Unlike Rob or Peter or many United fans, I cannot, and will not, claim to be a lifelong Manchester United supporter. I’ll be 30 this year and growing up in the United States didn’t make it easy to follow football overseas. It wasn’t until about 3 or 4 years ago, maybe later, that the PL was regularly broadcasted stateside. The proliferation of the Internet has made it increasingly accessible in the last few years, but getting behind a team in the early 1990’s was almost impossible, especially if no one in your family had ever played the sport. At the age of five, I started playing. I’ve played it and loved it ever since. We’ve become a football family. My Pops knows everything there is to know about the sport and is a huge PL fan. A Liverpool fan, but a supporter nonetheless. My brother grew up watching me play and he also started playing. It was the only sport that he ever really played and his high school team was one of the best in the state. Sadly he, too, is a Liverpool fan.
So, people have asked where my love for United came from and as cliché as it may sound, it came from David Beckham. Even without regular access to the PL, everyone knew who he was in the 90’s. So, I chose to become a fan. It has grown exponentially each season, to the point where United trumps everything else. And I do mean everything. Fans can understand the feeling. All this being said, I might look at the seasons, and rivalries, just a little different than most, but I do truly understand the plight, and severity, of being a United fan through and through. With that history, here are my thoughts on our record-breaking season, one diehard Devil fan to another…
I remember the title race officially coming down to the last game of the season last year and it ate me up that it was Chelsea. We won our last game pretty handedly and so did Chelsea. In fact, they thumped Wigan and left Drogba on the pitch so he could steal the Golden Boot from Wayne Rooney who truly deserved the accolade after almost single-handedly carrying the team on his back. Ronaldo was gone. Tevez was gone. Everyone gave us no shot. Kind of like this year. So, when this season started, and Chelsea were ahead early, my already boiling hatred turned into the fire of the Earth type of hate. They hit a spell of terrible games and it turned into a two-horse race between us and Arsenal, until the end.
Right around that time, we all went through the Rooney saga. Within a few days, he signed an extension, something that I had openly predicted he’d do – even after speculation that City had already taken thousands of orders for the new Wayne Rooney kit. For most of the season, Rooney was put out to dry, and his form dictated so. His extramarital affair and performance at the World Cup carried through Rooneygate, so that did him no favors. It was also around this time that we lost Antonio Valencia to a horrific injury, one many equated to the Ramsey or Eduardo injury from seasons past. His return was immediately shelved until next season. Amongst it all though, we continued to roll on undefeated. It became the elephant in the room until we finally lost at Wolves. It was a long time coming, especially given how poorly we played away from Old Trafford all season.
Through all of it, we maintained our lead at the top, but many were just waiting for our self-implosion. From the beginning of the season, no one gave us a real shot. Our team wasn’t good enough. Our MF had too many holes. No one was going to step up in Rooney’s absence and take the reigns. But just as all this was happening, the Bulgarian hero, Dimitar Berbatov, came riding in on his white horse to rescue us. Nani followed suit and both these players carried us through to 2011, lead in tact. There are a few players who deserve to be our Player of the Year, and Nani is definitely one of them. Then, the beginning of 2011 saw some more rough away matches, but it also saw some gritty come-from-behind away matches (Blackpool and West Ham). It also saw the reemergence of Wayne Rooney as a playmaker and the explosion of our 6 million pound Mexican, Javier Hernandez. From his awkwardly scored goal against Chelsea in the Community Shield, to his perfectly placed first minute goal against Chelsea at Old Trafford two weeks ago, Hernandez has been, for me, our Player of the Year. The kid scores goals, which found Berbatov, a club servant for most of the year, sitting on the bench over the last three or four months. Valencia returned to action and played a vital role in many matches. Ji-Sung Park, either playing in Asia or injured, returned to provide key games for us. Ryan Giggs is ageless and has showed that a million times this season. My favorite player of all-time. And Vidic. There’s not much to say about the man that hasn’t already been said – he’s a monster. And keep in mind, with all the issues we’ve had this season, with injuries, poor away form, absent MF, Rooneygate, Valencia out, etc – we’ve also still managed to make it to the Champions League Final.
Amongst all of the turmoil and doubt we’ve gotten from just about every angle this season, our team has pulled through and shown what it is to be Champions. Fergie has, yet again, done a masterful job of putting out a team that will always challenge for a win. And, if nothing else, we’ve learned not to ever question his selection – Giggs at left back?? All these obstacles that we’ve had to face – with the squad of players that no one gave a chance – have made winning our 19th title even sweeter. Since becoming a United fan, I’ve learned of the history and rivalry between us and Liverpool. And since my dad and brother are both diehard Liverpool fans, it makes it that much better to leapfrog them. This season has been one of the craziest, most gut wrenching, nail biting, heavily drinking induced seasons that we’ve had. In the end, though, look what we have to show for it. A glorious 19th title. Oh, and don’t forget we play in the Champions League Final. A predicted trophyless year could end up being a Double. I’d say that it’s been a damn good season.
Follow Jason on Twitter @JasTheDevil