The weeks following the end of the 2011-2012 season were amongst some of the most frustrating in my life. Having given up on the title before the final day of the season, we were teased with the likelihood of achieving the impossible and clawing it back from our rivals. Our game finished and we were champions, only for City to go and do what we do, and win it right at the end.
The occasion brought about all kinds of brilliant material for City fans, from mocking Phil Jones’ crumpled face at the Stadium of Light to laughing at Sir Alex Ferguson’s ridiculous claim that all games on the final day should finish at the same time.
The tables had turned. After years of taking the piss out of them we had not only given them a moment in football history, after throwing away our lead against Everton, but we had given them massive bragging rights. By failing to get the job done and wrap up the title, we had given some weight to all that dopey talk about the “blue moon rising” and the “power shift in Manchester”.
So having to wake up every day and remember how we chucked away the title, seeing the pictures of them with the trophy on Sky Sports billboards and avoiding any footage of that Aguero goal like the plague made for a fairly miserable existence for reds for a few weeks.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it probably would have softened the blow of that loss if someone had told us then that we would have wrapped up the league title with months left to play the following season, but it was probably important that the fans and players felt the rawness of that title loss and disappointment. Had United managed to get away with is and won the league last season, would we have gone on to win it this year? Lessons were learnt thanks to the last few weeks of the 2011-2012 and hopefully those mistakes won’t ever be made again.
You listen to interview after interview with our players and nearly all of them reflect on the final day of the previous season. They talk about how much that hurt and of what the manager said to them in the dressing room about never letting it happen again. They talk about the determination and desire that they have collectively felt to get the title won this year.
Week after week we kept conceding first only to come back and win time and again. Leading up to Chrstmas we played City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal and we beat all of them. My favourite game of the season, the 4-3 against Newcastle, seemed to perfectly sum our season up. They drove me absolutely bonkers that day, going behind and equalising three times, before snatching an injury time win. Ferguson has claimed those last minute goals are what he will miss the most and you can’t blame him. That feeling is unrivalled by anything else and United manage to do it time and again.
United had more or less won the title with months to go but the supersticious amongst us wouldn’t admit. We were 12 points clear, 15 points clear, but we were still talking about if we won the league instead of when. I was wishing the weeks away, just wanting to get three points in the bag and move on to the next game. We won the league with four games left to play and for the first time all season we could relax. Of course it feels better when you fight it out all season and win it on the last day, but the relief I felt when Van Persie’s first went in against Villa was incredible.
Whilst I’d never want to feel like I did when I heard Aguero had scored ever again, I have to appreciate that their title win has helped shaped our history as well as City’s. If the lessons learnt, by the pain that day caused our players, are to be implemented season after season, then we can’t regret that it happened.
The obvious difference is next season we will have a different manager in charge, although most players will remain. It is a time of huge uncertainty for the club, with a manager who is totally unproven at this level taking over from the greatest manager of all time. I don’t feel comfortable with us being lead in to the Champions League with aspirations of winning it by a manager who has never even played in the competition before. I am nervous about the prospect of us retaining our Premier League title with a manager who doesn’t have a single honour to his name in 15 years of management. People claim Moyes and Fergie are cut from the same cloth, but the latter has won trophies at every level, whilst Moyes hasn’t won trophies at any level, and that is a concern for me. Ferguson is a proven winner and Moyes, as yet, certainly is not, so there are no grounds for comparison. 15 years in to Ferguson’s career he’d won promotion with St Mirren, three league titles, four Scottish Cups, one Scottish League Cup, the UEFA Cup Winners Cup and UEFA Super Cup with Aberdeen, as well as the FA Cup with us.
People don’t like change and despite having known for years that one day we would have to say goodbye, I didn’t want Ferguson to leave and maybe there isn’t anyone who would have made me feel content. I do feel nervous about Moyes but I also feel excited. This is a new era for our football club and the unknown is strangely appealing. For so many of us, we have no memory of life pre-Ferguson, so having been forced to accept he really is leaving, I’m ready to embrace life as a red post-Ferguson, under the guidance of Moyes.
2012-2013 wasn’t a classic season but it is one we will talk about for the rest of our lives because it was Ferguson’s last. What a perfect ending to his time at United and what a great spring board for our future. He’s left us as the best team in the country and it is up to Moyes to maintain that. He should have the backing of every single red, regardless of how the first week, or month, or months go. This is the man Ferguson thinks is the most capable of keeping us at the top and so we owe it to him as much as we do Moyes.
Not nineteen forever. Twenty times. Roll on next season…
Buy Not Nineteen Forever on Amazon – the best articles and match reports from RoM which document the 2012/2013 season, as well as many previously unpublished articles.