Manchester United—Champions Of England. True, it is not official yet, but only a very, very foolish or a very, very brave man would bet against it. United all but sealed the title with their dominating 2-1 victory over the reigning champions (technically Chelsea still are England's best), even if the scoreline suggests a match more even than it actually was.
Some say this United side are the best squad ever, while others argue that the 1999 crop was much better. Whatever one's opinion, one cannot deny that they are certainly and by far the best team in the league season and deserve to be called Barclays Premier League Champions.
“If we’re top of the league at the end of the season—when it matters—and we haven’t been blowing teams away, we won’t care. The only thing that matters is winning that league."—Paul Scholes
Scholes typifies the United mentality that eking out results in difficult games is more important than constantly playing beautiful football. The ability to get the all important three points when playing teams that stifle their opponents by parking the bus has helped Manchester United reach where they are.
Their main title rivals for large parts of the season, Arsenal, fell victim to this very problem as they would try to play total football even against the likes of Bolton and Stoke and this led to their downfall while United soared through.
The ageless trio of Ryan Giggs, Van Der Sar and Paul Scholes is one of the factors that has made this United team reach their current heights. VDS has been stupendous in goal and has shown agility and reflexes beyond what even most young goalies can hope for. His retirement at the end of the season will be a huge blow to the Red Devils.
Giggs and Scholes, being outfield players, would have been hard pressed to play in all United's matches, but Ferguson has used their services so beautifully that they show no signs of stopping or letting up due to age. Giggs especially is in such fine fettle that some say he has never been better!!!
The experience and calmness brought by these players has rubbed off on the younger members of the squad and has helped the team mature faster.
Javier Hernandez (or Chicharito as he likes to be called) has undoubtedly been the signing of the season in the Barclays Premier League. The rather religious Mexican prodigy has repaid every penny and more of his £7 million transfer fee. The diminutive striker has played a hugely important part in United's charge for the title this season.
At the end of last season there was speculation that Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov was on his way out of Old Trafford as he had failed to live up to the hype created by his £30 million move. However, Sir Alex kept faith in him and the languid striker has come to the fore, in the process becoming the top scorer in the Premiership this season.
The contribution of these two frontmen is all the more outstanding, because they have helped draw United overcome Wayne Rooney's nine-month goal drought from open play. Most other teams would have failed miserably if their supposedly best player hit such form, but not United.
Manchester United have long been renowned for their never-say-die attitude and this was demonstrated impeccably this season as United came back from the dead several times to salvage poor games. Their comebacks against Blackpool and West Ham after being two goals down with just 20 to 30 minutes left shows their desire and belief.
Even against Everton and Bolton there were winners for United in the last 10 minutes from Chicharito and Berbatov respectively.
In fact United have scored the most goals in the last 10 minutes of matches this season—15.
Due to this there is almost always an inevitability in the air that they will score at some point, and this knocks the stuffing out of opposing teams.
United have an extremely solid backup XI as was demonstrated beautifully in their Champion League semifinal second leg against Schalke. This strength in depth has allowed them to overcome the trials and tribulations of a long season without letting points slip from their hand.
Park JI Sung is one of the first names that springs to mind when you think about Manchester United reserves, and this is due to the midfielder's importance to the side especially in the big games. One will notice that he is always picked for the so-called "big ones" and is probably among the first on the team sheet in such games.
On the other hand, United's main challengers have lacked a strong bench. Arsenal already have so many youngsters in the starting lineup itself that looking at their bench can become quite scary for the fans. Chelsea, despite having an embarrassment of riches upfront have really failed to find the right combination of players to bring on in order to affect the game.
The image on the left shows Sir Alex bowing down to the fans at Old Trafford, but surely, surely it should be the other way around, for Ferguson is no less than a God in these parts, and even supporters of clubs other than United have to accept that he is a cut or maybe several cuts above the rest.
He knows exactly the right things to say to his players, exactly the right players to buy and also exactly who to bring on as a sub and when to bring him on.
In fact even the infamous hairdryer treatment he metes out when his team is not performing gains him the respect of the team rather than lose it, which would undoubtedly be the case if other managers tried it. His persona and quiet confidence have led United to the top this season and in the last 20 or so years.
I can safely say that Sir Alex Ferguson is THE best manager in football in a long long time, if not THE best manager of all time, and he is the main reason why United deserve the title.