the months leading up to that point, with him missing games through injury and missing penalties through poor technique, I repeatedly argued that he was our most important player. He wasn't playing well and he wasn't scoring goals but with Rooney, more than any other player, you could see that when he had a good game, United tended to have a good game.
Aside from the panic that ensued when Wayne Rooney released his statement in October 2010 revealing that he wouldn't be signing a contract extension, the overriding feeling for me was embarrassment. I knew he was an Everton fan, I knew all about that ‘once a blue, always a blue' t-shirt, but when he repeatedly talked about dreaming of spending the rest of his playing days at United, I believed him.
When United were drawn against Real Madrid in the Last 16 of the Champions League we knew we had a battle on our hands. Whilst the Spaniards have failed to impress in La Liga there is no hiding the fact they currently have one of the best managers and squads in European football.
We may have breezed through our domestic season so far, despite not being too impressive for the first few months, but the Champions League is a totally different level, requiring more purposeful tactics and more solid performances.
Sir Alex Ferguson has changed my life. Some of the best feelings I've ever experienced are a result of the brilliant teams he has built and the success he has inspired. Whilst I'm not blinded to his mistakes or personal flaws, it is rare that I would publicly criticise him. However, I think the handling of Rio Ferdinand in response to him not wearing a "Kick It Out" t-shirt ahead of Saturday's win over Stoke has been fairly embarrassing for the club.
When Chelsea won their first league title in 1955, Sir Matt Busby paid them the respect of a guard of honour, with our players applauding the new champions on to the pitch. It was the final day of the season and United beat the newly crowned champions 2-1 thanks to goals from Albert Scanlon and Tommy Taylor.
When the PFA's shortlist for the Player of the Season was announced earlier today there was much debate, as always, over who deserved to be named and who had been unfairly left out, but from the neutrals, it was Michael Carrick's name that seemed to cause the most surprise. In support of this, on the BBC Sport website they have listed the six players under the headline: "Carrick on Player of the Year list".
An article was published on RoM last week to quell the misconception that the reason why United ended the title drought of 26 years was because Sir Alex Ferguson spent a load of money, the same as Chelsea and City have done more recently. When Chelsea or City are criticised for "buying" success, a usual response is that United did exactly the same in the 80′s and 90′s.