Sir Alex Ferguson made history recently claiming his 12th and Manchester United’s 19th League championship. Over the 25 years he’s been in charge Ferguson has built some superbly talented teams and won 26 major trophies but could it be argued that his latest achievement is his greatest?
With United due to face Barcelona at Wembley on 28th May in the Champions League final Ferguson could yet mastermind what would be a historic double, with a team that some people believe to be inferior to those of the past?
Even with the likes of talisman Wayne Rooney, the evergreen Ryan Giggs and defensive duo Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand many pundits believe this to be a weaker side to that of 2008 and the treble winning team of 1999.
Manchester United have always been associated with fast flowing attacking football and this has been a hallmark of all Ferguson’s teams but this campaign has been different, we’ve seen a United that grinds out results and relies more on defensive supremacy rather than attacking prowess.
The historic success of ’99 was down to a team full of quality and depth, from goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel to legendary Captain Roy Keane. Ferguson had four quality strikers that all supplied goals and the two regarded as “second choice”, Sheringham and Solskjaer provided the goals in the Nou Camp to give Sir Alex his first European Cup triumph.
In 2008 United had the luxury of having some of the finest players in European and world football, the devastating forward line of Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Carlos Tevez provided not just goals but a work rate few opposition defences could cope with. In Edwin Van Der Saar Ferguson has finally found the world class goalkeeper he’d so desperately needed after the departure of Schmeichel, and in front of that was the developing partnership of Vidic and Ferdinand.
So what makes this team so different? Many pundits and spectators believed the likes of Scholes, Giggs, and Neville to be past their best, that the sale of Ronaldo to Real Madrid and losing Carlos Tevez to rivals City would leave a hole in the team and especially attack that could not be replaced.
But once again Ferguson has recovered from losing star players and built a team capable of winning trophies, he continues to get the best out of players such as Ryan Giggs, who at 37 is enjoying one of his best seasons for the club. In Antonio Valencia he has a winger that not only scores and creates goals but is also prepared to play his part defensively.
In Javier Hernandez he has a natural born goal scorer that at £7 million looks like the bargain of the century and his rise to prominence has been so great that Dimitar Berbatov finds himself as no more than a fringe player. With a mixture of youth and experience the Scotsman seems to have found a formula that works, it may not be based on the attacking football of years gone by but it continues to protect the traditions of winning and competing for major trophies that the Old Trafford club has come accustomed to.
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