2007-08: The Double and Proving the Worth of United’s Squad

Sir Alex Ferguson had created one of the best teams in the world helping them to win the league title in the 2006-2007 season, the task for them was to maintain the same standards set by the team. Sir Alex Ferguson one of the best coaches in football, he splashed out big money in the summer transfer window buying out 4 players, all four had settled in so well at Manchester United that they would have thought that they had been there forever. It took a lot of time to land Tevez from West Ham United but it was well worth the time. Then Portugese Nani from Sporting CP for €25.5 million, five percent of which was paid to Real Massamá, his first professional club.

Manchester united’s 2007-2008 season was presented as a task of maintaining their position as a league holder and going further in the Champions league.

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The frontline of Cristiano, Rooney and Tevez was magical as each one of them could come deep and take the ball forward with pace. In the premier league United mostly played a 4-4-2 with Giggs and Cristiano on the wings and Rooney and Tevez making up the front four.The midfield was in control of Carrick and Scholes, both had the ability to play short passes and Scholes was able to release the balls on the counter attacks.The defense was a solid one and the team only pressed when the opposition made mistakes, they barely pressed in the opposition half.

The campaign started off on a bad note with 2 draws and 1 loss, also red devils had lost Rooney and Cristiano against Reading.In the following week The Red Devils were able to beat Spurs, after eight games of the season, United had conceded just two goals, three less than at the same point in the previous season. However, the team was having trouble in front of goal, only scoring seven goals in the same eight games. This changed on 6 October, however, when United beat Wigan Athletic 4–0, followed by their 7th and 8th consecutive league wins.

Ferguson mostly relied on his player’s ability to read the passes and intercept and the defensive stance was predicated less on defending and more on being ready to break with astonishing pace when the ball was one back.

In the champions league Manchester United mostly played 4-3-3 or in a 4-5-1 formation for tactical reasons.The run of Manchester United in the Champions league was astronomical.United were drawn into a group with Sporting CP, the previous club of Cristiano Ronaldo and new signing Nani, Dynamo Kyiv, and Roma, who suffered a huge 7–1 loss to the Red Devils in the 2006–07 season. United started their Champions League campaign with a 1–0 win against Sporting, which they followed up with another 1–0 win, this time against Roma. United’s winning streak in Europe continued when they won their match against Dynamo Kyiv 4–2 in Ukraine, with goals coming from Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo (2). United sealed their place in the knockout stage with a 4–0 win in the return game against Dynamo Kyiv, with goals from Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, while Gerard Piqué got his first ever senior goal for the club.

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By January, back then, premier league was more intense as Arsenal and Chelsea were competing for the premier league as well as champions league. In the premier league possibly the most obvious example of an injury changing not just the course of one match but the whole season. Arsenal headed to St Andrew’s five points clear at the top of the Premier League in February 2008. Only three minutes into the match, Eduardo suffered a horrific leg break following a shocking challenge by Martin Taylor, and Arsenal’s season imploded from thereon in. A 2-1 lead was scuppered by a late James McFadden penalty, William Gallas had become the physical manifestation of the mental blow by throwing a tantrum on the pitch. Chelsea had already suffered a major set off in the starting of the season as Mourinho had left the Blues on mutual consent.

As the devils progressed in the champions league they had to face Lyon in the Round of 16. The away leg was played on 20 February, and saw Lyon go 1–0 up in the 54th minute, through a Karim Benzema’s  shot that went in off the post. Carlos Tevez rectified the situation in the 87th minute, pulling United level to make sure that the Red Devils were in half-decent shape for the return leg on 4 March.

In the return leg of the round of 16 United were able to beat Lyon by a goal scored when the half-time approached, and Wes Brown  made an overlapping run, before delivering a cross that found its way to Anderson on the edge of the area. The Brazilian side-footed the ball goalwards, and the ball broke to Cristiano Ronaldo who fired the ball home from an ever-narrowing angle.

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United were drawn Roma in the quarters which was an exciting one as the previous four matches resulted in two wins, a draw and a loss, including United’s Champions League record 7–1 win in the 2006–07 quarter-final. Ronaldo broke the deadlock in the first leg by scoring a powerful header assisted by Scholes, the draw ended up in 2-0 win for the Red Devils. United did qualify for the Semi’s as they beat Roma even on the home leg by a goal.

