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Man Utd are worthy champions

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Phil McNulty | 11:00 UK time, Sunday, 17 May 2009

Sir Alex Ferguson - in what has become his customary Premier League title-winning address to his Old Trafford subjects - asked: "Does it get better than this?"

Ferguson delivered this poser amid the pyrotechnics and partying to mark a third successive title win, a feat that ensured Manchester United hit the hugely-significant landmark of 18 championships, drawing level with Liverpool at the pinnacle of the domestic game.

This statistic alone underscores the scale of Ferguson's achievements and perhaps prompted him to pose a question he answered himself within seconds when he insisted United would return from "a nice trip to Rome" as the first club to defend the Champions League.

So yes, it could get better than this for Manchester United and Ferguson. In fact it could get better very quickly - on 27 May to be precise if they beat Barcelona.

For now, however, another title triumph and another demonstration of the unique drive, hunger and longevity of Ferguson will suffice.

ferguson595.jpg

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez grabbed a few more headlines on Saturday morning with a somewhat churlish - make that mystifying - claim that the best team does not always win the title, it just means they have more points than anyone else.

Not so Rafa. Not so at all. Any argument is always won by the team holding the trophy and no-one can seriously discredit them.

However much it hurts, the best team always wins the title and, despite a chequered record against those regarded as their closest rivals, this Manchester United team are worthy winners of the Premier League for an 11th time.

The performance United delivered against Arsenal to set the seal on another title was in many ways symptomatic of a season that will not be regarded as vintage when set against others, but no campaign is unsatisfactory when it culminates in the sort of scenes witnessed at Old Trafford.

Arsenal, playing with the ease of a team knowing all pressure was off, were determined to make sure the point required was not delivered as a formality, but United's motto this season could be "job done", and so it proved again.

This is what they have done so often in a gripping chase when they were pursued, first doggedly and then thrillingly, by Liverpool. It is the mark of champions and they will be the yardstick again next season, even though they will face renewed challenges.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney were pushed to the margins of the action by Arsenal, so it was left to others to make the key contributions. Nemanja Vidic's running battle with Robin van Persie was highly-watchable and the Serb's solidity won through, while Darren Fletcher ran his usual marathon and demonstrated what United will miss in Rome.

Rooney may not have had joy in the danger zones, but his overall performance deserves a glowing mention in dispatches. He has been an inspirational figure for United, and while he has been justifiably criticised in the past for ill-discipline, he was superb tactically against Arsenal.

Ferguson designated him a left-flank role, and it was a sign of his growing maturity that he sacrificed his natural attacking instincts to carry off this more restricted part, even appearing on occasions as a last line of defence behind Patrice Evra.

Rooney's willingness to put the team first was a shining example of the ethos fostered by Ferguson and one which he insists must be strictly adhered to.

And lurking behind it all, like some dark sub-plot, was the continuing fall-out from the Carlos Tevez affair, a business so emotive that it cast a temporary cloud of dischord over what were mostly joyous proceedings.

Rarely has a subsitution been so badly-received in these parts, and on this of all days, than when Tevez was replaced by Ji-Sung Park.

tevezblog282.jpg

The jeers rang around Old Trafford, only to be quickly replaced by the sound of mass adoration for Tevez, who responded with the sort of lengthy and flamboyant farewell that screamed out this was his final appearance as a United player on this particular turf.

He clearly felt if something was worth doing it was worth over-doing - but at one point there appeared the genuine prospect that he might decide to say a personal goodbye to each of the 75,468 present.

Tevez lingered too long in my opinion. No harm in saluting the fans, but this bordered on the provocative, with a result still to be achieved, and Ferguson's victory speech was even interrupted by chants of "sign him on."

All very odd, but if Ferguson is balking at paying £32m for Tevez he is correct to do so because that is an exorbitant amount for this particular player. If Ferguson has £32m to spend, he is well within his rights to see if he can do better with it than Tevez.

And this little spat should take none of the gloss off a day, and a season, that has brought deserved rewards for United and Ferguson.

It has been a season when Rooney and Michael Carrick have matured in a manner that will be mutually beneficial for United and England, while Ryan Giggs rolled back the years to show why he fully deserves his place in the pantheon of Old Trafford greats.

United have also shown resilience to respond to a minor stumble when they were heavily beaten by Liverpool and lost at Fulham - delivering drama along the way with Federico Macheda's crucial winners against Aston Villa and Sunderland.

They also had the huge stroke of good fortune champions need along the way when referee Howard Webb gift-wrapped them a lifeline with a rotten penalty decision that put them on the path to victory on a pivotal day against Spurs.

United even survived the infamous "Rafa Rant" - which was not actually a rant at all but delivered with some precision - by turning the outburst into something which appeared to focus their minds wonderfully.

If Benitez regrets the timing of his attack it is unlikely he will admit it, but it did not have a positive effect on Liverpool's attempt to win the title and he was reminded of this to deafening effect on countless occasions once the fireworks went off at Old Trafford.

For all the bones of contention being chewed over Tevez, this was another glory day for the remarkable Ferguson, who was already setting his sights on new successes as he strode into the dressing room to congratulate his players.

He knows it can get better for United - and with Ferguson showing no sign of either mellowing or becoming less successful with age, it almost certainly will.

The march on Rome began in the immediate aftermath of this silver-lined day and Ferguson will want to leave a record-breaking 19th title as part of his Old Trafford legacy.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    Good article Phil. As ever in any hat-trick of title wins, be it Liverpool or Man Utd, the first and the second tend to be the ones with freshness and excitement. The third is often ground out - as is the case this time around. For me, the defence won this title for us, and save for the 'wobble' against Liverpool and Fulham, it would have defined Man U as 'impregnable'.

    However, Ferguson's and our greatness can only be defined in Rome. As Neil Diamond sang, "Disappointed haunted all my dreams.....and then I saw her face...". I truly hope that our team do see the face of success, their own talent and belief.

    It is Ferguson's fear. To have won everthing and yet be doubted or have some doubt about his greatness. That is in part what spurs him on.

    His faith in youth, talent and fearless skill has been the saviour of British football for over 25 years. Pay homage, and pay it again, and again, and again. You may never see it again.

  • Comment number 2.

    As an Liverpool fan since 1980 , I want to congratulate ManU for winning the league. As an English fan , I would like to see them also winning the CL..however , I feel that Barca will be a tough opponent to overcome especially now since they are vying for the treble,,,a spanish first..

  • Comment number 3.

    Man Utd, champions again and well deserved. They have the key combination of being able to defend well, while having potency in attack. Mixed with the depth of quality in the squad, and it is a winning formula.

    Credit to Liverpool though, they pushed United all the way, and can certainly be assured that they are moving in the right direction.

    Personally, between United, Chelsea, Liverpool and possibly Arsenal, the first XI are similar in terms of ability and skill. It's the squad and the quality within it that is key over the course of a 38 game Premier League season, and 3 cup competitions.

    I think January for me was the main turning point, United were buoyed on after the World Club Cup win and carried on winning games, while Liverpool dropped points regularly.

    I think all level-headed fans would have to admit United have deserved the win, and the table doesn't lie. They've been solid at the back, with a few exceptions, and have pushed and pushed to grind out results when required. Add this to the World Cup win and the Champions League final, and this could go from a good season to a great season for the Old Trafford fans and players.

    As for the summer, the Ronaldo and Tevez affairs will be interesting. I don't think either will go, Ronaldo is a bit happier here than this time last year, and I think (and hope!) Tevez will get his contract.

    Liverpool will be a threat next season for sure, and with Chelsea possibly getting new managers and players it will be anyone's to take.

    At the other end, I think West Brom and Middlesbrough are down, and deservedly so. Both have been poor. It would be a shame for a club like Newcastle to go down, but next weekend could still spring a surprise or two!!

  • Comment number 4.

    Well deserved win for United and won again with good football.

  • Comment number 5.

    Great blog phil.What i will like to point out is that fergie spends large amounts on 1-2 really good players and then rest is done by a really good youth academy while benitez spends the same amount on 5-6 average players.It is not as if united spend truckloads more than liverpool but the fact that they usually spend it more wisely (although even fergie has made a few mistakes).
    On tevez i feel £32m is really a waste of money cause as has been rightly said before(according to me) he is a poor man's rooney.He does give it all on the pitch and i really like him but i guess the time has come to say goodbye.
    You rightly said that the best team wins the title and i'm ecstatic to say that it has been us this season.Hopefully the season still holds another trophy for us.

  • Comment number 6.

    Congratulations to United but it has been a somewhat flat season leaving many questions of 'what could have been?'.

