A more level headed review now but it won't be as long as you think because over the close season, I'll do a player by player review that should just about cover every minor detail. That said though, our season is can only be reviewed with a slight focus on individual players as they stepped up and down at different periods of what I still think was a crazy season.
Whilst all the attention at the start of the season was on how Nani and Wayne Rooney alongside Antonio Valencia would fill the lacuna left by Cristiano Ronaldo, a less obvious hole was 'sitting' pretty in our squad. The preceding statement is not meant to ridicule Mr. Ben Foster but rather to emphasize the importance of our first choice goalkeeper whom we lost for the first five months of the season because of a finger beak sustained in the penalty shoot-out against Bayern in the Audi Cup. Come to think of it, Bayern cost us the fitness of two of our best players at crucial parts of the season.
Anyway, enter Ben Foster ahead of Tomas K. We were lucky against Birmingham, paid the price at Burnley (not that he could have done anything though) and then there was that Arsenal save from Van Persie that restored our confidence in him. Sadly that was misplaced as City exploited his error proneness in two of the four goals scored in the first of 4 Manchester derbies this season.
Luckily for us (and Rio Ferdinand), we won in such style that made us all forget the circumstances in which we conceded the lead.
But Sunderland and Kenwyne Jones helped remind us of all that and Ben Foster's future at United was now in the balance when the press started writing about CSKA's Ankifeev who we struggled to score against throughout the Champions League group stage, and a certain Manuel Neur and even as I post this, we're not quite sure if Ben will be at OT for the long term. More on that later. (Did I mention the Community Shield?)
Notwithstanding the form of Foster and the pressure on our boys to deliver, a certain Mr. Ryan Giggs was our player of the opening quarter of the season (at least in my opinion) as his assists (8 of them going into October) had kept us well the reckoning for the title. He really made us tick and you only have to look at the Stoke City game away to appreciate this. The manager chose to rest him and opted for Nani. After enduring over an hour of frustration from the failure to provide the attackers with service, on comes Giggs, and before you know it, we're 2-0 up with two assists from Giggsy!
Just to underline his contribution, his standout performance wasn't in that game. It was his three assists in the Manchester derby that won it. The last of those was what I still regard as the most underrated pass of the season. People will talk about Michael Owen's 96th minute winner but how about the weight of the pass that made it a Michael Owen chance to the extent that Jon Champion (commentator) was caught in praising the expertise of the pass instead of screaming about the fact that Mickey was about to score an injury time winner against City.
Surprise!!! Yest the Bulgrian did have an influence as well in that first half of the season albeit what many would like to think. He was a thorn in the Chelsea defence in the Community shield, as well as the opener against Birmingham when he was unlucky not to score and win us a penalty.
Who wasn't grateful for that opener against Stoke albeit put on a silver platter for him. I mean what we want from a striker us right place at the right time and we can't say our forwards were doing well that respect up until then.
How about that for a goal scored against Blackburn....and if that can't do for you, I'm sure the one against Sunderland was one for the Premier League Hall of fame!
Those goals are not much talked about because of the player in question and maybe the one against Sunderland sis not in the end lead to three points but I know that at the time, I was glad to have him playing for Manchester United (not that I'm not today).
We missed him in Rome against Barcelona but Fletch didn't let that get to him. He is now one of those who can walk into the United team whenever fit. He was another standout performer at the start of the season. His goal against Everton at home speaks volumes of the confidence he had in himself at the time. I mean he was even willing to out do Zinedine Zidane.
His brace against City was a season highlight for him as his headed goals were on the back of conceding leads in that game.
The thing that amazed me about Fletcher this season was his ability to put in a defensive performance whilst at the same time creating goal scoring chances for his teammates. You might be shocked at how many crucial goals have come from an assist by him this season. His commitment to the team was summed up when he played just about across the entire back four line at a time when we were short of defenders.
Darren lined up at Stamford Bridge against a 'better' midfield that included Ballack, Essien and Lampard but neither three had an influence on the outcome as much as we all thought. Why? Dareen Fletcher!
Listen; we've got a long road ahead of us till the start of next season, so why not digest that first?