Monday, 7 June 2010
Season of Decline
This, apparently, was the year of the decline.
But then it has been decline all the way since... and it's not so bad declining, having got rid of two of the big international stars, to have lost the unprecedented fourth successive premier league title by one point, and the Champion's League quarter final through an injury and one goal. Ferguson - wisely in my view - has generally invested in young players, half of whom will probably not be a success at all and a quarter of whom may be minor successes. If he gets just one outstanding player from among them he will have done very well. He now has a very good youth team of which a fair number are English.
It's true the team has rarely played in the overwhelming fashion representative of the best Ferguson teams, at least not so often this season. I accept it is a transitional time with the older players - Neville, Scholes, Giggs - approaching the very end of their careers, but Rooney, Nani, the Da Silva brothers, Anderson and Valencia are all young and exciting - and the reserves and youth team also have promising players. Ferguson could buy really big - and he might yet do that (if the money is there) - but it's more satisfying building from the base up.
And if they don't win the league next year?
And if there is some decline?
When I first started following United the plane had just crashed, and apart from a few years at the end of the sixties, they were neither a brilliant nor particularly successful team. What has happened in the last eighteen years has been well beyond my wildest dreams. And even so, I wouldn't say the team, even in its most successful years, was imperious all the time. I rather think they played the best English football, meaning the best football the English game permits while at the same time yielding success. Because Arsenal have probably played more beautifully at times, but never quite imperiously - except perhaps in one season - in a sort of French style (think Platini, Tigana, etc) which is, granted, marvellous at best. Perhaps if Wenger had been a little less priggish his teams would have played with greater fortitude. Perhaps they still might.
If there is some decline - though I don't expect there to be - I will still go to my grave happy at having seen as much good as I have. This season has been the Rooney season. Maybe next season will be the Nani or Anderson (or even Hargreaves or Michael Owen) season.