After a short break, we need to get caught up with what has been going on in Manchester. It really hasn’t been all that news worthy.. well, maybe a little newsworthy.
May 5th: Manchester United vs. Chelsea at Old Trafford
Chelsea took a big stride in their Champions League efforts with a hard fought, 1-0 win. United had some line-up changes with Lindegaard in goal and Giggs forced into starting action with Carrick unavailable. The match was very well played and, frankly, looked like a scoreless draw was imminent until Mata put a shot on goal in the 87th minute that nicked off Phil Jones and went past Lindegaard.
I am not usually one to complain much about referring, especially since I was a basketball/baseball official for 18 years, but the red card given to Rafael for the foul on Luiz was draw-joppingly bad. It was a foul, sure, but Luiz reinforced to the divers of the world what can be accomplished with a little injury-embellishment. It blows my mind that professional athletes feel no shame in acting like babies, rolling around crying on the ground and throwing temper tantrums in order to have an opponent unjustly punished. David Luiz belongs in Spain or Italy where that kind of shit is not only acceptable, but glorified.
May 8th: Sir Alex Ferguson Retires from Manchester United
After 27 years at the helm, Sir Alex announced that he was retiring as the manager of Manchester United and moving into the front office. He will become a director and ambassador for the club. His accomplishments are legendary and too numerous to recount (again) - he retires the most decorated manager in English football history and there are only a handful of coaches/managers in all of sports who can even be mentioned in the same conversation as Sir Alex.
From Sir Alex, “The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly. It is the right time. It was important to me to leave an organization in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so. The quality of this league winning squad, and the balance of ages within it, bodes well for continued success at the highest level whilst the structure of the youth set-up will ensure that the long-term future of the club remains a bright one.”
May 9th: David Moyes announced as new manager of Manchester United
When Sir Alex announced his retirement, David Moyes was immediately moved to the top of the list to replace him. He made Everton a team to be reckoned with during his 11 years in Merseyside. There had been some rumors he was on the move – even before Sir Alex announced his retirement – as his contract was ending on June 30th. He made some overtures about negotiating a new contract to stay, but with the opening at Old Trafford he quickly became the focus of the Red Devils.
When the announcement was made installing Moyes as the new manager it was made by Sir Alex himself. “I have always said that we wanted the next manager to be a genuine Manchester United man. In David Moyes, we have someone who understands the things that make this a special club.” It probably doesn’t hurt that he’s Scottish..
He finished with, “At United, I think David will be able to express himself. I’m delighted he has accepted and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
David Moyes had this to say upon his appointment: “It’s a great honour to be asked to be the next manager of Manchester United. I am delighted that Sir Alex saw fit to recommend me for the job. I have great respect for everything he has done and for the football club.”
“I know how hard it will be to follow the best manager ever, but the opportunity to manage Manchester United isn’t something that comes around very often and I’m really looking forward to taking up the post next season.”
May 12th: Manchester United vs. Swansea at Old Trafford
Sir Alex’s final match in charge at Old Trafford. This one had an air of inevitability. Manchester United took command of this match early and finally broke through in the 38th minute when Robin van Persie set up Javier Hernandez from about six yards out – Chicharito’s sweet spot. United dominated the first half but couldn’t put another in the net and the first half ended 1-nil.
Early in the second half, Swansea played a much more aggressive game. When United failed to clear a corner, Michu put in the equalizer past Phil Jones and De Gea. Even then, however, the Red Devils kept attacking and their persistence paid off in the 87th minute when RVP put a corner into the area that Ferdinand blistered on the half-volley into the net for his first goal in over five years.
With the early clinching of the BPL title, there was plenty of time to prepare for the celebration, and it was all you could imagine. Before all the hoopla commenced with the presentation of the trophy, Sir Alex addressed the crowd. One thing that was particularly classy during that speech was his reminder to the fans that they were going to need to support the new manager as much as they had supported him.
I was both happy and sad while watching Sir Alex raise the trophy. What really got me, however, was the awarding of the medals to the players. It was something to watch - especially when Giggs and Scholes received theirs. It hit me that I was literally witnessing the end of an era.
From Sir Alex Ferguson, “What a send-off, my eyes were bubbling a bit.”…that makes two of us.
May 19th: Manchester United vs. West Brom at The Hawthorns
This one had the feeling of an exhibition match from start to finish. Even the final score, a 5-5 draw, seemed like a fantasy football final instead of an EPL score.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s 1,500th game in charge of Manchester United was also his last. After last week’s final home match, Sir Alex seemed relaxed and almost jovial. From the guard of honor that both squads participated in to the final whistle, he had a demeanor that was very unlike him during a match. He spent the vast majority of the match with this curious, upward crease around his mouth. I can only imagine how different the post-match speech to players was for this game compared to what blowing a three goal lead – twice - in a title run-up would have earned them.
Lindegaard got the start in goal, and through the course of 90 minutes gave David Moyes his personal endorsement for De Gea as United’s number one. While the gap between the two may have been creek-sized to start the season, it’s every bit of an ocean now.
Kagawa got the first goal in the 6th minute with a header on the end of a perfect cross by Hernandez. Less than 3 minutes later, Chicharito would have gotten one of his own if Jonas Olsson hadn’t so selfishly steered Valencia’s cross into his own net. In the 31st minute, Buttner put a shot into the bottom right corner of the net on a pass from Cleverley and United looked on their way to a very comfortable win to close out SAF’s career. But it was not to be, and Morrison’s goal in the 40th minute let the Devils know that this was not going to be a one-way affair.
After Lukaku put another in the net just after the break, RVP scored his 26th league goal clinching another BPL Golden Boot. Giggs and Hernandez paired up to take the lead back to 3 in the 63rd minute, and United really looked as if this one was in the bag. But I have to give the Baggies credit - they weren’t going to roll over just because this was SAF’s last match. They created multiple chances and scored two goals in two minutes - Lukaku and Mulumbu in the 81st and 83rd minutes, respectively. It made for an exciting finish, and Lukaku wrapped up the scoring just 4 minutes before the end of regular time.
It was certainly an exciting finish, but no one seemed overly concerned.
Next season will be my first without Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm of the Red Devils. I have the summer to get ready for it, but I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. This really is the beginning of a new era, and all we can do is hope it’s as successful and exciting as the one that just ended.
But hey.. no pressure, Dave.