Jim West has forced me return with this post! And as much doesn't seem to be happening in the biblical studies world...
And I haven’t spoken about football for a while and good reason. Previously when I got the Man Utd hopes up I was cruelly emailed/taunted by supporters of other teams (you know who you are). Now I certainly do not think the title race is anything like over but United are in as good a position as they have been for a few seasons now and it is really their for United to blow it. So why this season? Here are what must be the key reasons:
Giggs has played consistently well. I never thought he’d last this far into his 30s at this high level because he is a pace player and there is a tendency for pace players to really dip in their early 30s (hamstrings and all that). Whether he can go one till 2010 as Queiroz reckons, I don’t know, but he has show the there are another couple of seasons left.
Scholes is back after missing last season. Scholes is THE most underrated player over the last 10 years. I know everyone thinks he is excellent but I don’t think he has ever got the true credit he deserves. He always has been a far better player than Beckham and few have the touch, passing ability, shooting ability and all-round technique that he has. Certainly no English player has. But combined with this…
Carrick has played well without being noticed. He also passes the ball very nicely and sits in front of the defence. The fact that he gets the ball quickly and accurately up to the front men, moves the game quickly and is always appreciated by strikers. Carrick and Scholes are a very effective midfield pairing and keep possession well unlike…
Fletcher who gives the ball away far too easily with those ‘disguise passes’. The less games he has and the more Carrick has, the better.
Rooney may not have had his greatest season but he remains one of the best. He gives the team good shape and is very effective even when not scoring. And when he does, he is always capable for producing some great, great goals. When he hits form he will be regarded the best in the world but for the moment that tag has been given to…
Cristiano Ronaldo. Whether he stays for a long time at United, I don’t know but he has been lethal and has scored plenty more goals than expected. He is playing better than anyone in the world this season as many people keep pointing out and that obviously helps!
Winning when not playing well. Beating Liverpool is always hilarious but beating them now and then with 10 men, luckily, and with a last minute goal is nice to see. United have played very well this season but in a couple of games, results have been down to effort and luck. Previous seasons such games would have been drawn.
Staying relatively injury-free has been a big boost, obviously.
Losing RvN could have backfired but United have scored regularly and not relied on one striker. Clearly Ruud and Fergie weren’t getting on and so Ruud had to go. Besides, for all his faults, Saha does possibly give the team a bit more shape.
But defensively United have been sound. Neville is as good as ever but Vidic has been vital. His uncompromising style (exactly what you want from at least one defender) and some good headed goals have played a crucial role. United’s defence has been nice and solid, as has Chelsea’s. But United have scored by not relying on one player as Chelsea have and have scored so many goals it effectively counts as an extra point.
There are other reasons but the development of young players like Rooney and Ronaldo combined with the experience of the golden generation (Giggs, Scholes, Neville) has come good. Whether United win the league is more or less up to United now.
UPDATE: JB Hood rightly told me off for not mentioning Edwin Van der Saar who has been United's much need Best Keeper since Peter Schm. He has been a big difference maker these past couple of seasons.