Contributor to WAFU, O’Neil Esson – @oewebdesign – sat down with me the other day to answer a couple of questions looking back on last season as well as some looking forward to what next season at – the team we love – Manchester United.
Well first things first, it wasn’t a bad season for United was it? Winning the Premier League and getting to the Champions League Final. What will be your lasting memories of the season and why?
There’s a few lasting memories of the 2010-11 season that come to us straight away.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s handling of the Wayne Rooney saga which threatened to rip the ‘heart’ out of our season as it had only just begun. Sir Alex Ferguson used his years of experience to make sure Rooney remained at the club, not many managers would’ve been able to turn him round.
Of course Wayne thankfully stayed and played an important part in our season. I cannot forget his perfectly exquisite overhead goal against Man City that won us the Manchester Derby. The picture of him celebrating his goal tells the story and it’s an image I won’t ever forget.
The signing of Chicharito stood out for me as was the fact that we won the league without really moving out of first gear for much of the season. Well aside, from when we brushed aside Chelsea inside the opening half of the ‘title showdown’ at Old Trafford.
Obviously throughout the season, the media and even the odd manager or two (such as Harry Redknapp) claimed that our team this year was not deserving of winning the Championship.
How did that make you feel as a fan when we were winning games and challenging on all fronts?
Firstly, as a fan it’s great when your team is winning games on all fronts. Even though we weren’t playing great football and were struggling with injuries for large periods of the season, the important thing was that we were getting the points however bad we played.
That’s of course is exactly what we did, so whether our critics like it or not the facts were we deserved to win the league last season.
Clearly the player of the season for us was Chicharito. You said that he stood out for you over our season. Do you think that there’s a danger that he might suffer from second-season syndrome next year, so to speak?
No I don’t think Chicharito will suffer next season because his movements on and off the ball is top class plus his partnership with Rooney can only get better and it’s scary just how well he did for us.
I was very surprised how quickly Chicharito settled in because he was keeping out Berbatov who was our top scorer towards the end of the season and played in the big-games for us in the run-in.
We were involved in some great games this season, what games in particular stood out for you as games that proved pivotal to us winning the league?
Obviously both our comebacks wins at Blackpool and West Ham stand out as key results that helped us win the league. Yes they were against teams who would go on to be relegated but coming back from 2-0 down at anyone in the league is hard.
For me though our 1-0’s at home in the run-in against Everton and Bolton stood out as they were both pivotal late wins against two difficult teams to get anything of. Late in the season those wins at Old Trafford were vital as we scored late on in those games and winning games late on carries so much momentum to the team.
Looking at our signings for next season, Blackburn’s Phil Jones has been confirmed as a United player and it looks like we will be buying both David De Gea and Ashley Young in the upcoming weeks.
How do you think all three will adjust to life at Old Trafford and which one of those players excites you most as a fan?
I haven’t seen much of David De Gea but he’s very highly rated, bit worried for him because Van Der Sar boots are massive to fill so it will be tough for him.
Phil Jones is clearly someone who is very talented and he’ll learn a lot from the older players in the squad like Rio and Vidic who will help him come on more as a top-class defender.
Ashley Young has been carrying Villa all season and he showed for England recently that he can play at the top level, so being in a star-studded team will take some of that pressure of him and hopefully he will flourish.
I’m looking forward to seeing Young because he likes to run and beat players with the ball and we also need a master set piece taker as although Rooney and Giggs are good with set-pieces, it’s one area of our play that we do need to improve on.
Alot of attention will be made in the next couple of weeks about Phil Jones and Chris Smalling and that they will be the long-term defence for both us and England.
How impressed are you with the pair long-term can they be as rock-solid for us at the back as the Rio and Vidic have been?
I’m very excited for Smalling and Jones, especially for Smalling because it’s only a few years ago he was playing non-league.
Over the decades Sir Alex has produced some fantastic centre back pairings: Bruce and Pallister, Vidic and Ferdinand and the future is Smalling and Jones. I do think they will be a success because they will learn a lot from Vidic and Ferdinand plus Smalling looks so composed and chill-out.
I can see a bit of Ferdinand in Smalling, when he scrolls forward with the ball and he’s a player I’m very excited about over the coming years for us.
It looks as though United favourites Wes Brown and John O’Shea could be leaving the club along with Darron Gibson who is on the verge of signing for Sunderland.
Obviously in the case of Brown and O’Shea they’ve given us plenty of experience down the years, do you think now is the right time for them to seek pastures new?
Yes and No. Yes because I can see what Sir Alex Ferguson is doing, he’s rebuilding the squad by getting younger and fitter players in which all the top teams seem to be doing.
We also know that Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool will be much stronger next season as they all have areas that they need to improve. City wil be stronger as well, as much as it pains me to say it. So yes change is needed now.
On the other hand, if at the end of the season 2011-12 United fail to win a trophy then everyone will be questioning Sir Alex’s decision to sell two very experiences pro as both Brown and O’Shea have been great for us and we will naturally lose their experience.
Last season we had four of our good youngsters go out on loan and get experience in Tom Cleverley, Mame Diouf, Kiko Macheda and Danny Welbeck.
Who of those players do you see in having a long-term future at Old Trafford and why?
For me Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck stand the best chances of having a long-term future at the club.
For me they have qualities that are ‘United’ in them. They are talented, committed, passionate players. The fact that they are home-grown lads is great and it’s important that they enjoyed good loan spells in the Premier League last season. Maybe 2011/12 will be their seasons.
If you were in Sir Alex Ferguson’s shoes and you had the funds in place to buy one player for next season who would fit into our side – who would you buy and why?
There are so many great players that in a dream-world would be at United like Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas.
But thinking for the future of our team, I would buy Neymar, the Santos and Brazil wonder kid.
He would fit into the No.7 shirt perfectly. He’s 19 and has got the skills to unlock defences, his passing is class and he can finish, also take set pieces. Right now I think he’s the hottest young talent around.
Lastly what are you looking forward to most next season as a fan?
What I’m looking forward to seeing most is Sir Alex building another United team that will contain young new fresh talent that will walk out to a packed Theatre of Dreams with no fears because this is what dreams are made of.
Thanks For That O’Neil!
By Adam Dennehey – @ADennehey87
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