    United have rarely been at their best, Chelsea have had a crisis and sacked a manager, whilst Arsenal have been ravaged by injuries and refuse to improve one or two key positions. Whilst Liverpool have found consistency and put in a good performance this season, the above factors should be taken into account when talking of Liverpool's improvement.

  • Comment number 7.

    The best thing about this season is the sense that this squad still has more to offer. For the first time in many years as a season ticket holder I cant think of an area on the pitch where we need to repair, redress or renew. The younger element of the squad (Foster,Rafeal,Evans,Welbeck, Anderson,Gibson,Macheda etc) gives us continuity and natural replacements for VDS,Neville,Scholes and Giggs without needing to spend big. We dont need to spend £25m + on Tevez although I would love to see him at OT permanently but given the above list of strikers behind him in the pecking order(not forgetting Cambell and Manucho out on loan )- why should we pay over the odds for a 10-15 goals a year striker? Rafa to be quite frank has made a fool of himself with his ill tempered and ill timed comments. They positively provoked United and piled more pressure on his own players - he still has alot to learn to challenge the old master..

  • Comment number 8.

    Hmm. Did anyone else find it significant that Tevez wore an Argentina shirt that covered up his Man United strip in the post-match celebrations? think he's gone-only an astounding performance in the final will save him. Also Ronaldo removed his top, but that's just nit-picking I guess.

  • Comment number 9.

    i love when journalists ignore everything before a competition changed its name in order to add drama.

    "become the first team to defend the champions league" certainly does sound more dramatic than "do what liverpool did in 77 and 78"

    well done united tho, was an entirely thrilling season and the excitement will still go on until next sunday

  • Comment number 10.

    I wonder if Benitez realises the irony of his comments, Phil? Liverpool have actually played some of the best football this year, but have not won the title.

    He is criticising Fergie for the very reasons that they have won the title!

    United are worthy winners, for grinding out wins with late goals and tough performances.

    Liverpool's season is littered with points dropped against lesser opposition, interspersed with champion-like performances. But no pot at the end.

    The table doesn't lie, does it? United are winners again and, if Newcastle are in the bottom three next week, can they argue they are too good to down?

  • Comment number 11.

    There have been some begrudging comments about Man Utd this year. There has been a lingering feeling that at times they haven't been at their best.

    I think you just have to look at what they've achieved this year- winning the World Club Championship, winning the League Cup, winning the Premiership, reaching the FA Cup semi finals and now in the final of the Champions League.

    In recent years, no other english team has kept their fingers in so many pies, apart from Utd themselves in 1999 and Liverpool in 2001 - when they did the UEFA Cup rather than all the games in the Champions League. Yet commentators such as yourself Mr McNulty find yourselves saying it hasn't been a vintage season. That is an absolutely frightening thing to say, if this is really Man Utd at only 75%....

    However, I think people do Man Utd a disservice. In modern football with the physical demands it's impossible to be at 100% all the time. Ferguson has carefully managed his squad, sometimes at the expense of fluency in the team. You have to take your hat off to him.

    People have been pointing at their record against their rivals. They say that they laboured against Arsenal yesterday, that they lost at the Emirates and Liverpool did the double over them...but they won the games that mattered. They outplayed the Serie A champions Inter Milan and they outplayed Arsenal over 4 games in the Champions League. They beat Chelsea 3-0 at OT. They showed their quality and made a statement when they needed to.

    If Man Utd beat Barcelona it truly will be a vintage year, and I don't think anyone will be able to argue with that. It's a little bit of a shame that the Champions League has become the be-all and end-all, but thats modern football. It's also a shame that when a team becomes incredibly successful people still look to pick away at the cracks and criticise - hence the comments about Tevez and Ronaldo's futures and criticism of the quality of football at times - but again, thats modern football.

    It's unfortunate because if it's difficult for Man Utd to live up to their own standards, the pressure on clubs like Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea to live up to those standards too is immense. The criticism Arsene Wenger is taking right now is testament to that.

  • Comment number 12.

    good article Phil, Utd are the worthy champions. I heard Gary Pallister talk about the professionalism of the squad and the willingness to get the job done being the crucial factors and I couldn't agree more.

    Perhaps some of last season's style has been replaced by substance because they have developed and nurtured a gritty core which was crucial to many vital results. How many 1-0s and last minute winners did they get this season?

    This unshakable belief is transmitted throughout the team...as shown by Macheda's introduction and effectiveness and Rafeal's often seemless ability steeping into Gary Neville's role...they are the team to beat...but next season will be a different story, Liverpool feel closer than they been in almost a generation, theoretically Arsenal will have matured to be able to kill off teams, Chelsea will no doubt reinvest and freshen up the squad and lest we forget money bags City who may decide to gate crash the party!

    No mention of Chelsea though? Their resurgence under HIddink is one of the stories of the season, would they have finished in the top four with Scolari? I think Ancelloti would be a mistake as well, yes he is a club coach used to handling world class players but does he know the English game?

    I agree that Tevez,looking at his Premiership statistics isnt worth £32 milllion but his worth to the team and the fans is.He has proven to be a catalyst to those around him this season. Hopefully some agreement will be reached because he is a credit to the Premiership and his team!

  • Comment number 13.

    8. At 12:50pm on 17 May 2009, Torresque wrote:

    Hmm. Did anyone else find it significant that Tevez wore an Argentina shirt that covered up his Man United strip in the post-match celebrations? think he's gone-only an astounding performance in the final will save him. Also Ronaldo removed his top, but that's just nit-picking I guess.

    ------------------

    I thought that at 1st, but apparently he was given it by a fan so put it on. I think that's reading into it a bit much, having said that I do think he is on his way out. As much as I like him I don't think we can justify paying over £30m for him.
    As for the 'fans' who booed when he was subbed, what were you thinking? How in your right mind can you boo the man who has arguably done more for this club than anyone else, and is the reason we are now level with Liverpool and in our 2nd successive CL final. It amazes me.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    As a Liverpool fan, I congratulate Man U on winning the title. I don't agree with Rafa's comments on this occasion and on reflection I'm sure he won't either.

    Liverpool just got too many draws especially at home and dropped points to teams who are fighting for their survival - not things Champions do.

    Saying that, I can see Liverpool winning it next season.

    Really enjoyed this season's football (ups and downs) and look forward to next season in a couple of months time!

  • Comment number 16.

    Billy Beaumont once said of the great Welsh rugby team of the 70's : "You can never beat Wales- you just score more points than them..."

    Fast forward 30 years and for Beaumont, read Benitez.

    That said, I can think of examples of when the best team did not win the league, though am having to go back to Derby nicking the title from under Leeds' noses in 1972, due to Leeds' fixture congestion. Villa pipping Ipswich in 81 another one. But not since the Prem started.

    United showed tremendous resiliance after the back-to-back defeats to Liverpool and Fulham.

    Liverpool are edging closer mind, and in all likelihood will become the only team in Prem history to have not won the title with only 2 defeats.

    The crucial difference is that, taking the Villa, Spurs and Wigan games, you always knew that United would pull them back. Liverpool might have done 1 or 2 of the three, but not the lot.

    Been a great season- bring on 2009-10

  • Comment number 17.

    At 12:58pm on 17 May 2009, rob_LFC_fairbairn wrote:
    i love when journalists ignore everything before a competition changed its name in order to add drama.

    "become the first team to defend the champions league" certainly does sound more dramatic than "do what liverpool did in 77 and 78"

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    I think you are being a little harsh on Phil here, because although the trophy is the same the competition is very different. The fact that there are up to 4 teams from certain leagues involved now in the competition just demonstrates how different it is, even from the early champions leagues from the late 90's.

    I'm sure many more teams would have retained the champions league if there had been only one team per country involved in the competiton.

  • Comment number 18.

    Congrates to man u, much as i hate to say it you have a better squad than us. The reason there are ridiculous comments that are merely spiteful and untrue coming from many lpool fans is simple, we are gutted you've won. We pushed you much closer than any time since i was born. We will get there.
    However i cant say as another has i want you to win the Cl, that will hurt me as a liverpool fan. Big up barca!

  • Comment number 19.

    benitez is wrong, he cannot accept anything.

    you have to consider manchester united competed in 5 competitions this season successfully, 3 of them already won, 1 of them in the final and the other they went out in the semi final.

    benitez liverpool couldnt even compete in 1 competition this season successfully. furthermore liverpool have spent more money than manchester united and have won far far less, how would benitez justify that?

