This is part one of Manchester United's season review 2008-09.
The season started in traditional style with the annual Community Shield at Wembley. The previous year United had been victorious against Chelsea in this very same fixture on penalties, and the same result was to happen here, after a dour 0-0 draw, United were victorious on penalties.
The season really kicked off a week later against Newcastle United, but with many big stars missing, including the very late withdrawal through family reasons of Carlos Tevez, United struggled to a disappointing 1-1 draw. Obafemi Martins opened the scoring for the visitors was equalised by Darren Fletcher a minute later.
8 days later and a much improved performance against Portsmouth at Fratton Park, United dominated the first half and much of the second thanks to classy passing and good chances. The goal came though Darren Fletcher late in the first half.
United then travelled to Monaco for the annual UEFA Super Cup, and a disappointing 2-1 defeat to UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg was to follow. The real disappointment was the sending off of Paul Scholes for deliberate handball in the last minute.
United added to their great squad on the last day of the transfer window with the acquisition of Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov.
Berbatov was to make his debut at Anfield on September 13th against Liverpool, and even though United were to take the lead in the 3rd minute thanks to Carlos Tevez, defeat was to follow. First a horrendous own goal by Wes Brown after a miscommunication between him and Edwin Van Der Sar, and a winner from Dutchman Ryan Babel after Ryan Giggs had let Dirk Kuyt take the ball from him on the by-line and cross.
The Champions League was to open 4 days later, and United welcomed Spanish side Villarreal to Old Trafford, but United’s lack of goal scoring ability was exposed once more as a 0-0 draw followed.
The Sunday after United travelled to Stamford Bridge to meet last season’s closest rivals, Chelsea. A fine performance in the first half followed by a disappointing one in the second. Ji Sung Park opened the scoring for United in the first half after good work by Patrice Evra and Dimitar Berbatov. Solomon Kalou was to equalise for Chelsea with 10 minutes remaining.
The League Cup followed 3 days later, and a visit by Middlesbrough. Cristiano Ronaldo’s first goal of the season gave United the lead, then a horrible moment as Emmanuel Pogatetz nearly broke Rodrigo Possebon’s leg with a horrendous challenge which led to a straight red card for the Boro defender. Boro were to equalise early in the second half thanks to a deflected effort from youngster Adam Johnson. United however were to retake the lead thanks to veteran Ryan Giggs , and wrapped the game up in the final minute thanks to another Portuguese winger, Nani.
Bolton were the next visitors to Old Trafford and United struggled to break them down thanks to some sturdy defending and excellent goalkeeping from goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen. A controversial penalty was awarded to United in the 60th minute when Ronaldo went down under a challenge where the defender appeared to have got the ball first. Ronaldo put away the subsequent penalty and Wayne Rooney made it two in the latter stages.
United travelled to Denmark next to take on Aalborg in the second Champions League group game, Wayne Rooney settled nerves in the first half thanks to a well taken strike, and in the second half Dimitar Berbatov was to score his first two United goals to make sure of United’s first Champions league win of the season.
A tricky fixture greeted United at the start of the month but it turned out to be one of the more easier wins against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. A rare goal from Wes Brown gave United the lead and the points were wrapped up in the second half thanks to a classy strike from Wayne Rooney after a good run from Cristiano Ronaldo.
After the International break United welcomed struggling West Brom to Old Trafford, and it took until the 51st minute to make the breakthrough, Wayne Rooney seeing to that. After this the floodgates opened and Ronaldo added a second shortly after. Dimitar Berbatov added a third later on and the 4-0 win was wrapped up thanks to Nani.
Celtic were the next Champions league opposition, and Dimitar Berbatov was at it again as he opened the scoring. He added a second early in the second half after a Ronaldo free kick was parried, and Wayne Rooney got his customary goal later on.
A heated fixture at Goodison Park the Saturday after was to follow, Phil Neville and Wayne Rooney both close to being red carded. United were to take the lead in this fixture thanks to Darren Fletcher, but Marouane Fellaini was to head Everton level in the second half.
