Manchester United 2007/2008 Season Review

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Manchester United 2007/2008 Season Review
After winning what was probably our greatest title in 2006/2007, the 2007/2008 season presented United with the task of maintaining our position as Champions of England whilst attempting to go further in the Champions League.

2007 saw United stutter over the finish line in the Premier League race and injuries had taken their toll. The Champions League dream was extinguished for another year on a rainy night in Milan but after a four year wait, the Premiership was the trophy we really wanted.

At the start of this season, it was a different story; Sir Alex knew that he had the quality to run the course but perhaps not the depth. He brought in the talents of Owen Hargreaves, Nani, Anderson and Carlos Tevez, all of whom have been crucial in the bountiful successes of our season.

Sir Alex has masterfully balanced the rigorous demands of the Premier League with the more refined nature of European competition and has managed to win them both. It has been the second most successful season in our history and Manchester United are at the top of the tree again.


GOALKEEPERS

Edwin Van der Sar
Clean Sheets: 24
Man of the Match Awards: Two

Another great season for the Great Dutchman, culminating in the most dramatic style with his penalty shoot out save in Moscow. 24 clean sheets in all competitions is a record that speaks for itself but Van der Sar must also acknowledge the superb season of his back four.

Some commentators have criticized his kicking ability but he is more than capable of delivering a 70 yard ball up to Rooney and Tevez and he has showcased it many times this season. His role in Moscow has firmly cemented his status as a Manchester United great.
Season rating: 8

Tomas Kuszczak
Clean Sheets: Eight
Man of the Match Awards: None.

His performances this season have been fine from a deputy but his chances of taking the gloves from Van der Sar are slim and he must make a decision whether to stay as an understudy or go to be number one somewhere else.
Season Rating: 4

Ben Foster
Clean Sheets: One
Man of the Match Awards: 0

Foster played just one match this season due to his long standing injury but his two world class saves against Derby on a surprisingly tricky afternoon at Pride Park suggest that it will be him who is the eventual successor to Van der Sar.


DEFENCE

Patrice Evra
Goals: None
Man of the Match Awards: Two

After winning the left back berth from Gabriel Heinze last season, Patrice Evra has progressed into one of United’s best players. His marauding style helps start many of United’s attacks but his raw pace easily allows him to defend with equal aplomb.

His bravery for a small man is also highly admirable and he is always the first to put his head where it hurts. United quickly need to resolve the slight contract concern that hangs over his head and sign him up for another five years.
Season rating- 9

Rio Ferdinand
Goals: Three
Man of the Match Awards: Four

This season has finally seen Rio Ferdinand establish himself as the best defender in Europe. His reading of the game is second to none and he seems to know what the striker is going to do before they know themselves.

He came up against who many believe is the Premier Leagues best striker in Fernando Torres and left him frustrated and ineffective in both encounters. His passion when United win or score is highly pleasing for the United fans and surely it is only a matter of time before he is officially granted the club captaincy.
Season rating: Ten

Wesley Brown
Goals: One
Man of the Match Awards: Four

Gary Neville’s continued absence has been one of the few sore points of the season but thankfully Wes Brown is well up to the task of filling Neville’s boots. This season has seen Wes Brown play more games than in any other season and he has appeared more than any other player this year.

His performances in Europe have been especially solid; he was the best player on the pitch in both of the Barcelona ties and his aggressive marshalling of Florent Malouda in the final rendered the Frenchman useless. He can look forward to many more fulfilling seasons at United
Season Rating: Nine

Nemanja Vidic
Goals: One
Man of the Match Awards: Two

Whilst Ferdinand can anticipate and nullify the dangers of fast skillful attackers like Torres and Messi, it is Vidic that out muscles them. Vidic is a key part of the team and his partnership with Rio is a match made in heaven.