    Mascherano 18m -good player, little expensive
    Arbeloa 2.6m - hmmm
    Lucas 6m - what a complete fool Benitez is
    Vronin free - clear reason why
    Leto 1.85m - who?
    Torres 20m - no brainer, dont have to be a genius manager to realise he's a good player
    Benayoun 5m - not quite consistant enough
    Babel 11.5m - Benitez treats him apallingly
    Aurelio free - again you can see why
    Pennant 6.75m - awful buy and overspend
    Kuyt 9m - works hard.....for 9m
    Palletta 2m - rubbish
    Bellamy 6m - gone
    Agger 5.8m - treated like garbage
    Keane 20m - treated like garbage
    fowler foc - stop gap
    Kromkamp - garbage and gone
    El zhar - hmm
    Crouch 7m - gone
    sissoko 5.8m - gone
    Gonzalez 4.5m - gone
    Barragan foc - gone
    Reina 6m - good signing - yay at last
    Zended foc - gone
    Carson 750,000 - gone
    Morientes 6.3m - gone

    31 signings made, not including Ngog who he keeps bringing for some strange reason.

    As well as his stupid selections when he has got everyone fit. He should go now. Oh no maybe we could go for another knockout competition...yawn
    Pellegrino foc - lol
    Josemi 2m - gone
    Garcia 6m - gone
    Alonso 10.5m - hurrah good signing
    Nunez - gone

    Now that list of buys and ultimate sales is why Liverpool will not win the league under Benitez. 3 good signings, probably 2 decent signings and the rest garbage.


    ---------------------------------------

    Benitez has spent more than SAF in both net & gross since he arrived at Liverpool.
    Prior to Chelsea being bought by Abramovich, Liverpool had the highest net & gross spend on transfers in Premier League history.

    Since Benitez arrived he has spent £212,490,000 gross.
    In that same period, SAF has spent £169,450,000 gross.

    Benitez's net spend is £110,460,000, averaging £22,092,000 per season.
    SAF's net spend in the same period is £93,400,000, averaging £18,680,000 per season.

    Since the Premier League began, Liverpool have spent £380,115,000 gross.
    United have spent £391,150,000 gross.

    Liverpool have spent £202,445,000 net since the Premier League began, averaging £11,908,529 per season.
    United have spent £200,585,000, averaging £11,799,118 per season.

    Now, which "facts" were you talking about please?

    http://www.transferleague.co.uk/


    ---------------------------------------

  • Comment number 20.

    Deserved champions, and you have to hand it to Sir Alex and the squad. I mean, it wasn't too long ago that United were in a bit of a drought and found themselves rooted at the bottom of their Champions League group.
    Sir Alex has built a fantastic squad, easily his best, and a penalty shoot-out loss prevented them from playing in every single game possible this season, which goes to show how good the squad is. And now they have won three titles on the trot and are on the verge of back-to-back European Cups. This is history we are witnessing here!

  • Comment number 21.

    To rob_LFC_fairbairn...in using the phrase "the first team to defend the Champions League", I am making a clear definition between the current tournament and the European Cup.

    I think you would agree this is totally different from the previous format when only the champions were allowed to enter, or the holders if they were not the reigning champions in their own country.

    There are times when I would actually love a return to that sudden death format - although this would, on current form, restrict the appearances of anyone other than Manchester United, although Liverpool were rightly allowed to re-enter as holders in 2005 despite finishing fifth in the Premier League.

    It will never happen, but this is a completely different tournament from the old European Cup, although the word "Champions" in Champions League is certainly being stretched.

  • Comment number 22.

    @13 They weren't booing him, they were booing Fergie for taking him off.

    Equally stupid, but still.

  • Comment number 23.

    Barcelona to be Champions of Europe please. They are sponsoring a worth-while charity.

  • Comment number 24.

    further more, after spending more money than manchester united at the same period after benitez arrival, liverpool have won far less and have gone on with 4 trophyless seasons. which is inexuble if were using benitez reaons of logic.

    these comments have made benitez look like a fool, as post 19 in this blog clearly demonstrates that it is infact liverpool who spent more money than united. i ask any liverpool fan in the planet to disagree with the comments on page 19, infact i dare you to disagree with them. come on.

  • Comment number 25.

    Arsenal, playing with the ease of a team knowing all pressure was off,

    ---------------------------------------------------

    As we well know that sentence will be used in reverse at some point to say

    Arsenal, with nothing to play for,

  • Comment number 26.

    i love when journalists ignore everything before a competition changed its name in order to add drama.

    "become the first team to defend the champions league" certainly does sound more dramatic than "do what liverpool did in 77 and 78"

    Yes I dissagree with this also. The Champions League is much harder to win now and certainly harder to defend. If Utd win it again, this will be seen as a far greater achievement than when it was won back to back by Liverpool. This season Utd have also won the World Club Championship, Carling cup and the Premiorship as well. I think this is sour grapes from Liverpool fans really. Utd have played more games than anyone this season and winning the Champs League will be a testiment to endurance and dedication of the players and manager, not to mention the fantastic support.

  • Comment number 27.

    First order of business, full credit to the Scousers for their best league campaign since the Premiership as we know it started up. Going four in a row will be anything but easy.

    This season has had it's messy moments but we've still come out on top while rivals past, present and future have fallen apart.

    Tevez, I'd rather we kept him but I certainly think we can survive without him if need be.

    And you have to wonder how much longer Giggsy and Van de Saar can keep going.

    That's something to worry about after the trip to Rome though!

  • Comment number 28.

    Liverpool have punched above their weight this season.

    Without some serious and wise spending in the summer I will be surprised to see them so close to united next year.

  • Comment number 29.

    Spot on blog Phil,you simply cannot ignore the facts,the best and most consistent team allways win the E.P.L.it's a test of a clubs manager and squad quality,Liverpool have come up way short, if ever a club had a golden opportunity to win the E.P.L. this season it was Liverpool, but because they have a manager who shows he just has'nt got the class,
    dignity or where with all tells you everything,i actually think S.A.F.
    has forgot more about winning the E.P.L. than Benitez will ever know about winning it,i just wonder where the blame will be laid for Liverpool's trophy less season i'm quite sure Benitez will direct it away from himself and blame everyone except the trophy cabinet cleaner
    who will still have a good job dusting the empty shelves,like he does with everything else.Benitez has lowered the stature and respect Liverpool allways commanded as a club with his ill advised comments about Everton being a small club,and his personal attack on Gill&Ferguson,which are just born out of plain jealousy of their success,
    he could do well to learn from the class coaches like Hiddink&Wenger,like
    Sam Allardyce put it perfectly a (Whinger)i'll had to that (Big Style)

  • Comment number 30.

    "rob_LFC_fairbairn"

    "become the first team to defend the champions league" certainly does sound more dramatic than "do what liverpool did in 77 and 78"

    Yeah I suppose it is more dramatic for Liverpool fans than saying the back to back Milan did in 89-90,much more recent than Liverpool's or let's go all out and bring up the FIVE in a row Real won......that's why it is,indeed, to defend the champions league and not the European Cup.

  • Comment number 31.

    Cogratulations Man U on your 18th title.

    Only a generation late but still well done blah blah blah.

  • Comment number 32.

    The constant bickering about money spent beocmes tiresome!
    The fact is that the Top 4 all have significant money to spend.

    Utd have been the richest club but earned that right thru success and excellent club management. They have never had a handout, in the Chelsea sense.

    Chelsea have had a rich investor, but it's a free world and what other club/fans wouldn't wish for a rich benefactor!

    Liverpool have spent plenty and have progressed, although I agree that Benitez's record in the transfer market is questionable.

    Arsenal fans like to fly the flag of spending the least in recent years when this argument arises but in a different forum have been endlessly criticising Wenger for NOT spending and relying too much on youth.

    It's a non-argument. Teams outside the Top 4 may have a case though!

  • Comment number 33.

    Good blog Phil.
    Well done United, a very professional and competent campaign again. If as some pundits and panelists , fans, are correct and this team didn't often get out of second gear, stand by in 2010..!!
    Gill and Fergie have stated the Tevez affair will be sorted in June and it really is a question of them getting best value in a tight money period. The player is a real trier and showed his value with some crucial goals, but he missed his share of sitters as well, so probably because of his season ending strop will likely be sent packing unless the cash demands are dropped by 1/2. If Liverpool / City go for him and spend 25 million , good luck , he has learned his craft in the P/L with the very best so can only improve !!
    Next season , I expect United to really click and get better goals for ,and as a lifelong supporter still believe they will be top of the pile. Why, Sir Alex is the reason , TOP man sir.

