Manchester United’s title winning campaign has really been a mixture of individual brilliance: Berbatov’s five against Blackburn, Rooney’s West Ham hatrick and Ferguson’s summer signing Hernandez to name a few and their relentless and ruthless ability to score late on and when off form.
Whilst it’s a combination of the above that’s confirmed Manchester United as the most successful league side in English football, it’s the latter that’s made the difference between the modern United and Arsenal sides. While Arsenal haven’t had the legs, and ‘the perfect goal’ hasn’t materialised their season has fallen apart yet the Red Devils have found something extra all season but especially of late.
With Hernandez scoring another seemingly imposable header 83 minutes in against a strong Everton side and Berbatov’s 88th minute finish to snatch three against Bolton with only ten men. It’s in games like these where the difference lies, where the Premier League is decided, not when you’re four up and cruising; although if I remember rightly Arsenal managed to mess that position up too…
There is also that age old question of the defensive element to Arsenals play; as it’s this part of their game that’s letting them down. With arguably the strongest midfield in the league the issue lies on their back four and the man between the sticks.
The most obvious deficiency in this area is a lack of leadership. With no Vidic or ‘The Flying Dutchman’ organizing the whole affair, at times Arsenal have made rookie errors and have looked like school boys. Even young boy Chris Smalling has been more admirable and in control than first team Koscielny and Squillaci at times this season. The return of Vermalen will be a boost but Wenger must splash the cash this summer to solidify there lightweight centre of defense.
A new keeper for the Gunners may also be a thought this summer despite the recently strong displays from Wojciech Szczesny. Horror shows from both Fabianski and Almunia will still haunt Arsenal fans and managerial staff alike, so much so they drafted in Jens Lehman, a sign of desperation if ever I saw one, so a new keeper seems on the cards.
In terms of Chelsea’s bid for a second successive title their blistering start was rather faltered after the interesting decision to remove Ray Wilkins from his post at the turn of the year. Whilst Chelsea’s form had slowly been dipping up to this point it seems a rather large coincidence if the removal of Mr Wilkins had absolutely nothing to do with their worst run of form in over 10 years. I think many put this run of form down to coincidence as they underestimated the role of the Assistant Coach and the effect that they have on the players. This is especially true when taking about Ray as he was close to many players at Stamford Bridge.
In terms of The Blues form over the last two or three months it has been good, they had closed that 15 point gap down to just three yet Old Trafford seemed just a test too much. They seemingly learned nothing from their two Champions League losses to the Reds in April and for that they paid the price. The January purchase of Luiz and Torres has been covered continuously and has been the subject of embarrassment for Carlo Ancelotti and Chelsea fans alike especially now the Premier League is United’s and has had the reverse effect on their push for the title.
With Torres scoring only the one since his arrival and Luiz looking like a player more suited to the centre of the field, the seventy million pound package hasn’t quite lived up to expectation when Manchester’s six million package has exceeded it. Whether this is down to the form of the players or the demand for success from Sir Alex, it’s Manchester United who have broken another record!
As Alex Ferguson’s prepares for yet another trophy to add to a collection than spans back for almost 20 years whatever happens on the 28th he will look back on this season as another success. The squeaky-bum-time is over and the attention is now swung toward the Wembley final! The chances are slim but as Alan Hansen once said “you can never write Manchester United off”.