United kicked off the season with a modest 1-0 win over Birmingham, with Wayne Rooney opening his account for the season. Michael Owen got his first 15 minutes at Old Trafford, which was weird, but he was warmly greeted. It was an underwhelming start but at least it was three points on the board.
Next was newly promoted Burnley away and United fucked up. An excellent goal from the home side put us 1-0 after 20 minutes but just before half time Michael Carrick had the opportunity to level the score from the spot after Patrice Evra was brought down in the box. Alarmingly, it was revealed afterwards that we didn’t know who our penalty taker was, given than Cristiano Ronaldo had taken the penalties for the past few years. How Sir Alex Ferguson allowed the season to start without sorting out our penalty taker is something that still massively troubles me.
Then we were away to Wigan, a team that we always took points off, so just the remedy we needed for our painful defeat. Rooney scored his 100th United goal, Berbatov and Nani got their first of the season, whilst Owen got his first United goal.
The last game of the month was at home to Arsenal, where we were largely outplayed, Darren Fletcher probably could have got sent off, but we ended up winning 2-1. Was it thanks to Derren Brown? Who knows, but it was a much needed three points, with “own goal” grabbing his first of the season, through the form of Diaby. Eboue committed the worst dive of the season and Wenger got set to the stands after a last minute Arsenal equaliser was rightly ruled out for offside. We moved up the third, three points behind Chelsea and Spurs.
August 08/09: P2 W1 D1 L0 GF2 GA1 P4
August 09/10: P4 W3 D0 L1 GF8 GA2 P9
After a poor display against Arsenal, we were right to worry ahead of our trip to White Hart Lane. After 38 seconds it seemed as though our fears were to be realised, with Jermaine Defoe putting the home side ahead. However, this game turned out to be one of our best performances of the season, with Ryan Giggs equalising with a freekick and Anderson got his first goal for the club. However, when Paul Scholes was sent off for his second yellow with less than an hour played, you had to wonder whether we could pull it off. But we remained in control and Wayne Rooney scored again. Three points in the bag and up to 2nd in the league.
The following weekend was one of the best of the whole season with the biggest derby day in decades being held at Old Trafford. Adebayor had scored in every game so far but got himself suspended for the United game. Rooney took the lead on two minutes, before moments later a cock up between Rio and Foster allowed Barry to level the score. Early in to the second half, Darren Fletcher was the surprise scorer for United, outjumping City’s stupidly expensive new defence to make it 2-1. But our celebrations were short-lived, with Bellamy equalising a few minutes later. With ten minutes left, it looked as though Fletch had won us the game with another header, but as injury time approached, Rio attempted to flick the ball over Bellamy’s head at the half way line. Why? Who the fuck knows, but it happened, and we looked on in disbelief as the no-necked Welsh goblin ran the ball to our goal and past Foster, who was having a lie down. Fortunately, the City players celebrated this equalising goal as though it was a winner in the Cup final, and every second was added to the already calculated injury time. Shay Given turned to the Stretford End, fists clenched, shouting in our fans’ faces. Then up popped ol’ Mickey Owen, that loveable scouse bastard whose celebrations that afternoon must have been a dagger in the heart to every Liverpool fan. Craig Bellamy punched a fan in the aftermath and Gary Neville got warned for celebrating in front of the bitters. Fergie said it was the best derby ever whilst Tevez poured his heart out to the media over his hurt feelings after being booed for 90 minutes. It was a brilliant day for our fans and it was made even sweeter by the grumbles of Mark Hughes and the like. Don’t worry Sparky, they’ll sack you soon and you can join us in laughing at them.
The following weekend it was Stoke away, a bunch of small time nobodies who take more pleasure in booing and goading the opposition than they do supporting their own team. A bizarre bunch. Still, they were quiet as mice on this day as they watched a lacklustre Stoke performance in a game which United won 2-0. Dimitar Berbatov opened the scoring with just over an hour played before John O’Shea sealed the points. We went top of the table on goal difference having played the same number of games as Chelsea. We shall not be moved, our fans sang.
September 08/09: P5 W2 D2 L1 GF6 GA4 P8
September 09/10: P7 W6 D0 L1 GF17 GA6 P18
Whenever a former player of Sir Alex’s brings his club to play United, it is always mentioned that none of them have ever beaten the master. Steve Bruce came closer than any when leaving Old Trafford with a 2-2. Darren Bent took the lead for Sunderland with less than ten minutes gone and as our players went in 1-0 down at half-time, some of our embarrassing fans decided to boo the team. Berbatov scored another important goal to even the score, only for Sunderland the take the lead again minutes later, and add another nail to Foster’s coffin. Anton Ferdinand scored an injury time own goal to save our blushes though and to give us a point. After the game our manager made a remark about the fitness levels of referees in this country…
We needed the points on the board the following week against Bolton, particularly considering Chelsea had lost to Villa earlier that day. Own goal got off the mark for us, after Zat Knight managed to direct Michael Owen’s attempt in to the back of his own net, before Valencia made it 2-0. Nev used his outstep to push the ball in Valencia’s direction, allowing him to rifle it in to the goal. This should have been the game wrapped up but the home crowd were left to feel frustrated again when Matty Taylor pulled one back with 15 minutes to go and we were left to face a nervy closing few minutes. Still, three points for United and we are top of the league!
