So Man United could not complete the Double by losing 0 – 1 to hated soccer rivals Chelsea in the FA Cup Final. But I guess hardly anyone in the United camp is complaining as they have won the Premiership title for the first time since 2003 – by dethroning two-time champions Chelsea.
“It was a difficult task given the amount of money Chelsea have,” Sir Alex Ferguson said of his ninth Premiership title. “They were also the most resilient opponents we have ever come across.” Indeed, humble words for someone who has now won 20 major trophies in his 20 years at Old Trafford.
Despite being 65 years old, it remains difficult to quench the insatiable winning mentality of the sporting and affable Fergie. In any case, for the sake of posterity, here’s a blow-by-blow account of how the mighty Reds convincingly won the 2006 – 2007 season title:
1) August 2006
Soccer pundits predicted that after selling top goal poacher Ruud van Nistelrooy to Spanish rivals Real Madrid, Man United would blunt their attacking prowess. Defying the odds, by the end of August, the fortunes of the Reds read: 3 wins out of 3 played with 10 goals scored. Chelsea, on the other hand, fumbled to a 1 – 2 lost to mediocre Middlesbrough in only their second soccer match.
2) September 2006
Good times hardly last. Arsenal stole the thunder by defeating Man United 1 – 0 at Old Trafford and thereby ending United’s perfect start to the season. This allowed Chelsea to regain top spot but cracks in their title defence surfaced when they could only draw with another mediocre team, Aston Villa. Meanwhile, eternal soccer rivals Liverpool succumbed to their third successive away defeat at Bolton. Things were shaping up for a two-horse race for the Premiership title. September ended with a superlative solo goal at Reading by the irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo.
3) October 2006
Hitting a rich vein of form, main United striker Wayne Rooney struck a hit-trick to condemn bogey team Bolton to a crushing 4 – 0 defeat. This ensured that United kept pace with Chelsea while Liverpool’s title hopes all but evaporated when they fell 0 – 2 at Old Trafford. Chelsea were dealt a massive blow when their first-choice goalie Petr Cech fractured his skull after a nasty tackle at Reading. As of this writing, he wears a reinforced rugby skull cap during soccer matches as medical specialists cannot guarantee that another blow to the skull will not result in irreparable brain damage.
4) November 2006
In the bitter cold, Man Untied outplayed Chelsea at Old Trafford but still had to settle for a 1 – 1 stalemate. Beaming with delight, Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho proclaimed that United blew a “big, big chance” to open up a six-point gap at the top. Big words, I would say. Careful – pride before fall.
5) December 2006
The full force of winter was felt as much as Chelsea’s mounting list of walking wounded. Without the ultra-reliable Cech still out injured, Chelsea could only secure draws at minor clubs Reading and Fulham. The pathetic Arsenal, meanwhile, wrote their doom script by losing to a single goal at struggling Sheffield United.
6) January 2007
New year, same relentless march by United, as they retained their six-point advantage at the top. Things took an interesting turn when a day after Chelsea fell 0 – 2 to Liverpool, Man United foolishly conceded two late goals to lose 1 – 2 to Arsenal. Chelsea’s injury problems complicated when it was rumored that Mourinho was denied funds to bring in a new centre-back during the January transfer window.
7) February 2007
Despite bagging the League Cup and boosted by captain John Terry’s return from injury, Chelsea were unable to cut into Manu United’s lead. A jaded United took on Fulham at Craven Cottage but were still able to bag full points, thanks to superb solo effort by Player of the Year Ronaldo. Undeniable resilience. Man United: Champions in the making?
8) March 2007
Man United’s Irish utility man John O’Shea scored a priceless last minute winner against Liverpool. This win boosted their title aspirations by defeating a major soccer rival. With Man United facing injury problems of their own, Chelsea quietly kept up the pressure by winning.
9) April 2007
With two uncharacteristic blunders made by United goalie Edwin van der Sar, United conceded 1 – 2 to Portsmouth. On the same day, Chelsea beat a resurgent Tottenham 1 – 0 to put their title challenge back on track … only to be derailed at end-April. Then, United scored four goals in the final half-hour to turn over a two-goal deficit at Everton, while Chelsea could only manage a home draw to Bolton.
10) May 2007
United needed four points form their last three games to be crowned champions. Ronaldo’s dubious penalty at the Manchester derby cut the target to a solitary point. On 6 May 2007, Arsenal did United a massive favor by holding Chelsea to a 1 – 1 draw. This gave United an unassailable seven-point lead with two matches remaining.
And there you have it, Chelsea failing to live up to their favorite’s tag billing after splashing out last summer to sign Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack. On the other hand, Man United captured the title despite making only one major signing in quiet workhorse Michael Carrick. Indeed, success need not necessarily go to the super-rich.
By: Kumcheong Tang