This is part 2 of Manchester United's 2008=9 season review.
Unlike the previous season United didn’t have a League game to welcome them into the New Year so it was straight onto the FA Cup and a tricky looking fixture against Southampton at St Mary’s. United though coasted it, scoring in the first half through Danny Welbeck, and then in the second through a contentious Nani penalty and a Darron Gibson drive.
The Carling Cup reached its semi-final stage 3 days later and United travelled to the East Midlands to take on Derby Country, and went down 1-0 thanks to a blockbuster from Kris Commons.
The Sunday after, and United welcomed Chelsea to Old Trafford and produced their best performance to date, hammering the West London outfit 3-0 with goals from Nemanja Vidic, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov.
The games came thick and fast in January with high-flying Wigan travelling to Old Trafford next, and a mixed night for United as despite Wayne Rooney’s first minute winner, the same player was to go off with a hamstring injury shortly after which would keep him out for a month.
Up until this point United had not topped the table, in their next game however they had the chance to do just that. However it would not be easy as they had to beat Bolton away to do it. Patience was the key as United gradually broke them down and grabbed the points in the final minute thanks to Dimitar Berbatov.
There would be no mistakes the Tuesday after as Derby travelled to Old Trafford for the second leg of the semi final, and any hopes of another upset were quickly extinguished as United raced into a 3-0 half time lead thanks to a Nani special, an O’Shea tap-in and a Carlos Tevez header. Derby got back into it thanks to a Giles Barnes penalty but United got a penalty of their own shortly after when Tevez was tumbled and Ronaldo stroked home confidently. A consolation free kick from Barnes wasn’t enough and United marched onto a Wembley date with Tottenham.
Their future Carling Cup opponents were the next opponents in the FA cup and even had the temerity to take the lead thanks to Roman Pavlyuchenko. United hit back quickly and goals from Paul Scholes and Dimitar Berbatov before the break were enough to put United through.
The midweek after saw United travel to The Hawthornes to face struggling West Brom, and from the moment Dimitar Berbatov scored the first there really was only one winner. Paul Robinson saw red for a horror challenge on Ji Sung park before Carson fluffed a corner allowing Carlos Tevez to tap home for 2. The goals kept coming in the second half as Ronaldo added 2 and Vidic got his name on the score sheet.
A busy January came to an end on the last day of the month with a 1-0 win over Everton at Old Trafford. A Ronaldo penalty in the first half was enough for the points.
United travelled to Upton Park to face West ham on the 8th and after overcoming a tricky first half United settled in the second and Ryan Giggs scored the only goal on the stroke of the hour to give United a crucial away victory.
Derby County were next up at Pride park, this time in the FA Cup and may have fancied themselves another upset after seeing a United team with no strikers. However such optimism was short lived as Nani hit a special, Gibson drove United into a 2-0 lead and Ronaldo headed United into the quarter finals shortly into the second half. Derby had a brief flicker of hope after Miles Addison headed a goal but it was short lived as Danny Welbeck made it 4-1 in the clsing stages.
Due to United’s UEFA Super Cup and Club World Championship commitments in the first half of the season they had two games in hand. The first of these came the Wednesday after the Derby game at home to Fulham. Paul Scholes hit a trademark volley in the 17th minute to calm any nerves, and after Dimitar berbatov added a second you got the impresion United would run riot. However only one more goal was to follow, but it was a pleasing one as the returning Wayne Rooney tapped in from 4 yards.
The Saturday after and Blackburn came to visit and what looking on the face of it an easy game was anything but as Blackburn came to attack. Wayne Rooney opened the scoring mid way through the first half. Blackburn however weren’t behind for long as Roque Santa Cruz rounded Thomas Kuszack and scored from a narrow angle. With United struggling to get the second goal a piece of genius was required, and sure enough Ronaldo hit a blockbuster of a free kick to save face and give United 3 points.
Another cup competition was to restart in late February, the Champions league, and an old friend greeted United at the San Siro, Jose Mourinho, now Inter Milan manager. Despite domination of most of the game, United couldn’t find a breakthrough and the game ended in a 0-0 draw.
The first silverware of the season was to arrive on the 1st of march was United beat Tottenham in the Carling Cup final. After 120 minutes and no goals, United had to face up to another penalty shoot out. Ben Foster the hero as United won 3-0 on penalties.
Little time to celebrate as 3 days later United travelled to Newcastle and a tough game was to come as Newcastle took the lead from Peter Lovenkrands, Manchester United hit back from Wayne Rooney’s customary goal against Newcastle and early in the second half Dimitar Berbatov scored to give United a 2-1 win after a mix up in the Newcastle defence.
6 days after being victorious in one Wembley cup final, United moved one step further to another after a walk in the park against Fulham at Craven Cottage. Carlos Tevez hit two in the first half, followed by Ji Sung Park and Wayne Rooney goals in the second.
The Wednesday after and the second leg of the second round Champions league against Inter Milan. United hit first as Nemanja Vidic headed a Ryan Giggs corner into the corner. Nerves were settled early in the second half when a Ronaldo header gave United a 2-0 lead.