The final fixture of October was a midweek game at Old Trafford against West ham at Old Trafford. Two Ronaldo goals made sure of the points but his second goal stood out more. Berbatov got the ball on the by-line and seemingly having no hope of getting past Collins, he audaciously flicked it with the outside of his boot and laid it on a plate for Ronaldo to tap in.
High flying Hull City were the visitors to Old Trafford on the first day of November. United took a third minute lead thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo, Hull were soon level thanks to Daniel Cousin. Michael Carrick gave United a 2-1 lead with a fine strike and Ronaldo added a third late on in the half. When Nemanja Vidic headed United into a 4-1 lead early in the second half it would have appeared Hull would be well and truly humbled, however Bernard Mendy brought them back into it and when the same player went down under a Nemanja Vidic challenge, a penalty was awarded. Geovanni was to put it away to ensure a nervous finish, however United held on for a 4-3 victory.
United then travelled to Celtic Park on Bonfire night to take on Celtic, and for long periods United were behind thanks to a Scott McDonald chip, however Ryan Giggs was to rescue a point with a late header.
Another huge game followed the Saturday after as United travelled to North London to take on Arsenal, and after a tentative start Arsenal drew first blood thanks to a deflected Samir Nasri drive. Nasri was to add a second early in the second half and despite a late Rafael strike, United slumped to a 2-1 defeat.
It took a Carlos Tevez penalty to break down QPR in the League Cup the Wednesday after, after the Championship side had put up a brave fight.
Stoke City were the next visitors to Old Trafford, and a third minute Ronaldo blockbuster of a free kick gave United a lead to settle nerves, and a Michael Carrick striker in first half stoppage time wrapped up the game. Dimitar Berbatov, a Danny Welbeck stunner and a late Ronaldo free kick gave United a 5-0 win.
Another Midlands outfit were United’s next opponents in the shape of Aston Villa at Villa Park, but a frustrating 0-0 draw with little endeavour was to follow.
Another 0-0 draw 3 days later but one which ensured United’s passage into the Champions League second round against Villarreal in Spain, a game of few chances thanks to the fact that a point was enough for both teams to qualify.
The Sunday after United travelled to Eastlands to take on Manchester City, and after a cagey start from both sides, United started to stamp their authority and took a lead thanks to Wayne Rooney’s 100th Manchester United goal. A second half red card for Ronaldo for deliberate handball was the only blot in what was otherwise an excellent derby victory.
Another League Cup appointment was first up for United in December, as Blackburn Rovers came to visit. United won 5-3 thanks to 4 goals from Carlos Tevez and a Nani strike, Blackburn replied though Matt Derbyshire and a Benni McCarthy double.
United’s next game appeared to be fairly straightforward against Sunderland at home. However it was anything but, and when Dimitar Berbatov headed over from 6 yards with 15 minutes to go it appeared to be going to a 0-0 draw. However as the game was creeping into stoppage time, Michael Carrick had a shot from 20 yards which was deflected into the post and Nemanja Vidic was there to pounce for a 1-0 win.
The final Champions league group game up next and a 2-2 draw against Aalborg. Carlos Tevez gave United an early lead, but the Danes were to hit United for six as they scored two late on in the first half. Early in the second hals Wayne Rooney made things better with a classy strike.
A controversial 0-0 draw against Tottenham followed, in which Ronaldo had a seemingly good goal disallowed and the same player may well have received his marching orders when he appeared to take a kick at Luka Modric.
Up next was the FIFA Club World Championship. Firstly the semi final against Gamba Osaka, in which United won a topsy-turvy game 5-3, and then the final which United won 1-0 against LDU Quito thanks to a Wayne Rooney strike, and Manchester United were officially the World’s best.
While United were away their rivals had slipped up, and on Boxing day United travelled to Stoke, who they had beaten 5-0 in the league six weeks earlier. This game was the polar opposite as United struggled to a 1-0 victory thanks to a late Carlos Tevez strike.
The last game of 2008 brought Middlesbrough to Old Trafford, and a game when United had to show great patience to break down a resilient Boro side. A Dimitar Berbatov strike in the 69th minute gave United another crucial victory.