Football Season Review

Champions: Manchester United

Manchester United returned gloriously to the place where they believe that they belong as they were crowned champions for a 20th time and left very few doubts about which team was the best in the country over the last season. Having been badly hurt after seeing the title snatched from their noses in the previous season, United set about the task of regaining the title again by making the most bombastic signing of the summer. The capture of Robin van Persie from Arsenal was the closest to a guarantee of a stream of goals as Alex Ferguson could get and his capture would prove an undoubted masterstroke. With Shinji Kagawa arriving as well, United's attacking potential looked ominous. Yet, they were off to a losing start after suffering a 1:0 loss at Everton. They responded well by getting dramatic away wins at Southampton and Liverpool, with Van Persie scoring a superb hat-trick in the first of these games but defensive problems were blighting them early on. A particularly shoddy defensive showing saw them suffer a 3:2 loss at the hands of Tottenham, their first serious setback of the campaign. Yet, they remained a superbly consistent team that was utterly driven to stay top of the table and get the best out of their games. They saw off a resurgent Chelsea side to get a 3:2 win at Stamford Bridge when a loss would have left them seven points off the top. It was definitely a paramount result and established United as the most credible title challenger with City struggling for stability and Chelsea soon firing their manager. However, the game that really gave United the edge in the race for the title was a 3:2 victory away at Manchester City, a very sweet revenge for the pain that their neighbours inflicted them the previous season. Van Persie's goal right at the end proved the difference and was easily the standout and most crucial moment of the whole campaign. There was no stopping United after that and they sped clear at the top, winning 14 out of 16 league games and not losing from late November until April in the league. Van Persie actually had a pretty big goal drought but the range of attacking options kept United ticking along nicely and there was never really a scare of allowing City to creep back in with the gap being as big as 15 points at one point. The focus switched to the momentous Champions League tie against Real Madrid in the last-16 but United came up just short after losing 2:1 in the second leg at home having drawn 1:1 in Madrid. That loss very took the sting and the buzz out of the Red Devils and only a few days later they allowed Chelsea to peg them back to a 2:2 draw in the FA Cup having been two goals up. The replay saw United meekly lose 1:0 and the chance of a first FA Cup since 2004 was gone. The rest of the season was merely a procession to the title and a powerful 3:0 win over Aston Villa, with Van Persie hitting a brilliant hat-trick sealed their crown. Yet, that was a rare good and lively attacking display from a team that was struggling to get motivated after that painful defeat against Real Madrid. And then, just two weeks before the end of the season, came the bombshell that Alex Ferguson is going to retire at the end of the season. It came as a big surprise but he felt that the time was right to bow out as a winner and leave a strong squad to his successor David Moyes who still faces a mammoth task in trying to replicate the success that Ferguson has had over the last 26 years. Yet, it makes up for a very intriguing challenge and it will be extremely curious to see what Moyes will bring to the table and what changes he will make.

Player of the Season: Robin van Persie