However after this United were to hit a stumbling block, as first Liverpool stunned Old Trafford with a 4-1 win. United started well as a Ronaldo penalty gave them the advantage, however a Nemanja Vidic error allowed Torres to sneak in and finish well, and Liverpool were to go in at half time in front after as Evra tripped Gerrard in the area and Gerrard picked himself up to score it. Nemanja Vidic and United’s troubles continued in the second 45 as first the United defender was sent off for a last man foul on Gerrard and from the resulting free kick, Fabio Aurelio curled Liverpool into a 3-1 lead before Dossena rounded off a great day for the reds of Merseyside.
Seven days later and Fulham beat United 2-0 at Craven Cottage and this was no smash and grab, Fulham were deserving of the points as first Danny Murphy scored from the penalty spot after Paul Scholes had been red carded for deliberate handball and Zoltan Gera added a second in the second half, and United’s troubles weren’t over there as Wayne Rooney saw red for throwing the ball away.
United had found themselves unseated at the top by Liverpool thanks to the two defeats so a win against Aston Villa was crucial. The lead was United’s thanks to a Ronaldo free kick however Villa weren’t going to roll over and die and got level on the half hour thanks to a John Carew header. Gabriel Agbonlahor gave Villa a 2-1 lead and United had to go for it so bringing on a 17 year old Italian named Federico Macheda seemed to be a risky move. Ronaldo brought the scores level with 10 minutes to go before Macheda produced a piece of magic as he turned the defender and curled the ball beyond Brad Friedel to give United all 3 points.
United were in action again just 48 hours later as they took on FC Porto at Old Trafford, and they were to fall behind early on before Rooney equalised. Carlos Tevez scored what looked to be a late winner before Porto hit an even later equaliser to make United’s task 8 days later that much more difficult.
The Saturday after and a trip to Sunderland for United and a controlled performance reaped the reward of a first half lead given to them by Paul Scholes. But Sunderland were made of sterner stuff and came at United more in the second half and got a deserved equaliser through Kenwyne Jones after a Ben Foster error. Federico Macheda then came off the bench to try and rescue something, and he did that after Michael Carrick’s wayward drive was pounced upon by him and the lead, and eventually the points, were United’s.
The Wednesday after and a trip to Portugal for United to face Porto. Ronaldo’s blockbuster in the 4th minute gave them the lead but in truth United looked comfortable as they advanced to the semi final.
FA Cup duty called the Sunday after in the semi finals, however this wasn’t to be for United as after a 0-0 draw with Everton, United were to lose on penalties in the shoot out.
The Wednesday after, and 24 hours after a 4-4 draw between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield United had the chance to move clear at the top and they did so with a fairly comfortable victory over Portsmouth at Old Trafford. Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick with the goals either side of the halves.
April 25th against Spurs and a defining moment in the Title race, United were trailing 2-0 to goals from Darren Bent and Luka Modric. Then an incident which changed the game as Michael Carrick raced through, Gomes brought him down but appeared to have taken the ball, Ronaldo hammered home the subsequent penalty. Then the onslaught as Rooney quickly equalised, Ronaldo made it 3-2 and Rooney and Berbatov added more to give United a 5-2 win.
4 days later and more North London opposition, this time Arsenal in the Champions league semi final. A United dominated performance perhaps disappointingly only brought one goal, courtesy of John O’Shea.
A potential banana skin was to follow against Middlesbrough at The Riverside but United never had reason to worry as they strolled to a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Ryan Giggs and Ji Sung Park either side of the break.
The Tuesday after and the second leg of the semi final. United eased into the final with a sublime performance which was started with a goal from Ji Sung park and a Ronaldo free kick from 40 yards. Ronaldo added a second following a electric break from United before Darren Fletcher was controversially sent off for what appeared to be a perfectly good tackle on cesc Fabregas. Robin Van persie hammered home the resulting penalty but it was to little consequence as United advanced to the final where they would meet Barcelona.
That however would be put on the backburner as they still had a league to win and a Manchester derby to contend with the following Sunday. An easy win was to follow as goals from Ronaldo and Tevez gace United a 2-0 win.
United then needed just 4 more points to win the Title, and the first 3 were acquired away at Wigan. In a tricky game United fell behind thanks to Hugo Rodelega’s goal in the first half. In the second United hammered down the Wigan door but it was to little reward until the introduction of Carlos Tevez, who shortly after coming on flicked Michael Carricks cross-cum-shot into the net. Carrick then added a second late on for a crucial win.
Arsenal were next up in the league and United needed only 1 point. That was to come after a 0-0 draw in a fairly dour affair. United were the Champions.
The final game of the season and a visit to relegation threatened Hull. Darron Gibson gave United a 1-0 win with a 25 yard drive.
The Wednesday after and the Champions league final against Barcelona. Despite a strong start United were to slump to a 2-0 defeat. Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi with the goals to give Barcelona the Champions League trophy for a 3rd time.
That concludes the season. A successful one in many ways despite the unsuccessful ending.