He needed to call on all of his powers in stifling Didier Drogba in the Champions League final; his man of the match award tells us what the outcome was. He has not scored as many goals as last season and he seems less of a threat from set pieces but that is always a luxury item when it comes to defenders and his defensive displays have been solid gold.
Season Rating: Nine

John O’Shea
Goals: None
Man of the Match Awards: None

Whilst not hitting the heights of the previous season or the goal, O’Shea has continued to be an important player within Sir Alex’s squad, he can play anywhere across the backline and push up to midfield. 28 Appearances in the league disguises the fact that most of them were substitute roles but he is evidence of the benefits of having a big squad
Season Rating: Five

Gerard Pique
Goals: Two
Man of the Match Awards: None

His performance versus Coventry City in the Carling Cup led many to believe that his season was over as quickly as it had started but Pique rallied and played a minor role in United’s successes.

His goals in the Champions League were impressive but it was Pique at fault when Bolton grabbed a victory in the league in November and Fergie has not trusted him since. Barcelona have just agreed to buy him for five million pounds which may be a good bit of business for the Catalans
Season Rating: Four

Gary Neville
Goals: None
Man of the Match Awards: None

The club captain played just 10 minutes this season, in the quarter final tie against Roma and his every touch was cheered by the United faithful. Hopefully he will play a bigger role in the next campaign

Mikael Silvestre
Goals: None
Man of the Match Awards: None

Another season riddled with injury for the Frenchman but his few performances since his return have been surprisingly good suggesting that he can maybe play another season at United but Bordeaux seems to be his likely destination.
Season Rating: Three

Danny Simpson
Goals: None
Man of the Match Awards: One

Simpson played eight times for United this season and he looks to be a promising talent. His attacking play is much stronger than his defensive work but if he can get a loan deal at a Premier League club next term then he might have a future at Old Trafford.
Season Rating: Three

Johnny Evans
Goals: None
Man of the Match Awards: None

Evans has played just one game for United this season, against Coventry in the Carling Cup defeat. He has impressed for Sunderland on loan however. Pique’s departure may open the door for the young Irishman


MIDFIELD

Owen Hargreaves
Goals: Two
Man of the Match Awards: Three

His Manchester United career got off to a slow start with injury leaving him relatively sidelined until after Christmas. Since February he has been a major player for the Reds and his versatility has been vital.

He is excellent in the right back position and even better at right midfield. He never stops working but he also has the quality to go with his graft. His close range freekicks are a terrific alternative to Ronaldo’s blasts and his goal against Arsenal finished their season
Season Rating: Seven

Cristiano Ronaldo
Goals: 42
Man of the Match Awards: 11

There isn’t much more to be said about this man. 42 goals in a season from a player who is ultimately a winger says it well enough. The only cloud hanging above his head was his ability to perform in big matches but his performance against Chelsea in the Champions League final ended that debate and if he has a good Euro 2008 then it will be a distant memory and he will be crowned the worlds greatest.
Season rating: 10

Anderson
Goals: None
Man of the Match Awards: Two

Anderson’s first season has got United fans dreaming about his future prospects. On his day he has the energy and power of Roy Keane with an eye for a pass that only Paul Scholes can match.

If he improves his consistency and acquires some shooting boots then he can be United’s midfield lynchpin for the next 10 years.
Season Rating: Eight

Ryan Giggs
Goals: Three
Man of the Match Awards: Three

Another season and another record smashed by the wonderful Welsh magician. Giggs now holds the record for most United appearances and his 10 league titles is a record that won’t be beaten for a very long time. He also scored his 100th league goal against Derby in December.

His legs may have gone but his ability to lose his marker and find space at the top of the field is undiminished. Nani will complete his takeover of the left wing position next season but it will always be Ryan Giggs’ left wing
Season Rating: Seven

Park Ji Sung
Goals: One
Man of the Match Awards: One

Another vital squad player that can be counted on to inject a dose of high octane energy into the proceedings. Whilst he may not be the most tactically astute player, his incessant running is the bane of defenders lives and he always forces the game upon the opponent
Season Rating: Six

Michael Carrick
Goals: Two
Man of the Match Awards: Two

With the arrival of Hargreaves and Anderson, it looked like Carrick might be spending a lot of the season warming the bench but he has arguably become Ferguson’s first choice option for the centre midfield slot and with good reason.

