I love that looking back on favourite games, favourite moments, favourite players etc can be so subjective. Rarely, do we all agree on every single point and I think we can feel fortunate that United give us so much to choose from! So, here are mine…..
Player of the season – My vote for this, goes to Javier Hernandez (or as we all call him now, Chicharito). A relative unknown when his transfer to United from Chivas was announced, he displayed a real eye for goal when he played for Mexico in the World Cup and showed exactly why United had been so keen so secure him before the tournament. There is no doubt that after the talent he displayed in South Africa, his fee would have been much higher than the reported £6 million which United paid. Although his debut goal wasn’t the prettiest (the infamous deflection off his face and into the net against Chelsea in the Community Shield!), he scored some beautiful goals (his header vs Stoke away) and some vital goals (away to Valencia in the Champions League, and at home to Chelsea). For a player who was meant to be using the 2010/11 season to ‘bed in’, he kept £30 million striker Dimitar Berbatov on the bench for large parts of the season, as well as scoring 20 goals for the club. An absolute bargain.
Goal of the season – Well, the obvious goal here would be Rooney’s vs City. In terms of the quality, rarity and skill of the goal, it’s hard to argue. But instead, I’m going for Chicharito’s vs Chelsea at home in the league. For the past few seasons, Chelsea have been somewhat of a bogey team for us. It would be easy to blame the referee for some of the defeats (and to be honest, I do still believe that if Drogba’s blatantly offside goal at Old Trafford hadn’t been allowed, we may well have tied up number 19 a season earlier) but I was certainly starting to wonder if the team and us as fans, were starting to get a bit of a mental block about playing Chelsea. The importance of the game against them at Old Trafford on the 8th of May can’t be understated. Although we still had two games left to play after Chelsea, a win for the Blues would have brought them level on points with us and left United in a very precarious position. I don’t think any of us could have dreamt of the start that we had. From kick off, United went on the attack and when David Luiz failed to cut out a beautiful ball from Park, Chicharito was on the end of it with a superb finish in just 37 seconds. A great goal in itself, but the goal served as a fantastic platform to build from. It settled the players down, calmed the fans’ nerves and was just what was needed for United then to go on and give one of the best team performances of the season.
Best moment – For me, there is no better moment all season than seeing United lift that Premier League trophy. Everything that the players, manager and staff had worked so hard towards had come to fruition and needless to say, all of the expense, stress, highs and lows that us as fans had to go through were all completely and utterly worth it. I’ve personally seen United lift 9 titles in various stadiums (the likes of Goodison Park, JJB Stadium as well as Old Trafford) and each time, I’ve made myself savour each moment in case it might be the last. This time, I loved seeing the players who had seen it all before (the likes of Giggs, Scholes, Ferdinand etc), celebrating with those who were experiencing triumph like this for the first time (such as Chicharito, Valencia, Smalling). It was also touching to see Van der Sar round off his incredible career with another league title to his name, which was richly deserved. Of course, the highlight of any United lap of honour in recent years? Anderson’s appalling dancing!
When all around you, men, women and children are all singing, smiling and waving flags along with the players on the pitch singing, “Are you watching Merseyside?” how can any moment of the season be better than that?
Best Match – Blackburn away seems like an obvious choice but the actual performance wasn’t all that great and to be honest, I was in a stress haze at Ewood Park and can probably only recall a handful of actual details from the game. I’ve decided to choose Chelsea at home in the league for my favourite match. It was a truly a Champions’ performance. The atmosphere in the ground was buzzing, buoyed by a strong looking starting 11 (although a little concerned that for Chelsea, Drogba had been chosen ahead of the less than prolific Torres). We knew that a win would put us within touching distance of the 19th league title, with only one more point required. The game got off to the perfect start when Chicharito put us ahead after 37 seconds and from then on, United were just relentless. Waves of attacks just kept coming at Chelsea and in the 23rd minute, they broke again as Vidic headed United into a 2 goal lead. Although Chelsea had their chances and indeed got one back through Lampard deep into the second half, it felt like United were always in control and could have had a few more goals by the time the final whistle went. The celebrations inside the ground both on and off the pitch, were pandemonium, We all knew that we were almost there and that next time we were all back at Old Trafford, we would most likely be seeing United lift the Premier League trophy once again.
Special mention award – A few eyebrows were raised when United announced the signing of Chris Smalling. He wasn’t a big name signing to set pulses racing- indeed, there will have been very few of us that knew many details about the player apart from that he was coming from Fulham and just two years previously, he had been getting his football grounding in the non league world at Maidstone, although he had just broken into the England Under 21s. Once again, his transfer fee was undisclosed but rumoured to be around £8-10 million depending on which newspaper you believe. To many, it was an ‘unneccessary’ signing because of the rock solid centre back pairing of Vidic and Ferdinand, as well as us having cover in that position with Jonny Evans, Wes Brown and John O’Shea. However, United weren’t the only club interested in the up and coming Smalling and so the manager moved to bring him into the fold. It turned out to be a very good decision as whilst he had a somewhat rocky debut against Celtic (where he conceded a penalty), he proved to be more than capable when filling in for Vidic or Ferdinand when needed, turning in some very impressive performances. It appears that United’s defensive future is looking very strong indeed.