We were due a shit result and the 2-0 at Anfield the following weekend was all we deserved. The game had been built up because of Owen, the scouse bastards spitting blood at the prospect of their former hero returning wearing our shirt. It could have been a great day for him, and us, had Jamie Carragher not got away with pulling Mickey down when he was the last man. But after Fernando Torres made Rio Ferdinand look shit the dippers were all too eager to add insult to injury, which is why that dreadful player N’gog was allowed to score to seal their victory. Horrible day.
The month ended with another game United dragged themselves through, beating Blackburn 2-0 at home. We went in 0-0 at half time but Berbatov put us ahead ten minutes in to the second half. Rooney made it 2-0 just before time. After losing to Liverpool and facing an away trip against Chelsea, this was not the performance to inspire confidence.
October 08/09: P9 W5 D3 L1 GF15 GA9 P18
October 09/10: P11 W8 D1 L2 GF23 GA11 P25
Stamford Bridge hasn’t been a happy place for United for a long time, aside from the guard of honour we received there back in 2007. But when it comes to getting needed points, Chelsea have denied us for years. As the final whistle blew, I distinctly remember thinking that I hope the title race wasn’t decided by the events of that day. Sadly, whatever else you want to look at, however else you want to explain our season, had there been justice that day we would be reviewing this season as champions, simple as that. Even the press had to get involved and wrote at length about how we had been robbed and as Rooney walked off the pitch he mouthed “12 men” to the Sky Sports cameras, reflecting on the 11 men of Chelsea plus the referee who had beaten us. The deciding goal of the game, scored by that cunt John Terry, should have been ruled out on three counts, which just rubbed salt in our wounds, given the freekick which resulted in the goal was awarded for Fletch cleanly winning the ball. The frustration mounted because we actually played really well. Anderson, who had been struggling for form, really came alive, and United controlled the game. It was an exemplary performance from the reds but sadly we weren’t rewarded for it.
We picked ourselves up the following week against Everton, with three midfielders scoring our goals, including Fletcher’s screamer, which was voted goal of the season on RoM. Michael Carrick made it 2-0 before Valencia scored again. It was a surprisingly easy victory in the end. We were doing better in comparison to the season before too, although of course all the talk revolved around the difference in our team thanks to Ronaldo’s departure.
Rooney bagged a hattrick against Portsmouth but it wasn’t all plain sailing. Despite putting on a fairly good show, we went in 1-1 at half time, after Pompey were awarded the softest penalty I’ve seen for some time. When the ref blew his whistle the Portsmouth players started to complain, insisting they hadn’t committed any foul on the keeper. They couldn’t believe their luck when they saw the ref pointing to the spot, with not a single one of them even thinking of appealing for a pen. Still, Rooney put us 2-1 up straight after half time and the rest is history. Ryan Giggs scored his 100th league goal and we moved up to 2nd, although the gap was starting to emerge.
November 08/09: P14 W8 D4 L2 GF26 GA14 P28
November 09/10: P14 W10 D1 L3 GF30 GA13 P31
United started the final month of the season on a high, scoring another four goals, this time past West Ham. Scholes opened the scoring just before half-time, before goals from Gibson, Valencia and Rooney following in the second half. Chelsea lost to City on the same day meaning we were now just 2 points behind.
Losing at home to Aston Villa was a low point and was made all the more frustrating by Chelsea’s home draw against Everton. Villa hadn’t beaten us in the league at Old Trafford for 26 years, so waited for the day until we could go equal points with Chelsea at the top to do it. United played 451 in a game that we really should have won and it certainly asked questions of the manager. Sorting out a defensive approach at home against a side who finished 6th in the league is not what you come to expect of United, particularly when we had the options of Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen on the bench. We paid the price for that, conceding in the first half and aside from a goal line clearance for a Vidic header, were never really up to much. Villa put their whole team behind the ball for the whole of the second half which meant it was too late to throw Owen on. Gutted.
Then came the Wolves game, which should have been an opportunity for United to sort out their goal difference, given we were playing against a second string Wolves team at home. But we had to settle for just the three goals, with Rooney, Vidic and Valencia getting on the scoresheet. Their team selection went on to cause quite a lot of controversy with the Premier League coming down hard on them for resting several players. A bit of a nothing game really which the players and fans just seemed to want to get out of the way. We were on joint points with Chelsea again but they had a game in hand.
Yet again, United fell victim to Fulham, losing 3-0 at their place, on a day when our title credentials really started to be doubted. RoM, usually optimistic as possible, had to take time out to address our problems. Surely it was fairly obvious – we had our second choice keeper in goal, we had two midfielders in central defence, and we had a Reserve player, de Laet, filling in at right-back. Where are you supposed to go from there? They were full of confidence after we gave away the first goal and had every reason to believe they could get the points after going 2-0 up in the minute following the restart. We couldn’t get in to their defence and they found it all too easy to get around ours.
Our Reserves hadn’t beaten Hull away on the last game of the season last year, with the dreadful Phil Brown side somehow managing to stay up. They weren’t much better this season although Wayne Rooney allowed Hull back in the game after he had put us a goal ahead. His dreadful back pass to Kusczcak was intercepted by Fagan, who was then bundled over by Rafael. Still an own goal and another for Berbatov wrapped up the points.
The month, and year, ended with our habitual thrashing of Wigan, this time 5-0. The score of preference against this lot is usually 4-0, but this season we were pushing the boat out. Rafael had a great game and Valencia scored against his former club. We would start 2010 just 2 points Chelsea with the knowledge that United tended to have a strong second half of the season.
December 08/09: P18 W11 D5 L2 GF29 GA14 P38
December 09/10: P20 W14 D1 L5 GF45 GA18 P43
Aug 08 – Dec 08
Aug 09 – Dec 09