Monday, May 18, 2009

EPL 2008/2009 Champions...Manchester United again!

There were many moments and occasions that the thought had crossed my mind ...that Man United may not make it a 3rd consecutive Win of the current EPL trophy. Their early season form was abominable to say the least. By sheer good fortune, the early pace-setters Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal then inexplicably began to drop points, either drawing easy games they should have won or worse still suffering the loss of 3 points in defeats to lesser opponents.
It was a roller-coaster ride for the top 4 teams but with one major difference when it happened...all of a sudden, Man U's defence became an impenetrable fortress! For over two months or an 11 match streak, no EPL team could score a single goal against the Red Devils! Unbelievable? Believe it. That purple patch was to end at United's home soil at the hands or rather feet of a spirit-sapping, gut wrenching 1-4 defeat. Something almost unheard of in the modern era under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Earlier at Anfield, Liverpool had duly beaten the Red Devils 2-1. That was different. This is Old Trafford. So, can't really blame me for feeling it was an ominous and perilous time for Man U. However, the saving grace is this fact...that Man U have been through such a scenario many times before and came out victorious. As for me, I wasn't that confident they will pull through this time. But a few defining moments and matches changed my later perspective.
" When the going gets TOUGH, the tough gets GOING!"
1st Defining moment:
Aston Villa were cruising to a 2-1 win. With less than 10 minutes to go, C Ronaldo equallised making it 2-2. There was euphoria all round at Old Trafford. In came Federico Macheda a 17 year old youth team player in his 1st ever debut at the senior team level, in injury time and with practically his first touch of the ball, this boy scored what must be the most important goal of his young career. It was a beauty as I recall his exquisite shot. Man U won 3-2!
2nd Defining Moment:
Tottenham was leading 2-0 going into halftime. A transformed Man U tore them apart in the 2nd half with the final scoreline of 2-5! It was an exhilarating, stupendous comeback from near defeat!
3rd Defining Moment:
Man U had just returned from Japan with the Club World Cup. They were tired.
The match between them and Stoke City was heading for a goaless draw as the minutes ticked away. Then, super sub Carlos Tevez was released into the fray. He scored the only goal of the match.
So, overall I think Man Utd had the better endurance and consistency...right until the draw with Arsenal on Saturday that won them the Title.
This did not happen by sheer chance.
They had the mental toughness of a bulldog to fight to the very last second if exemplified by the bulldog himself, Wayne Rooney...who was an inspiration for doggedness!

How United won the title
[ AFP report ]

AUG 08: Manchester United start their title defence with a flat display in the 1-1 home draw with Newcastle, setting the tone for the first two months of the campaign. Chelsea justify their status as bookmakers' favourites to reclaim the title by setting the early pace.

SEP 08: Liverpool claim first league win over United in four years with a 2-1 success at Anfield, helping the Merseysiders join Chelsea at the top of the table. United winger Cristiano Ronaldo returns from ankle surgery at end of the month.

OCT 08: Liverpool end Chelsea's 86-match unbeaten home run in the league to pull three points clear at the top. United continue to stutter and end the month eight points adrift of their rivals, albeit with a game in hand.

NOV 08: United's poor form against the other members of the Big Four continues with a 2-1 defeat at Arsenal but the champions remain in touch with pace-setters Chelsea and Liverpool

DEC 08: United undertake the gruelling trip to Japan to claim their first trophy of the season, the Club World Cup. Despite looking jaded on their return, they grind out 1-0 wins over Stoke and Middlesbrough to take advantage of points dropped by Chelsea and Liverpool in their absence.

JAN 09: Chelsea are humiliated as United romp to a 3-0 victory that secures their first win of the season against a Big-Four rival. United's defence looks impregnable at this stage and they don't concede a league goal all month. Not so Liverpool, who are held to draws against Stoke, Everton and Wigan.

FEB 09: United are in record-breaking form now as goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar shatters the British mark for consecutive minutes without conceding a goal during the 1-0 win at West Ham. Liverpool stumble, drawing against Manchester City and losing at Middlesbrough.

MAR 09: Liverpool end United's 11-match winning run as Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard inspire a 4-1 victory at Old Trafford. United then slump to a 2-0 defeat at Fulham as Liverpool underline recovery with a 5-0 win over Aston Villa.

APR 09: Liverpool keep winning but cannot close the gap as United get two crucial breaks. A stoppage-time winner by Italian teenager Federico Macheda secures a 3-2 win over Aston Villa and a mistake by referee Howard Webb results in the penalty that triggers a comeback from 2-0 down to a 5-2 win over Spurs.

MAY 09: With the finishing line in sight, United rediscover their form but still need a late Michael Carrick goal to claim a 2-1 win at Wigan that leaves them one point from retaining the trophy. A third straight title is wrapped up at the first attempt as Arsenal are held to a goalless draw at Old Trafford. -- AFP.

Photos: [ source BBC sports ]

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