  • Comment number 34.

    Great - your beloved Man Utd won the league, whoopee do. Can anyone explain to me what is exciting about the Prem League any more? Or the 'Champions' League, come to that?

  • Comment number 35.

    To Subterranean...do not think my comments about United not having a vintage season were a criticism, if anything they should be taken as a tribute to their professionalism.

    How does this season (and this team) compare to others at United during this golden spell?

    What have been the highlights of this season for you?

    And what does Ferguson have to do to maintain his incredible record next season? What areas and players should he be looking at?

  • Comment number 36.

    If Benitez really did make those comments it is very dissapointing and for Liverpool to go one better next season, he will need to be honest with himself about his own management style and his players, and admit that there were, and are still, some areas that need improving if they are to win their first title in 20 years.

  • Comment number 37.

    Great shout on the transfer league FACTS.

    As for this season you look at it and say "How the hell have United done that?" - a no-show in Monaco and a dodgy decision in the FA Cup semi away from a chance at the clean sweep.

    18 times and that's a fact.

    People talk about Liverpool next season, but they need to remember a few things: Chelsea are well capable of a proper challenge, Arsenal aren't far off either, and United have the best XI, the best squad by miles, one of the best managers in British football history (to say the least), a squad brimming with brilliant young players, and the hunger and nous to win more.

    Liverpool may have turned another corner - yawn. But the gap between them and United remains huge. Benitez challenged for one trophy as usual, and he failed. Ferguson challenged for all of them and 3 of them are already in the cabinet.

  • Comment number 38.

    The belief that one more chance will always come along is a key element to United's success this season. Ferguson has always instilled this in his teams and it saves them all the time. The work ethic is there for all to see and it is perfectly illustrated by Wayne Rooney. People used to say Roy Keane epitomised the manager on the pitch, surely Rooney now fulfils this role. For me, his development this season is the highlight- he's the best player at the club now.

    It does seem that Liverpool will challenge strongly again next season- they have improved and can boast the best striker in europe in their ranks. This has been said many times before though!

  • Comment number 39.

    I agree Tevez's reaction to being substituted was a bit over the top and very unlike himself. I'd love it if we managed to sign him up but I know it won't happen and I'm just wondering where he will be playing next season. But surely he won't end up at Liverpool. He wouldn't betray us United fans. Surely.

  • Comment number 40.

    i love when journalists ignore everything before a competition changed its name in order to add drama.

    "become the first team to defend the champions league" certainly does sound more dramatic than "do what liverpool did in 77 and 78"

    -------------------

    Nobody is ignoring the pre-Champions League days of the European Cup. The fact is, though, that it is clearly a very different competition. Whilst the Champions League is clearly now an easier tournament to gain entrance to as not just the league winners and reigning Euro Cup champions qualify, it is also clearly a much harder tournament to win with many more games and many more good teams competing. Whilst the Champions League rebranding and reformatting was undoubtably made to make more money it has also made the competition more challenging and open which is why no team has successfully defended a CL title.
    The old European cup format was, to a large extent, a predictable knock out compeition in which the 3-4 good teams in the tournament thrashed all the small sides before getting to the semi finals and final. In fact the old format was notable for the fact that teams regularly defended titles (Real Madrid 5 times in a row in 50's, Benfica and Inter twice in a row in the 60's, Ajax and Bayern Munich 3 times in a row in the 70's, Liverpool and Nottingham Forest twice in a row late 70's and finally Milan twice in a row in late 80's).
    The simple reality is that in the last 17 years it has proved extremely hard for teams to even reach consecutive finals and even when brilliant sides have (Milan in early 90's and Juventus in mid 90's as well as Valencia 8-9 years ago) they have been unable to win back to back titles. That is why it would be an incredible achievement for Man Utd to achieve and deserves to be recognised in a seperate light to the successful defences of the old style European Cup.

  • Comment number 41.

    Apologies if this has already been said, but need to see the Chelsea game on tv at moment.
    Well done United - but can anyone associated with the club, Manager, Players, fans really be that pleased about the result of the title chase.
    After all, it is hardly a level playing field between United and the rest, is it? No, if I were the United manager I would be more pleased if I had to manage a team to the title without the unfair advantage of being able to attract all the best players to ensure that no one else can compete!! Add to that the psychological advantage of having all of the media drooling over you as if you have some divine right to the title and building a mountain for other teams to overcome before they even get onto the field of play. If you can identify with any of these points, you might put into perspective the reality of this rather overhyped title.
    It is no longer the same as it was a few years back, and certainly not as good as when Liverpool were at their peak some years ago!

  • Comment number 42.

    Phil, last week your article praising liverpool for keeping their title hopes alive was published within hours, and well before Utd played, why this weekend did you wait till after Liverpool had played (despite what the time stamp clains this article was not on the BBC at 1100)? I would love to say what i think, but it would be removed as was a similar comment last week.

    I agree that Benitez showed how mean-spirited he is with his comments before the game, and further with his "united won because they spend more" comments, despite independant calculation showing that over the last 5 years united have been beaten to that by both chelsea and Liverpool!

    On a more positive note I was glad to see that you seem to be one of the few pundits who don't think Tevez is worth 32M, I also think that he is not, and I think that Utd can't afford to spend that much to keep the squad the same in the current financial climate. Tevez was also poor yesterday as he has been many times this season (although his work-rate is not inquestion) If only fergie could meld berbatovs talent with tevez's other qualities! If we can keep him we should, but in the current climate I don't think he is "worth" more than 20Mil, not that I think anyone is worth that, but that would be my assesment of his true market value.

  • Comment number 43.

    Interesting point raised by Rotterdam , post 37, that Liverpool have turned 'another' corner. But if you've ever driven here in Morocco, or many places in Europe, you will know there are many many corners when you have a mountain to climb! But Holland and Rotterdam probably not best known for mountain regions...

  • Comment number 44.

    I'm pleased - but surprised - to see that no-one has pointed-out that Liverpool got 16 points with goals in injury time. Add this to a very undeserved win over Utd at Anfield and Utd mystifyingly not turning up at Old Trafford i.e. a nine point differential viz Man U that will hardly ever be likely to happen again and I would suggest that Liverpool will never get a better chance than this year to finish ahead of Utd.

    The truth is that United were, as usual, prodigal and that's what kept Liverpool in it - not LFC's own merits. To give you an example (just one of hundreds), Giggs should have had a hat-trick vs Portsmouth but tossed it out again, again and again.

  • Comment number 45.

    I think comparing Benitez with Sir Alex is a disgrace to the later. Clearly SAF has achieved more than any one manager when Benitez however good his tactics is never going to do anything near to that. I think even Benitez could not deny this fact. Mourinho and Wenger have done enough to understand this and so you can feel a mutual respect between them.

    Liverpool is a great club with great history and with an excellent current crop of players. Who could deny Gerrard and Torres? They could have run away with trophy this season. What made them loose is the untiming rants of Rafa, his poor squad selection and rotate policy.I really don't think he is going to buy players who could strengthen their squad in areas that were exposed this season. He will go and buy someone who may sound good on paper and perhaps suit other teams but not for LFC.

    This season was probably the best season and chance for lFC to lift the trophy. I say this because Chelsea was never in the picture for the top spot due the issues with managers, players and management. They will come strong next season. They showed what they could do in the last few months even with the stopgap manager Hiddink.

    I am sure Wenger will be forced to come out his NO-BUY policy. He will buy ( hope) players that could bring arsenal back to life. See.. Arshavin, he showed what they lack.

    Man Utd.. No body could find fault with the squad which was the main reason for this season's success story inspite of the swinging performance, injuries and problems.

    To be honest I like LFC to come back and give us a tough fight. Lets hope Rafa gets some insight and improve LFC squad, or LFC get some insight to get a better manager.

  • Comment number 46.

    @ 41

    im guessing you are a Liverpool fan?!

    Anyways, great season for united and i for one think that they can beat Barca

  • Comment number 47.

    Rafa is wrong when he makes the comment about the best team not always winning, but he is not wrong to make it. This is a comment that Ferguson makes almost every year that he doesnt win it. Ferguson spouts propaganda at every opportunity and thats okay, its his job to create the best situation for his team to win. Rafa is doing the same, or trying to do the same, so please dont analyse his words to harshly, since Fergusons statements are rarely subjected to such scrutiny. For example on the field yesterday he saif Liverpools 4-1 victory was a traversty. They were beaten, he said, by four long balls. They actually had a good game, he said. I wont do the analysis, but the evidence was there for all to see. Ferguson, will NEVER give credit to a rival team.