Carrick never gives the ball away, he stays in the centre of the pitch, picks up the ball and gets United going again, he may not be the gung ho driving force that Roy Keane was but his style of play heralds from the Italian tradition which makes it even more surprising that Capello’s England continually snubs him.
Season Rating: Eight

Nani
Goals: Four
Man of the Match Awards: Three

Nani has showed real quality and tremendous promise this season and he is perhaps the man that can take over from Ryan Giggs and achieve levels of greatness that his compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo has reached.

Some of his goals have been breathtaking but occasionally he is too greedy on the ball. This is no big problem for a young attacking player and hopefully he can become more refined, like Ronaldo has, in future seasons.
Season Rating: Seven

Paul Scholes
Goals: Two
Man of the Match Awards: Two

The 2006/2007 season was probably the Ginger Prince’s last great season at Manchester United but his brilliance has still shone through in this campaign. His goal against Barcelona is one that will live long in the memory and he has finally played and won a European Cup final which only serves to cement his legendary status at the club.
Season Rating: Seven

Darren Fletcher
Goals: Two
Man of the Match Awards: Two

Darren Fletcher is undoubtedly a big game player; he destroyed Arsenal in the FA Cup and gave a strong disciplined performance against Lyon in the Champions League second round at Old Trafford.

His biggest problem is that he does not have the creative streak that other United midfielders ahead in the pecking order possess. Owen Hargreaves looks to be the better model of the role that Fletch plays and maybe his Old Trafford days are numbered.
Season rating: Five

Chris Eagles
Goals: None
Man of the Match Awards: None

Eagles finished the previous campaign promisingly but has failed to make an impact this season and will most likely leave the club this summer.


ATTACK

Louis Saha
Goals: Five
Man of the Match Awards: None

It is difficult to feel sympathetic to the perennially injured Louis Saha, but this unfeeling attitude only exists due to the knowledge of what a fine player he is, and when he is fit he scores goals. If United get a good offer this summer then they should take it, but many clubs won’t take the risk on Saha. So, perhaps he will have one last chance to shine at the Theatre of Dreams
Season Rating: Three

Wayne Rooney
Goals: 18
Man of the Match Awards: Five

Two more medals for Wayne Rooney’s burgeoning collection and he’s still only 22. Rooney has been eclipsed this season by Ronaldo’s goal scoring exploits but his overall play is still vital to United’s fortunes.

Wayne has formed a good understanding with Carlos Tevez but towards the end of the season Sir Alex has favored Rooney on the left wing with Ronaldo pushing up front. For that reason Rooney’s goals have dried up, he is just as likely to be tracking the opponent’s wing backs than loitering in the final third, but it is impossible to complain about a player that gives his heart and soul to United.
Season Rating: Eight

Carlos Tevez
Goals: 19
Man of the Match Awards: Six

An excellent first season for "El Apache," his passion and drive has been rewarded with his first honours in European football. Tevez has made a specialty out of scoring late goals; this is not born out of luck but rather a deep-seated desire to leave the field of battle as the victor.

His uncommon strength and footballing skill is a potent mixture that has made him United’s second top scorer of the season
Season rating: Nine

Dong Fangzhou
Goals: None
Man of the Match Awards: None

Another season of nothing from Dong, he should be out this summer.


My Manchester United Player of the Season 2007/2008

Cristiano Ronaldo

2) Rio Ferdinand
3) Patrice Evra
4) Carlos Tevez
5) Nemanja Vidic
6) Wayne Rooney
7) Michael Carrick
8) Wes Brown
9) Anderson
10) Edwin Van Der Sar
11) Owen Hargreaves
12) Paul Scholes
13) Ryan Giggs
14) Nani
15) Park Ji Sung
16) Darren Fletcher
17) John O’Shea
18) Tomas Kuzsczak
19) Gerard Pique
20) Louis Saha
21) Mikael Silvestre
22) Danny Simpson


Top 10 opponents

1) Michael Ballack. The German midfielder revived the title race thanks to his goalscoring performance against United in April and in the second half of the Champions League final he looked most likely to be the man to brake through United’s resistance.

