At the start of the 2010-2011 season, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were being written off by pundits as potential Champions with the big-spending Manchester City being dubbed as favorites to challenge Chelsea for the title. Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham were being spoken of in the same breath as Manchester United as the teams that would finish 3rd or 4th. You couldn’t blame the bookies or journalists for predicting it would go that way. The off-season signings of Bebe, Chris Smalling and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez are hardly names that would inspire confidence to any football follower, let alone Manchester United fans. On paper it looked like a squad that was ageing and that lacked the strength to challenge on all fronts and carry them all the way until the end of the season. This is a club which has set for itself the highest standards in terms of quality of football and their fans could be forgiven for assuming that this United squad wasn’t one strong enough to challenge for the entire campaign. But Fergie has proved every single one of his doubters wrong…again.
A squad that is rightly balanced between experienced players and youth has proven once more to be a great blend and recipe for success. This United team is definitely one of Ferguson’s least flamboyant and entertaining squads, but he’s turned them into Champions by instilling in them a never-say-die attitude that is reminiscent of past United squads. If Manchester United supporters are asked who the key player was this season, there would be numerous answers as opposed to previous seasons; this time there was no outstanding performer. This season’s title is thanks to Sir Alex Ferguson making the best out of a relatively average squad (in comparison to previous United squads), his man-management, his rotation policy, the other contenders lack of consistency and Fergie's team’s overall effort. On top of the fact that they’ve just won the league, they find themselves in the Champions league final facing the mighty F.C Barcelona next week and also reached the semi-finals of the F.A.Cup only to be dumped out by the eventual winners, their neighbors Manchester City. Not bad for a team that was being written off at the beginning of the season.
Liverpool legend Graeme Souness once said following one of Liverpool’s title victories in the 1980s: “by our standards, we weren’t good enough; by everybody else’s, we were”. The same could be said about United this season. The quality of play may not have been great, but the hunger and desire to succeed was. Games against Blackpool, Wolves, West Ham, Aston Villa and Everton are just a few games when last minute winners and dramatic comebacks gave United 3 vital points. This team may not flatter spectators at times, but you can be guaranteed that they will fight until the very last minute. 11 draws and 4 defeats does not sound like the stuff of Champions, but an unbeaten record at home of 18 wins out of a possible 19 does. Their desire to succeed, added to their home form in particular, were a driving force for this side. The players seemed to pass on the responsability to one another to lead the way. At various stages during the season, Nani, Berbatov, Vidic, Van Der Sar, Chicharito, Rooney, Ferdinand and, of course, the ageless Ryan Giggs were taking games by the scruff of the neck and pushing the team. That is the hallmark of Champions.
Football fans of rival teams will always have an envious hatred for teams that are successful; it comes with the territory. If a club is successful it has to accept the criticism that comes with it, and I’m pretty sure Manchester United fans all around the world don’t mind that. Liverpool were despised and respected by most of Europe during the 70s and 80s, Barcelona are currently admired and loathed by many around the world, and Manchester United have been as well during the 90s and most of the 2000s. But whether a club is loved or hated by opposing fans will never be the determining factor of success; what matters most is whether or not over the course of a season a club can stay consistent enough at the top. When we look back at this Premier League season, all the teams that were challenging for the title went through a blip, except for Manchester United. Their consistency and ability to bounce back from failure has proven to be the key. Nothing should be taken away from this triumph despite its relative lack of flair. They have now broken the record and become the team that has won the most league titles in English Football history with this 19th title. United fans all over the world should be proud of the achievement and enjoy the moment while it lasts because this is the club’s golden era. Football works in cycles and Manchester United are currently enjoying its most successful period during this cycle. You may hate them, you may love them – but you must respect them for their accomplishment: Manchester United, Champions 2010-2011.