    I admire Ferguson and his achievements. I am a Liverpool fan and I choke on saying those words, but you have to recognise that you hate them because you want what they have.

    Ultimately United did very well. They started off the season very slowly and had a mountain to climb. Liverpools problem was failing to win a number of games that they should have, and in my view that was because they were top at the time, and seemed to be playing most games after Chelsea, who had already failed to win. We played for example against West Ham on a Monday after Chelsea lost a game, and had a chance to extend, but the draw kept us safely at the top. In the meantime United had started to pick up wins, and before you know it we were no longer racing Chelsea but a very determined and experienced United team who were safely back from Japan. This was the turning point.

    If Liverpool can start well next season they will need to show something for that experience and push on even when you are top. All credit to United who managed to turn the tables very quickly, and even after being beaten by us and Fulham, came back to win 9 games (I believe), leaving Liverpool no chance.

    My main point, is that Ferguson will say whatever he believes is the best for his team. Whether he actually believes some of this stuff, who knows, but please treat Rafa Benitez statements in the same way as Fergusons.

  • Comment number 48.

    A nice use of facts but just like Sir Albert Steptoe it does not give an honest representation of reality.
    Since the inception of the Premier League Man U have had only manager whereas Liverpool have had 4 - as with all new managers they set aout building a team that plays the way they want and staffed with the sort of players they value - Liverpool's squad now only features 3 of the players
    Benitez inherited but Ferguson has had 19 years to put together his squad and establish the team's ethos hving only to bring in players to replace old players and to add to an already established core. I think if he had had to start from a similar beginning to Benitez he would have had far more resources at his beck and call to build a squad - this is where the level playing remark comes into play.
    For example United are linked with a 60m bid for Ribery - no other club ( apart from Man C possibly ) could dream of matching this.
    So comparing Liverpool and Man U's spending in the premiership doesn't work.
    A more workable comparision would be between clubs that have had onesame manager for a similar period of time - the closest comparision to Steptoe's period of Premiership managemnet would be Wenger solets compare Arsenal's expenditure to Steptoe's - that would be
    Arsenal £259,940,000 Man U £391,150,000

    Arsenal £4,659,765 per season Man U £11,799,118

    For 04 to 09 the net spend is

    Arsenal £102,050,000 Man U £169,450,000

    Arsenal £4,066,00 per season Man U 18,680,00 per season

    This is a much fairer comparision and shows the advantage Steptoe has.

  • Comment number 49.

    Good blog Phil and well done to Man Utd.

    Liverpool have played well but the only players that have stood out for them this year have been Gerrard, Torres and Alonso. Where at Utd they've had Van Der Sar, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evans, Rafael, Carrick, Fletcher, Giggs, Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez and more, having an outstanding season.

    If Liverpool get a few more quality players instead of avarage ones like Benayoun, Lucas and Arbeloa, then I genuinely think they'll win the premiership within the next two seasons.

  • Comment number 50.

    Good blog Phil, followed Mau U since Fergie went there from Aberdeen. The man is a legend and so often its the players who are "talked up", We may never see another manager do the same or get the opportunity to do the same.
    To win the CL next Wed will cement his legacy if not already done.
    Solid at the back and let the attackers go for it and we should be too strong for even the great Barca.
    Come on Utd!!

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.


    Nice article Phil. Manchester United have been superb throughout the season. Congratulations to the squad and to their legion of admirers worldwide.





    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 53.

    Great achievement by the great entertainers. Man U always play football the way it should be played.

    The Champions League final will be against Europe's other great entertainers.

    Excellent. Football is the winner. Boring grinders take note.

  • Comment number 54.

    Excellent article today post just aout sums up yesterdays events very well. I personally think Sir Alex is without doubt the best manager Britain has produced. To stay at the top for so long as a leader of a football club is remarkable. The liverpool manager has finally lost the plot with his commnets about the best team not always winning the title. Time for him to grow up and concentrate on making his team great again.

  • Comment number 55.

    The thing to think about with next season in the league, is it is a chance to make double history. Not only could it be a record 19th league title, but it could also be the first time a team has won the league 4 years in a row.

    But FOCUS. First for Barca.

  • Comment number 56.

    r eina
    johnson carragher agger aurelio
    kuyt alonso mascherano lennon
    gerrard torres

    if that is liverpools first team next season they will have a decent challenge, as well as buying a few young and squad players. silva would be a more expensive option for lennon. lennon and johnson would probably cost about 15-20 mil between them.

  • Comment number 57.

    Manchester United have a balanced squad. If Ronaldo stays, they don't really need to make any big-money signing. Its academy can continue to recruit the likes of Frederico Macheda at minimum cost, and by so doing, keep an eye at those big debts they have accumulated.

    It is strenght in depth that will determine the "also-rans" next season. Accordingly, I am going to stick out my neck for United to do the unthinkable and win the league again next year. If they do beat Barcelona on 27 May, this squad will join the United legends of years past. Remarkably, two members of those legends are still playing. Rather than the plaudits for Ferguson's incredible haul of silverware, it is his sucessful blend of youth and experience that will immortalise him amonsgt the Managers Hall of Fame. I wish him luck.

  • Comment number 58.

    Liverpool played their part in an exciting season though I believe they are mainly a two man team - Gerrard and Torres. Man United have been consistent and their defence superb for long periods, and this was fundamental to their success this year.
    Tevez's contribution cannot be measured in just goals. The timing of the goals and the energy he sparks in the rest of the team is so important. I would spend what I had to to keep him.
    The contribution of seniors (Giggs, Scholes, Neville, Van de Sar) has been amazing and Fergusson has marshalled that resuorce wonderfully well.
    I do hope they do well against Barcelona.
    Well done United

  • Comment number 59.

    Number 29. Are you really suggesting that Lord Ferguson is a role model for class and dignity! Nice histrionic tone though...

  • Comment number 60.

    United were a grand total of two fortunate deflected goals, from Macheda and Tevez, better than Liverpool. They have virtually unlimited resoruces, by far the biggest ground, and a solid youth system. I could have managed them to the title this season.

  • Comment number 61.

    Amazing isn't it - Man Utd spend a fortune on players, tapping up in the process often, and pay what it takes to keep their best players on their books and they win things. Incredible. What a manager!

  • Comment number 62.


    Phil wrote

    Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez grabbed a few more headlines on Saturday morning with a somewhat churlish - make that mystifying - claim that the best team does not always win the title, it just means they have more points than anyone else.

    Not so Rafa. Not so at all. Any argument is always won by the team holding the trophy and no-one can seriously discredit them.
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


    "Everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home."
    Arsene Wenger in response to Sir Alex Ferguson's " They are scrappers who rely on belligerence - we are the better team" comment after Arsenals 2002 double winning season. As quoted on BBC Sport.

    I apologise if this has already been quoted. If it hasn't I'm surprised.

  • Comment number 63.

    couldn't disagree with you more about Tevez saying goodbye. Rarely has one player been so adored. He is the only one who might loose the ball in the opponents box and race back into his own box to get it back. As for No mention about the lead Liverpool threw away...well if this is sports journalism...........I will go read a hollywood blockbuster script instead, it might be more accurate.

  • Comment number 64.

    United have not been at their most fluent, but they have been at their best showing the kind of resolve and togetherness across the squad that weekly team changes were never really noted. Ronaldo has been regularly rested, Park, Carrick, Anderson, Scholes, Giggs, Fletcher, Nani, have regularly rotated through the midfield, and the record breaking clean sheet run was achieved with 6 or 7 different personnel appearing across the back line.

    Rafa is entitled to consider his side the better, they beat the Champions twice, any yet Liverpool are ending the season with nothing, while United already have 3 trophies in the cabinet, with one more to play for.

    For me, Berbatov is starting to look the business for United, he has the most assists of the team, and is starting to influence games a lot more. Liverpool will look to improve next season, but I think United can also raise themselves another notch. 4 in a row is a real possibility!!

    Onto ROME!!!

  • Comment number 65.

    so much for freedom of speech.....football is dead as a sport

  • Comment number 66.

    I am very disappointed with blogs such as Phil's that pay compliments to worthy champions in a backhanded way. For me, Manchester United provided a clinic on how to win WHEN IT REALLY MATTERS. I look back at the win at Porto and the second leg win at the Emirates as great examples of Ferguson's genius. In those games, he did not field his best players at every position. He sent out a team capable of winning against the opposition of the day. At Arsenal, he left his two world class strikers on the bench, used Rooney as a winger and played Ronaldo, a winger, as center forward. The win at Porto was achieved by a different combination structured exclusively for Porto. Inter was battered in the first leg with Rooney on the bench.