The first leg of the semi’s against Barcelona was at Camp Nou, both teams went into the semi-final with identical records in this season’s Champions League, each having won eight games and drawn two, while scoring 18 goals and conceding five. United were awarded a penalty three minutes into the game, after Gabriel Milito handled Cristiano Ronaldo’s header from a corner. Ronaldo himself stepped up to take the kick, but, despite sending Victor Valdes the wrong way, smacked his shot against the post. The missed penalty seemed to give Barcelona the extra confidence they needed, and they began to take control of the game.  A number of saves from Van der Sar and a Michael Carrick block kept Barcelona at bay, while Carrick himself came close to scoring at the other end, rippling the side-netting after making space for himself on the left side of the penalty area, the match finished as a scoreless draw.

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Going into the 2nd leg was like that the war was just about to get interesting, the night was a passionate one in which the home crowd vociferously supported United as they worked to achieve a place in the final. United took the lead thanks to an outstanding goal by Paul Scholes in the 14th minute. Despite all the possession Barcelona were not able to beat Sir Alex’s team and The Red Devils were able to book a place in the finals.

Another vital day at the office Manchester United vs Chelsea one of the most exhilarating game of the season as it was the only opportunity left for Chelsea to stop the Red Devils from winning the league title. Joe Cole had the first real chance, but could only smash the ball into the woodwork from 18 yards after he regained the ball from a poor clearance. Just before the half time Micheal Ballack scored the goal after the German had lost his marker to find room at the back post.After the break United were able to score an equalizer. The game went quiet for the last 20 minutes, until a Michael Essien’s cross was handled by Michael Carrick just inside the United penalty area with four minutes left to play. Referee Alan Wiley pointed to the spot, and Ballack stepped up to convert and give Chelsea the win. This meant that United had to win both of their games left to play if they need to win the title. The title was won by United as Chelsea drew against Bolton due to a last-minute equaliser by Bolton against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge ensured that United’s championship did not have to be decided by goal difference, and it left the Red Devils as the champions of England for the 17th time, just one short of Liverpool’s record of 18 titles.

The Champions league final, both the teams wanted to win the champions league more than the other, United had the run of the play in the first half of the final, dominating Chelsea in terms of possession, and took the lead in the 26th minute through a Cristiano Ronaldo header off a Wes Brown’s cross. However, in the last minute of the first half, the ball in the United box was deflected to Frank Lampard, who capitalised on a slip by Van der Sar to equalise for the Londoners. The second half was much more even, but no further goals were scored and the match went to extra time. Midway through the second half of extra time, a large incident involving Carlos Tevez and John Terry kicked off. During this incident the referee spotted a slap on Nemanja Vidić by Didier Drogba, and had no hesitation in sending the Ivorian international off. Despite the man advantage, United were unable to find a winner and the match went to penalties. Both teams converted their first two penalties, but then the most unlikely of players who could miss the penalty, Ronaldo stepped up with his usual self-confidence, could only stare on as Petr Čech saved his shot. Just when the match looked lost, John Terry stepped up for the Blues and as he struck his shot and the ball hit the post. This took the match to sudden death penalties, though only two further rounds were required. Ryan Giggs scored United’s seventh penalty, it meant that Nicolas Anelka had to score in order to keep Chelsea in the game. His shot, however, was poorly struck and United did win the Champions league in Russia.

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Cristiano Ronaldo,there isn’t much more to be said about this man. 42 goals in a season from a player who is ultimately a winger says it well enough. The only cloud hanging above his head was his ability to perform in big matches but his performance against Chelsea in the Champions League final ended that debate and if he has a good Euro 2008 then it will be a distant memory and he will be crowned the worlds greatest.

The merits and achievements of the players have been discussed at great length in the review of the season but Sir Alex Ferguson’s role has not been properly addressed. Sir Alex is the glue that still has held the whole fabric of the club together, he was and continue to be more than just the boss, everything that goes on at Old Trafford is down to him.

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