Saturday, January 8, 2011

I Can't Help But Admire Manchester United

Sensible Soccer prides itself on being sensible (well, most of the time). That is why I must admit my admiration for Manchester United.

Many of you may loathe the perennial powerhouse, but we all know the truth: they are quite impressive. With no losses to date, United have a chance to complete a unique undefeated campaign. Despite a relatively flat summer transfer window, contractual problems with their ace, Wayne Rooney, and injuries to certain stars, the club has somehow maintained a stellar record. What is their recipe for success? Here's what I think:

Sir Alex Ferguson
One thing is certain: Sir Alex Ferguson is the best manager in world football. I know, Jose Mourinho is slipping off your tongue right now, but no gaffer has done what Ferguson has, year in, year out, for 25 years with the same club. This year more than ever, we must tip our hat to the Scot. After suffering the blow of not topping the table last season and hardly spending in the summer, Ferguson has still guided his team to the top spot in the league, where they sit two points in front of rivals Manchester City, with an astonishing two games in hand. I find Sir Alex's understanding of the squad's strengths and weaknesses unheralded, as he exhibits his grip on the lineup on a weekly basis. This is a man who knows how to get the best out of his team and win under any circumstances.

Even as Rio Ferdinand and John O'Shea's fitness problems persist, United's defense continues to perform remarkably well. They currently have the second lowest goals against in the Premier League and only conceded once during group play in the Champions League. I largely credit their success to the man-machine, Nemanja Vidic. The Serb has certainly hit back at any detractors claiming a dip in form after last year's campaign. In addition, Patrice Evra (even though I loathe his attitude) has been solid as ever.

Javier Hernandez's late winner vs. Stoke
Whether it be a fluky Nani winner or a late Vidic header to preserve a draw, United always get the goal they need. Time and again this season the Red Devils have pulled points out of the jaws of defeat. A two goal cushion is like sitting on a wooden stool against this team -- just ask Villa. The club has amazingly scored eight goals after the 80th minute, four of which were winners. Their position in the table can surely be attributed to these extra point-earning efforts late in matches.

The team seems quite balanced in it's goal scoring and distribution. Once upon a time, Rooney and Ronaldo needed to do most of the dirty work, but as of late, the wealth has been spread. Dimitar Berbatov is finally having the year he's being paid to have, with 14 goals in Premier League play. Nani is truly coming into his own as a player, proving to be a constant threat on the wing and in front of goal. In addition, a gusty set of goals by youngster Chicarito has earned the team vital points, and most recently, the unsung hero of Old Trafford, Park Ji-Sung, has worked his socks off to bag a few crucial ones for the team. Though Rooney lags behind the others in goal tally, he has turned provider, assisting seven times this year.
The delightful Park Ji-Sung celebrates after dispatching Arsenal
As Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City continue to drop points, the Red Devils remain steadfast in their resolve. The rest of the top four are gifting United this title by losing or drawing against inferior opposition. If Man United continues to secure points regularly, they will be champions.

In years past, I have despised Manchester United, much like many of you. But this campaign, I can truly admit I am impressed by their workmanlike effort and team unity. I love when teams work hard and get the job done -- and this is Manchester United in 2010/2011.  Also, it helps that everyone's favorite babyman, Cristano Ronaldo, has moved on to greener pastures, annoying fans who speak another language. That said, I urge you to take a closer look at this team and try to tell yourself 'they are not worthy.' In any event, who in their right mind wants to see Chelsea win hardware again?

A very special Sensible Soccer thanks goes out to my brother for helping out with the blog's new design. It got 100 times better with Landon sliding in, didn't it?

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