    Phil, this team is vintage because it is both very good and MATURE. It is deliberately not the "show off" team of the previous. It is EFFECTIVE and FLEXIBLE. I guess effective/flexible is what people are referring to when they praise the 2008-2009 squad.

  • Comment number 67.

    60. hendero

    "United were a grand total of two fortunate deflected goals, from Macheda and Tevez, better than Liverpool. They have virtually unlimited resoruces, by far the biggest ground, and a solid youth system. I could have managed them to the title this season."


    -----------------------------------------------------------------------


    that's a very bold claim, and not least because your post indicates you haven't got the slightest clue what the hell you're talking about

  • Comment number 68.

    66. Lllahim

    the media like to tell us that Ferguson is a motivator and not a tactician. it's easier than tryinmg to explain something they haven't got a clue about themselves I suppose.

    I can imagine Ferguson staggering up to heaven under the weight of all his trophies. God asks him if he's got any regrets about his career and he says "yes, just one; if only I hadn't been so tactically naive"

  • Comment number 69.

    A well balanced overview, but I do think that Liverpool's double over us has been overplayed. Football is unpredictable, part of its charm, which is why the long haul of the league championship is so valued, but in fact United's record against Liverpool has generally been very good, even during Liverpool's dominant years. Did that mean United were better then and deserved to win the league? Of course not! Prior to this season United's record in the Premier League against Liverpool was 18 - 7 (with 9 draws), including 9 victories at Anfield. So the results went Liverpool's way for once!
    I also think the churlishness of Benitez and some Liverpool fans has tarnished their image in many people's eyes. Benitez has equalled Ferguson in spending since he became Liverpool manager, fact! (If the websites I've seen are reliable). Plenty of decisions have gone Liverpool's way too. If he thinks his recent lack of grace is strengthening his case he is sadly deluded.

  • Comment number 70.

    Dearest Carlonso (23),

    How dare you offer this blinkered opinion. Manchester United are similarly fronting a fantastic charitable cause:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/oct/07/creditcrunch.useconomy

    Please, please, research your facts before committing your words to this blog. These individuals, symbolized by Manchester Utd PLC, are suffering every little bit as much as 'Bob Geldof' charitable causes.

    Disgusted,
    Nottingham

  • Comment number 71.

    Independent stats/figures do not seem to support Benitez's claims that Man United have comprehensively outspent Liverpool in the players transfer market. A number of other commentators have mentioned this as well as quoted figures.
    Quite frankly, Benitez's end of season moaning doesn't disguise another trophy "less" season for LFC. Losing only two games (so far), being top at Christmas and still not winning league is not a compliment to LFC but rather the opposite. Every sports writer in the land more or less subscribes to that point of view. It was Liverpool's best chance of winning the league and they blew it in my opinion by failing to capitalise when Utd were away for World Club Cup!
    Chelsea and Arsenal will have a thing or two to say about 2009-10 and will come more into it. Benitez knows that it will perhaps not be a two-horse that it was this year, and thats where his moaning stems from - he knows his team squandered their best chance in years.

  • Comment number 72.

    first of all Man Utd where the best team as the league table does not lie! In terms of what Benitez has said he is just tryin to turn every situation into a more positive one! all the top managers have done it in the past!

    Also to people claiming we are a two man team.......how can you accrue a potential 86 points and only lose 2 games with a 2 man team.....absolute fraff!!!

    Another poster was claiming only three liverpool players have played well this season in gerrard torres and alonso....first of all mascherano has been immense all season and does not get the credit he deserves! the only team carragher wouldnt get into would be utd! An if you mention fletcher then why not mention kuty! not the most talented but works endlessly and has scored 15 goals this season!

    Now dont get me wrong utd do have a btter squad by some distance an we need to get rid of players like lucas, ngog, el zhar, dossena and perhaps strengthen our right back althought that wouldn't be my first priority. however if we where a "2 man team" then A gerrard and torres are the best two players in the world by some distance or B those people are talkin nonsense..........i think ill go for B

  • Comment number 73.

    As usual in all arguments the best team usually depends on what you call the "best" and the league table can support lots of claims about who the "best" team were. Man Utd were the best team at getting more points and that's what wins the title. Liverpool were the best team at scoring goals, at avoiding defeat and the best team at beating other Big Four teams. Chelsea were the best defensive team and also the best team away from home. It's all about getting the points though as far as the tropy is concerned and yet again Man Utd proved more "efficient" at it this season whilst not playing anywhere near as attacking as in the past.

  • Comment number 74.

    70. if you're going to commit a link to the blog please make sure it works

    United aren't a plc btw

    if your link was to the Glazers I take your point though ;-}

  • Comment number 75.

    Post 6.

    "Congratulations to United but it has been a somewhat flat season leaving many questions of 'what could have been?'.

    United have rarely been at their best, Chelsea have had a crisis and sacked a manager, whilst Arsenal have been ravaged by injuries and refuse to improve one or two key positions. Whilst Liverpool have found consistency and put in a good performance this season, the above factors should be taken into account when talking of Liverpool's improvement."




    If you're talking about Chelsea and their managers, Arsenal and their injuries and United been off form then you must also mention that United have had plenty of injuries. £17m Hargreaves, Brown and Nevile out all year, Rafael a broken foot leaving us with John O'sea who wasn't tried at RB before. Rio's niggles, Evra's shocking 4 game ban, Ronaldo's ankle operation after the Euro's missing the start of the season. For the Villa game we had 10 key players not available for selection.

    Its true though what you said about Arsenal, Chelsea and United but I notice you didn't mention Liverpool playing 9 games against 10 men. Surely this is just a one off and won't happen again next season, therefore maybe they aren't heading in the right direction at all.

    Personally the same was said when they were runners up to us years ago and also after they won the CL in 2005 but it never happened. 9 red cards is just too many to ignore and has at least given them 7 points. (Chelsea, Man City etc etc) They won't beat Chelsea twice and United twice next year either, not without red cards.

  • Comment number 76.

    Come on Royalty! What does this mean? United won the most games, they collected the most points. This is what champions do...

  • Comment number 77.

    "Job done", no doubt about it. What has been really special about this season is how so many of the "others" have stepped up to the plate, to use the American expression. Michael Carrick has shown that the United center midfield is in good hands after Scholes retires. Macheda, Wellbeck, Gibson and Rafael have all played important parts.

    On a side note, I think Rafa needs to get his attitude right, he needs to grow up! May be he should take a leaf out of Wenger's book who hasn't made any bones about his failures. I can actually see Arsenal doing much better that 'pool next season because I can see that Wenger has definitely learnt from his mistakes this season.

  • Comment number 78.

    number 63!!!

    How dare you make the statement
    Rarely has one player been so adored. He is the only one who might loose the ball in the opponents box and race back into his own box to get it back.

    You obviously never noticed a young lad called Wayne Rooney, he's worth Tevez four times over that kid is.

    I'm a Liverpool fan, my view, best team won the league, hope they beat Barca in a 7 goal thriller in Rome. Next season Utd or Chelsea or Arsenal, not us, Rafa needs to make correct decisions NOW, I don't think he can, just watch him sell Alonso to Arsenal, he cannot get it right!! Why would Liverpool be interested in signing Tevez?? Just to annoy SAF? Probably!

    Just seen on SSN that the Tevez situation will be sorted in June, as in June 30th, making the wee fella stew before saying they won't waste £32million on him! Last minute deal to get a team and get registered for the Champions League for next season would be ample reward for basically dissing the boss with his and his owner owners comments.

    Unless David Villa arrives to play upfront with Torres, a winger capable of crossing a ball (BECKHAM!!!- Rafa be on the phone now)

    The strength of the Liverpool first team isn''t that bad, it just the strength in depth, it is poor. At least 19 must go in the summer, but Rafa still hasn't mastered the art of TACTICS in the Premier.

    To attempt mind games with SAF was a mistake.

    To go on national tv and diss the champions isn't not just "the Liverpool way" It's actually not the football way.

    Sour grapes from a Liverpool manager to the champions, even if they are Manchester United, isn't what I want to see. He makes himself look so foolish, he is an embarrassment to himself and Liverpool FC.

    Anyway, got that out my system

  • Comment number 79.