2) Lionel Messi. Barcelona were largely disappointing in their encounter with United but Messi was the one player that could at any minute unlock the safe. His trickery was ably complemented with his tactical awareness and if Henry or Eto'o were on form then United could have had serious problems. Also, it is always nice to see a player that doesn’t complain when decisions go against him and just gets on with the game.

3) Karim Benzema. United were lucky to get away from Lyon with a draw, the French side were the dominant team and all their attacks were formulated by Benzema. His goal showcased power and precision that will make him a star of the future

4) Brad Friedel. Whilst it is clear that Friedel is a top quality goalkeeper, it must also be acknowledged that he always manages to find extra reserves of heroics whenever he plays United. The game against Blackburn in April saw him make world class save after world class save. Thankfully Tevez headed one into the top corner from close range in the 87th minute to earn a vital point.

5) Didier Hamann. Whilst United were unlucky to leave Eastlands with nothing to show for their troubles, Hamann was the best player on the pitch, and when he came to Old Trafford he repeated the feat and completed a double over United

6) Afonso Alves. Scored twice against United in the 2-2 draw in April. His cool finishing exposed an unusually below par United defence and it was up to Wayne Rooney to save the day

7) Sol Campbell. His steadfastness in the FA Cup quarter final earned Portsmouth an unlikely victory on their way to winning the competition

8) Benjani Mwaruwari. Benjani scored for two different clubs against United this season. His goal for Portsmouth earned them a draw and his goal for City effectively ended United’s chances in the Derby.

9) Michael Mifsud. The Carling Cup was always going to be a low priority competition this season but it was still disappointing to lose at home against Coventry. Mifsud scored both of Coventry’s goals and terrorized a team that boasted the talents of Anderson, Nani and Gerard Pique.

10) Danielle De Rossi. Roma were soundly beaten again by United this season, our 2-0 victory at the Stadio Olympico epitomized our dominance over the Italians but one player that always plays his heart out for the club and should be recognized as their best player is De Rossi. He was their only real threat in the four games we played against them this season.


Top 10 Matches of the Season

1) Manchester United vs. Chelsea, Champions League Final, 21/05/2008

1-1 Ronaldo / Lampard 6-5 on Penalties.

Too nerve-wracking to enjoy but Van der Sar’s penalty save in sudden death will make this match live forever in the memory. For the neutral the match had everything and both teams acted their part in providing a thrilling encounter.

The first half saw United at their attacking best whilst Chelsea defended for their lives, they were lucky to get into half time at 1-1. The second half saw the tables reversed and it was Chelsea that tested United’s defensive abilities, twice hitting the woodwork.

Drogba was sent off in extra time and Giggs had an effort cleared off the line. The penalty shoot out saw Ronaldo miss his attempt and his excellent season looked to be ending in the ultimate misery but John Terry stepped up to win it for Chelsea and slipped at point of impact and sent the ball fizzing against the post.

On his record breaking 759th appearance Ryan Giggs slotted home what was to be the winning penalty and Edwin Van Der Sar won it for United by beating away Nicholas Anelka’s effort. Manchester United had won the League and European double.

 

2) Manchester United vs. Barcelona, Champions League Semi Final, 29/04/2008

1-0 Scholes

Another nail biting night of action for the United faithful as the Reds booked their ticket to Moscow. Paul Scholes scored one of his greatest goals in a career littered with great goals and the defence kept Messi and co at bay to send Old Trafford into raptures


3) Manchester United vs. Arsenal, Premier League, 13/04/2008

2-1 Ronaldo, Hargreaves / Adebayor

Arsenal needed to win the game to have any chance of winning the title whilst United couldn’t allow themselves to slip up and let Chelsea gain ground. Arsenal were easily the better team in the first 60 minutes of the match and they gained a 1-0 lead.

