Manchester United Season Review 2012/2013
Spurred on by an uncharacteristic late season capitulation in the 2011/2012 season, Sir Alex Ferguson pledged that Manchester United would never lose the Premier League title on goal difference again.
The ol’ timer’s response to this disappointment was to lure the best player in the league: Robin Van Persie away from long time rivals, Arsenal. Many eyebrows were raised, including my own due to RVP’s age and hefty price tag. Most United fans were clamouring for steel in the engine room but Fergie had other ideas. Shinji Kagawa was also signed from Borussia Dortmund to address the “creative flair” problem that United were said to have. At Dortmund, Kagawa showed he could also score goals by hitting the net 17 times from an advanced midfield position. Sir Alex’s summer spending made it clear to everyone that as far as the boss was concerned, offence would be the best form of defence.
Objective: Get the EPL trophy back. Do it by scoring as many goals as possible and do not lose the title on goal difference.
Notable Summer Signings:
Robin Van Persie (from Arsenal GBP 24m)
Shinji Kagawa (from Borussia Dortmund GBP 16m)
Alexander Buttner (from Vitesse Arnhem GBP 4m)
How the season panned out
The season began with an uninspiring display from Manchester United against Everton. The Red Devils were roughed up by Marouane Fellaini; a player many thought United should have gone after. A 1-0 opening day loss was hardly what the supporters were hoping for. United then beat fulham at home 3-2 in a nervy display. It was in this game that Robin Van Persie opened his United account with fellow Old Trafford debutante Kagawa also on the scoresheet. In their next game United came back from 2-0 down versus Southampton to win 3-2 thanks to a sensational hat trick from their new talisman Robin Van Persie (RVP). Poor defending and swashbuckling offense, mostly due to the genius of RVP became the main theme of the early part of the season. Almost lost in all of this was Wayne Rooney’s absence from the first team due to a lack of fitness and a freak injury sustained in the opening home game. Nemanja Vidic was recovering from a season ending knee injury and Rio Ferdinand was clearly struggling without his partner contributing to United’s woeful early defensive record. Ridiculous high scoring games against Tottenham (2-3), Stoke (4-2), Braga (3-2), Chelsea (3-2) and Chelsea again (4-5) followed and United fans knew there was a problem to be rectified. The poor defending continued into the Christmas season. Somehow though for every bad piece of defending there was a moment of magic from Robin Van Persie to save United’s blushes.
Van Persie’s most important contribution to United’s title triumph came against Manchester City at the Etihad stadium. Seeking revenge against their so-called noisy neighbours, United came out the blocks flying. Two goals from a rejuvenated Wayne Rooney and United were cruising. However, their poor defending reared its ugly head again and City clawed their way back into the game thanks to Yaya Toure and the impressive Pablo Zabaleta. Some poor defending from Old Trafford villain Carlos Tevez gave United one last chance to steal all 3 points. Van Persie swung in a free-kick that deflected off Samir Nasri and flew past Joe Hart in goal, winning the tie for the Red Devils. As it turned out, over the course of the season the key difference between the top two sides was definitely Robin Van Persie.
The victory seemed to energize United and deflate the Citizens. City never seemed to recover and just fell off the pace entirely after losing to their neighbours. Surprisingly Robin Van Persie suffered a serious goal scoring drought, luckily Wayne Rooney was on hand to step in and take some of the load off. Once Van Persie got up and running again he never looked back.
In this period of United dominance Shinji Kagawa started to look like more of a United player even scoring a glorious hat trick against Norwich. Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez scored a bucket load of goals for someone coming off the bench in most games. Everyone seemed to raise their games especially the initially unreliable defenders. Rio Ferdinand enjoyed one of his best seasons ever after a shaky start. David De Gea proved to the world that he really is a world class goal keeper. Patrice Evra seemed determined to redeem himself now that Buttner had arrived to give him some much needed competition at left back. Vidic returned and showed signs that he would be back to his world beating best. Perhaps the biggest improvement was that shown by young defender Rafael. The brazilian defender has long been accused of being naive and impulsive. This season Rafael showed much needed maturity and defensive intelligence, leading United fans to believe that he may truly be the needed successor to Gary Neville.
While some players improved, many failed to inspire and their futures are now up in the air. Fans became disillusioned with Nani’s demands for a new contract when his performances weren’t up to standard. Anderson has not been consistent or fit enough to herald a starting berth. Last year he was voted Player’s player of the year but Antonio Valencia’s fall from grace this season since donning the number 7 jersey has been the stuff of legend.
Perhaps due to the failings of the competition more than their own brilliance Manchester United easily won the Premier League title. A surprising stroll when you factor in the struggles they endured near the beginning of the season.
This was the 20th league title but every United fan will remember the season for being the last for Fergie. Sir Alex Ferguson shocked the world by announcing that he would retire as coach of Manchester United after 26 and a half years at the helm. We won’t go into too much detail because there will be a dedication article. What we will say here is that his absence will be felt immensely by all whether you like him or not. We will have to wait and see whether United can exist as a successful entity without the wily old fox to steer the ship. Sir Alex, thanks for the memories.
Conclusion: Manchester United did not lose the premer league title on goal difference so they succeeded there. They ended up cruising their way to a 20th premier league title. However, one must remember that they scored 3 less goals than the 2011/2012 season and let in 10 more. The attack was less prolific and the defense leakier. Key attacking players such as Rooney, Valencia, Young, Welbeck all regressed so this may be something that incoming manager David Moyes needs to address as he takes on the new job.
Statistically and as a unit Manchester United definitely have not been a better team. However, winning the premier league is tough and should be celebrated and in Robin Van Persie, United have a world class player to take them to the next level. Improvements need to be made though because the rest of the league won’t sleep walk their way through the season again. United need to be ready for a fight in 2013/2014.