    As a United fan since the far from glory days of the early 70s, it is the bitterness and churlishness about this championship that is inspiring me to make my comments. Virtually all seasons have their 'what if' moments. United were on for winning the league in 76, but guess what, they lost two matches and then lost the FA cup final against all predictions. I have a friend who is a city fan who still believes that they were robbed of the league in 77 due to playing on frozen pitches that winter. The great Leeds team on the late sixties, early seventies 'only' won two championships despite being the pre-eminent team for a decade. I still believe that United were superior to Leeds in 92, but with hindsight they were a couple of players short and they drew too many games. United would have been champions in the 95 season had the old system of 2 points for a win been in place (One of Rafa's more bizarre comments). The rules changed, Rafa. It's 3 points for a win. Blackburn were champions then, United are champions now. Once the dust has settled I think history will relate that Liverpool are more than a couple of players short and simply weren't good enough, and not as good as some are claiming.

  • Comment number 80.

    As a United fan for twenty-odd years, I've had the privilege of seeing United pre-Ferguson, so I can appreciate our current position and status. It was all Liverpool and then Arsenal back then! I think it was fitting a United youth product kept Sir Alex in a job back in 1990 too! United has historically been built on youth progression and that is the key...progressing the youth. My dad used to tell me about Busby, Munich, Charlton-Best&Law and 68! Now I have Fergie, Cantona, the dream team, 1999, 3-in-a-row twice and who knows what else to tell my kids!

    But it is true that money has changed everything and it was rightly pointed out earlier, United have earned that money through success. Lucky for us this success has coincided with the Premier League and the money Sky sports has brought into football!

    Another thing that has changed is globalisation, in today's world there are no real borders. United brought a Geordie lad down as a youth who ended up being England's all time record goalscorer, we also brought a cockney boy up north who ended up being England's all time most capped outfield player. Now we are bringing in young Brazilians, Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese and turning them into world class players. Ronaldo was nowhere near the best prospect in the premiership when he first arrived let alone potentially the world's best player. Although he wasn't trained by our academy, he has learned his football at United. The Da Silva brothers and Possebon look class, Evans, Gibson, Macheda and Welbeck have shown they can step in and mix it with the big boys. This is the progression Arsenal need to follow through with their kids.

    Finally, we all know Benitez has tried to play the media game and it hasn't quite worked. What he does need though is confidence in his own academy or reserve players. Chelsea need some stability and Arsenal need some experience. Next season should be a lot closer and I can't wait to see this United team actually play to closer their full potential!

  • Comment number 81.

    I agree with Andrey arshavin ... without Ronaldo MUFC would not have won what they have over the last 2 seasons .. last year he won the premiership for them and this year has got them this far in CL .. He is quite simply .. the difference !! SAF knows this very well and that's why he puts on such a brave face in coping with his tantrums and spoilt brattishness .. I disagree with Arshavin when he says Barcelona are a moe creative side .. maybe in the spanish league !! I do like MUFC and do believe they like to entertain ,, but SAF is far too much of a realist to not put winning first ,, And show me a Barca supporter that would not take an ugly win in Rome !! And finally ..... Benitez will be gone in less than 2 years .. he is out of touch and a BIG whinger ..

  • Comment number 82.

    hope 78 feels better now

    Rafa knows what he is doing.

  • Comment number 83.

    so it is established that benitez has infact actually spent more than united, as post 19 has clearly pointed out. it is also established that most of his signings were 'bad business'.

    another fact we should note is how much the two teams have actually won. since the premier leauge began, united have won far more major trophys than liverpool, its no comparison really. so we can see what the money spent by manchester united had gone towards - success. so after liverpool have spent more, they have won far far less, including a current run of 4 trophyless seasons.

    the facts and figures proove it was infact liverpool who tried to buy the premier leauge, and they failed - miserably, for two decades now. i would love to see benitez explain this situation.

    also if you really want to talk about figures. liverpools spending habbits are poor for them becuase they are much smaller club than manchester united. in monetery terms, liverpool are about 1/5th of the size of manchester united football club (probably even smaller). so spending for them would be harder on the club than for manchester united. infact man u can afford to spend to spend as insanely as liverpool if they wanted, but they dont because money does not buy you success (real madrid, chelsea (current form), liverpool's recent spending habbits). united rely on youngsters producing the goods aswell as brought in talent - like fletcher. he was critisized by all including roy keane, yet he is the type of player which provides us with the cover and consistancy to win many games.

    it is a talent of sir alex ferguson who can identify where the team needs improving, he has a brilliant head. not only has he proved this with manchester united after building trophy winning sides again and again and again. the impressive record from his days in st mirren and aberdeen should not be overlooked, because it demonstrates his full range of managerial abilities in any leauge in the world. in contrast to that benitez has only found success when he came to club with money, his initial managerial career was poor, and mostly in the 2nd tier of spanish football.

    and if you cnosider liverpool getting 16 points in injury time through out the season, also playing around 10 games against 10 men. whilst united have played in 5 competitions, played far more games than liverpool, and have enjoyed more success.

    also consider than manchester united had 13 first team players injured at one time of the season. id wouldnt like to think what liverpool or arsenal would do if they suddenly had 13 first team players out.

    so i dont think its fair at all to critisze and devalue manchester uniteds premier leauge win this season. when chelsea won two times in a row, yes it was because of the money, but we as the footballing world had to achnoledge that chelsea raised the bar on football - and it was up to teams around them to match them. thankfully united managed to raise the bar again. (this season they have been lacking from the excellent united creativity, but the job was done).

    conclusion: liverpool have spent more than united and this information is backed up by figures. which prooves benitez is a liar.

  • Comment number 84.

    How many years did it take Ferguson to win his first title ? So, patience for Liverpool fans I think

    Someone made the point that Utd have not been at their best hence the reason why the gap has closed.

    The gap has closed because Utd are on the way down the hill but still good enough to be closer to the summit than others whilst Liverpool are going up the hill, the two will cross. Utd have not been at their best, since when has their defence been their primary strength ?

    Next season may well be interesting simply because Liverpool, and Benitez should ponder that it aint beating the teams close to you that gets you the title, its winning the games against teams 5-20 in the league. I seem to recall in the years when Liverpool dominated, they could hardly beat Utd but Utd were never close to winning the league.

    BEAT THE TEAMS YOU SHOULD BEAT. THATS WHY UTD ARE CHAMPIONS

  • Comment number 85.

    It's incredible really how this one man has just kept going, he really is in the Sir Matt Busyby's mould in so many ways.
    Fergie has constructed teams based on youth and developing players and like Sir Matt has done it over a long period. People will argue Fergies now surpassed Sir Matt, but look at the stats of where the babes were at before they were cut down! 3 titles in 4 years, and chasing eurpoe!
    Sir Alex has done it the Manchetser UTD way - Set out by Sir Matt, great fluid football, with home grouwn young players - all coupled with a real desire and abaility to figth for results.
    This season UTD have fought for so any points - Newcastle away, Villa & Spurs at home..... and as the knockout phase arrived in Europe they've gone to another level.....ruthless!
    Another league season see's that trophy back in the OT cabinet and already fergies looking to Rome and then next season.
    Can liverpool challenge next year? time will tell (BUT I HOPE NOT)
    Fergie & his team deserve this as do all the many supporters who stuck with the team during those dark days in the 70's & 80's.....
    Champions again RAFA......AND TAHT's A FACT!

  • Comment number 86.

    83 ZZZzzzzz
    somebody writes essays to bemuse bore and rile readers.

  • Comment number 87.

    oh and 84 & 85
    i don't think sir alex actually does that much apart from picking the team and watching the football. Assistants shout for him, assistants take the training sessions and shout for him, assistants take the teamtalks. He is just a ham on a seat.

  • Comment number 88.

    If Wenger would have paid the 12M for Ronaldo we would be talking about Arsenal's 3 in a row. Funny how opinions fizzle out and man utd are all pissand vinegar

  • Comment number 89.

    As for Rafa's comments, he's looking like a sore loser.

    The league doesn't lie. You play everyone twice, the most consistent team wins and, overall, United have played the better football with Liverpool only really attacking games in the last few of the season. Other than that, Liverpool under Benitez were their typical defensive self for the majority of the season.

    Plus, United have competed where Liverpool have failed in the cup competitions.

    They were in a position to win the Premiership, but they threw it away with poor performances - and Rafa needs to realise that. But they got closer and next season the pressure will really be on Rafa to take the title to Anfield.

  • Comment number 90.

    Where's my comment?All new members are pre-moderated initially, which means that there will be a short delay between when you post your comment and when it appears while one of our moderators checks it.

  • Comment number 91.

    Benitez said the best team doesn't always win the Premiership. He might well be right - the best SQUAD wins the Premiership.