United were gifted a penalty which was duly converted by Ronaldo and then we went for the jugular with Owen Hargreaves chipping in a stunning free kick to end Arsenal’s season once and for all


4) Manchester United vs. Aston Villa, Premier League, 29/03/2008

4-0 Ronaldo, Tevez, Rooney (2)

Quite simply United’s best performance of the season. The new holy trinity of Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez were all on fire and Ronaldo’s flick into the back of the net was just another showcase of his immense skill.


5) Manchester United vs. Arsenal, FA Cup Fifth Round, 16/02/2008

4-0 Rooney, Fletcher (2), Nani

Whilst the league match in April resoundingly ended Arsenal’s title bid, this was the fixture that started their demise. United completely dismantled the Arsenal side and they never managed to regain their form for the rest of the season


6) Manchester United vs. Newcastle United, Premier League, 12/01/2008

6-0 Ronaldo (3), Tevez (2), Ferdinand

With Sam Allardyce recently sacked, United knew this was the right time to be playing the Magpies. Ronaldo proceeded to fill his boots and even Rio got in on the act


7) Newcastle United vs. Manchester United, Premier League, 23/02/2008

1-5 Faye / Rooney (2), Ronaldo (2), Saha

Kevin Keegan had recently been installed as manager but even "The Messiah" couldn’t stop United from wreaking havoc again. This time it was Rooney as the commander in chief and United’s 11 goals against Newcastle over both ties was a key factor in our goal difference superiority over Chelsea.


8) Wigan Athletic vs. Manchester United, Premier League, 11/05/2008

0-2 Ronaldo, Giggs

Chelsea had pushed the title race to the final day and United needed to win to be sure of lifting the trophy. United were cagey, Ronaldo’s penalty eased the nerves but Wigan were starting to ask questions.

It was still 1-0 at the 75 minute mark when Ryan Giggs came on to equal Sir Bobby Charlton’s appearance record, he then proceeded to score the goal that won Manchester United their 17th league title


9) Manchester United vs. Liverpool, Premier League, 23/03/2008

3-0 Brown, Ronaldo, Nani

It was Sir Alex Ferguson’s mission to remove Liverpool from the pinnacle of the English game when he arrived in Manchester 21 years ago. He completed his mission in 1993 when he won his first league title with United and has since won nine more. This match was evidence that there is only one team in Red that rules the football roost as Liverpool were comprehensively swept aside


10) Manchester United vs. Chelsea, Premier League, 23/09/2007

2-0 Tevez, Saha

It was Avram Grant’s first day at school but it was United new boy Carlos Tevez that came away happy. Tevez scored his first United goal from a close range header and then Louis Saha put the seal on an important victory.


Final Word: A Toast to Sir Alex Ferguson

The merits and achievements of the players have been discussed at great length in the review of the season but Sir Alex Ferguson’s role has not been properly addressed. Sir Alex is the glue that holds the whole fabric of the club together, he is more than just the boss, every thing that goes on at Old Trafford is down to him.

Two years ago it seemed as though United’s dominance of the English game was over and Chelsea’ Russian Revolution would be the new footballing force. United had lost Keane and van Nistelrooy in a very short space of time and Ferguson refused to buy in bulk with only Michael Carrick coming in from Tottenham.

He managed to make Ronaldo stay after the World Cup controversy by pledging to build the team around him, van Nistelrooy’s departure was indicative of this. It was Ferguson’s faith in his largely unproven bunch of players that has created the success of the last two seasons.

Ronaldo has become the best player in the world, Ferdinand and Vidic are the greatest central defensive partnership that the club has ever seen, ageing superstars such as Giggs, Scholes and Van der Sar have been given a new lease of life and the whole team has a very homegrown feel about it.

Neville, Brown, Ferdinand, Hargreaves, Carrick, Fletcher, Giggs, Rooney and Scholes are all products of the British Isles. It is Ferguson who has moulded all of these elements together to place Manchester United at the pinnacle of World Football again and he must surely now be recognized as the greatest football manager of all time.
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