Scott Red of the very wonderful Republikofmancunia blog recently published an article that was a bookmark of the predictions Journalists around the country had about the 2010/2011 Premier League Season. Like many ABUs and fans for good measure, Manchester United were largely between third place and fourth place in the predictions. Some went as far as predicting that United would finish the season outside the top four places.
Roll on May 2011 and we are once again Champions of England--this time for a record breaking 19th time. It must be said; this past season has been like no other in terms of competition and I reckon that future seasons will struggle to emulate it in terms of drama.
I mean take a look back to August when United dropped points at Craven Cottage and Goodison Park in incredible fashion. Nani'[s penalty miss at Craven Cottage has 'no title' written all over it---I mean the manager stressed at the time that when you have a last minute penalty to kill a league game, you have to score it.
Then leading 1-3 at Everton heading into the final few minutes and in the space of sixty seconds the game is 3-3; We've been Manchester United fans long enough to know that such lapses in concentration are not traits of aspiring league champions. At that point, you really started to worry for Manchester United because something just wasn't right.
We did however get off lightly with those dropped points because our main title rivals Chelsea got hit by some sort of 'bug' that downed them as far behind us as we could have imagined. It meant that we had to shrug off the title challenges of Man City and then Arsenal and given their relative inexperience about a title run-in, they duly faded such that by the time Chelsea recovered from their 'bug' we had our destiny in our hands with just a couple of games left.
The art of keeping the destiny of the league title in your hands going into the last three or four games of the season is what I believe has made Sir Alex the master of his trade. No wonder that people say that he could have won the league this season with any of the top four sides.
That this was the 19th league title means that the team which the media rubbished as Sir Alex's worst has established itself in United's history books as the record breaking team---and to think that it could soon add the title of European Champions to it makes you laugh at the irony.
Speaking of being European Champions, Manchester United have another almighty chance of adding another European Cup to their cabinet next week when they take on Barcelona at Wembley in the European Cup final. We went into the 2009 final against them as favourites but this time we head in as underdogs---possibly overwhelming underdogs as some people cannot fathom anything other than a Barca victory.
The good feeling about this final is that for starters we are underdogs so that takes if only the slightest pressure off. Secondly, it seems to be a back against the wall job and for all the years I have supported United, we seem to relish challenges that give us no chance; it's why we win games so late on way after the match reports have already been posted. This game has all the ingredients of a 'Manchester United shocker' written all over it. I also can't remember a time when Sir Alex has been beaten by the same challenge twice. I mean the manager has been beaten hands down by some of the challenges he has faced in his quarter century reign at United but he usually finds a solution to them.
This is not to out rightly state my confidence ahead of the final but rather to point out that the final is not as certain as people would have you believe.