  • Comment number 92.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester_United_F.C._season_2008%E2%80%9309#Squad_statistics

    Check out the squad rotation.
    Only 3 players featuring in over 30 league games.
    In my opinion, definitely the strongest United squad ever seen.

  • Comment number 93.

    Well after reading all the posts, (yes I really am that bored and that sad), I thought I'd chuck in my five pence worth as well, I am no football genius, nor do I profess to be a pundit (unlike the vast majority on here), from what I can work out and I know it is a very simplistic view, the team that wins the most games usually gets the most points, the team with the most points tends to win the trophy and all the jaffa cakes at the end, had it been Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal or even West Brom (rest their soul) I am pretty certain the above facts apply, I cant find any reason to be impressed or unimpressed by Liverpool beating United twice, sometimes it happens, it does not make them a better team, I remember Derby beating United a few years back, that didn't make them a better team either, Liverpool, United etc all have vast amounts of money to spend on their spoiled little children, sadly, they dont all happen to play very well together and inevitably the best behaved group of kids tend to win in the end.

    I think Liverpool are a massive club with a fantastic history, they deserve a better manager than the one they have now, hopefully, instead of buying more spoiled children who dont play together, they will invest in a decent manager instead.

    I like Tevez as a player but his moaning recently has really started getting on my t*ts, he really isn't as good as he seems to think he is, move along please, I hear Stoke are looking for a new striker.

  • Comment number 94.

    By the way Phil, good article, you never know, keep up the good work and the BBC might even give you a job.

  • Comment number 95.

    Well done Utd. We pushed you and made you win the league, and that is the true mark of champions. To be honest, I can't see Barca beating Utd in Rome and the CL title will be retained aswell. So good work.

    As a Liverpool fan, I am happy we actually applied some pressure, though really we lost the league. Doing the double over both Utd and Chelsea has stirred it up and to do that again next season will be difficult. We've got to be more lethal at Anfield, thats a given. If we can combine this with everything we've achieved this term then 09-10 has the makings of one of the best seasons yet. The race to 19 titles is on, but the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal will always be there or thereabouts. Fergie will be dying to get the 19th, but Rafa will try his best to prevent that, I'm sure.

    I do have a question for all the Utd fans, how would it go down if Tevez ended up signing for Liverpool? Not sure it'll actually happen, but what if? I remember Heinze a couple of years ago, Fergie did everything he could to prevent that from happening.

    As for all the amateur football economists, lets just enjoy the football and count ourselves lucky we experience and, as fans, are a part of the best league in the world. Can't wait until next season.

  • Comment number 96.

    Its nonsense to compare Benitez spending to Fergusons spending over the past few years. Benitez has needed to build an entire squad capable of challenging for the title. Ferguson has merely had to embellish his squad. Having said that, if the numbers I have seen are accurate, I am a little surprised at how much Liverpool have spent.
    I do want to challenge a couple of statements regarding Uniteds team building ethos though.
    I see very little evidence of the youth policy that saw "the kids" come through and win a title. Indeed, aside from bit part players, I cant think of any really outstanding young United player who wasnt bought in as a ready made product. Also for some reason united fans place a very high value on their squad players, but have no respect for squad players from other teams. For example, when Aurelio slammed in that beautiful free-kick at the Stretford End, and Dossens lobbed the ball over Van Der Sar, I expected United fans to show a little more respect for some of Benitezs' purchases, but no. I was also expecting to hear a little less of the "two man team" nonsense when we beat United at Anfield, with both Gerrard and Torres watching from the stand...but no.
    Since Liverpool have scored more goals in the league than United and have a better goal difference, I was wondering if we might be given some credit as an attacing team, but sadly we are apparently just lucky, and play "horrible" football.

    I also noticed that in games against the other top 4 teams, Liverpool have 4 wins and 2 draws, 14 points, compared with 3 losses 2 draws and 1 win for United. Once again United win the league by being better than anyone at beating the 16 teams who arent in the top four. Kings of England!

    If they beat Barcelona I will start to respect this team, as a genuinely world class team. They won the CL in 99, lucky late goals over a superior Bayern, and they could not have got any luckier last year against Chelsea (John Terry had to lose his footing taking a penalty for them to win it!!) Thats all they have to show for their dominance in England for 20 years! Ferguson should be judged as a failure if he doesnt win the CL this season. Kings of England, I will grant you but Kings of Europe, not an earned title.

  • Comment number 97.

    As a United fan, I don't mind where Tevez plays, I would like him to stay but if he wants to go somewhere else, good luck to him, no player is bigger than the club or the manager (Beckham, Van Man etc), he hasn't been treated very badly from what I can work out and he has played in nearly 30 prem games this season, no idea why he is moaning, does he really think he is better than Rooney, Berbatov etc?

  • Comment number 98.

    Its nonsense to compare Benitez spending to Fergusons spending over the past few years. Benitez has needed to build an entire squad capable of challenging for the title. Ferguson has merely had to embellish his squad. Having said that, if the numbers I have seen are accurate, I am a little surprised at how much Liverpool have spent.
    I do want to challenge a couple of statements regarding Uniteds team building ethos though.
    I see very little evidence of the youth policy that saw "the kids" come through and win a title. Indeed, aside from bit part players, I cant think of any really outstanding young United player who wasnt bought in as a ready made product. Also for some reason united fans place a very high value on their squad players, but have no respect for squad players from other teams. For example, when Aurelio slammed in that beautiful free-kick at the Stretford End, and Dossens lobbed the ball over Van Der Sar, I expected United fans to show a little more respect for some of Benitezs' purchases, but no. I was also expecting to hear a little less of the "two man team" nonsense when we beat United at Anfield, with both Gerrard and Torres watching from the stand...but no.
    Since Liverpool have scored more goals in the league than United and have a better goal difference, I was wondering if we might be given some credit as an attacing team, but sadly we are apparently just lucky, and play "horrible" football.

    I also noticed that in games against the other top 4 teams, Liverpool have 4 wins and 2 draws, 14 points, compared with 3 losses 2 draws and 1 win for United. Once again United win the league by being better than anyone at beating the 16 teams who arent in the top four. Kings of England!

    If they beat Barcelona I will start to respect this team, as a genuinely world class team. They won the CL in 99, lucky late goals over a superior Bayern, and they could not have got any luckier last year against Chelsea (John Terry had to lose his footing taking a penalty for them to win it!!) Thats all they have to show for their dominance in England for 20 years! Ferguson should be judged as a failure if he doesnt win the CL this season. Kings of England, I will grant you but Kings of Europe, not an earned title.


    =========================================================

    and who are the world class team. liverpool? oh dont be silly. how did liverpool manage to win the CL?. getting battered and only got lucky. lets face it. you would not have won the CL if milan did not underestimate you in the 2nd half. we dont need you to tell us we are class apart. the fact is, we are the champions of the world and we ve been miles, take note, i dint say yards. i said 'miles' above liverpool for the past 20 years.

    and please, benitez a great manager? to be honest he is just a good manager and nothing more.he makes too many mistakes and he knows it. fergie is way ahead of him. if you doubt me, lets see if benitez can win 11 trophies in the next 17years.

  • Comment number 99.

    haha liverpool had to rebuild a squad. lets investigate that statement.

    liverpool won the champions leauge with effectively the old manager's players. and the fa cup the next year.

    so after benitez has 'rebuilt' this squad, you have won nothing. 4 years trophyless.

    fine lets analyse the figurs since the premier leauge has begun.

    Liverpool have spent 202,445,000 net since the Premier League began, averaging 11,908,529 per season.
    United have spent 200,585,000, averaging 11,799,118 per season.

    after spending more money than manchester united, and in terms of premier leauges, liverpool have won 0, nothing, zilch, nada. where has this money gone in terms of the leauge, what have they achieve after spending more money than manchester united, who have won the premier leauge 11 times, thats 11 more times than liverpool. how can liverpool justify that horrible return to capital employed ratio?, how can benitez sit there and critisize united for spending big, when he spends more than united and goes through 4 trohpyless seasons?

  • Comment number 100.

    Yes, Rafa is obviously not yet a great manager. But in his first 5 seasons with Liverpool, he has achieved much more than Fergie did in his first 5 at Utd. And in a footballing climate where managers are hired and fired and hardly given the time it took for Fergie to accomplish ANYTHING at all, you have to give some credit to Rafa. Especially in an era where Utd have dominated the 'Premier League/Premiership/Premier League-again' with Arsenal doing their bit and Chelski a modern force. Rafa has excellent potential when you compare him retrospectively with Fergie.

    Nobody is doubting Fergie is a great. But Rafa could still be.

 

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