The date was the 3rd of April 2010. The Premier League was still in the balance. There was a semi-final Champions League game at home and with an away goal yet a goal down you felt there was an air of confidence it would be overturned.
Wayne Rooney was marked absent for the clash against title contenders Chelsea the visit of the German’s but then again we can’t always believe Sir Alex can we?
United had started that season relatively slow with 5 losses before Christmas. Things did pick up in the New Year as expected and in Manchester United fashion steamrolling to 7 consecutive wins.
The departures of Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo were at the time met with worry and frustration amongst United fans who had seen Antonio Valencia brought in as the Portuguese wingers replacement and Michael Owen on a free to fill up the space left in the striker department.
None could have many complaints in their first season as Valencia proved there was life after Ronaldo and Owen chipped in with his fair share of goals when given the chance. Still the goal scoring burden that season fell on the shoulders of an in form Wayne Rooney.
In total he notched up 34 goals. An amazing mark for a man who at times went through many barren spells. The term ‘’one man team’’ could be justified in this case as United struggled in his absence.
Chelsea the chasers at that point turned up to Old Trafford with a somewhat strange arrogance about them. It would have been understood years prior with the assurgency of the Blues under Jose Mourinho. Instead it was Carlo Ancelotti who led his team into this fixture. Grim faced and stubborn the man depicted every Italian manager.
This arrogance was only mirrored by the opening goal by Joe Cole whose deft flick ended up eluding Edwin Van der Sar through a crowd of players. United themselves never got going that day. Berbatov was having his usual big game jitters failing to impress and youngster Federico Macheda being brought on in place of him highlighted this.
Mike Dean had a poor game which culminated with an offside goal scored by Didier Drogba. The Ivorian was a good 2 yards offside but the officials failed to see this. To rub salt into his wounds it was Macheda who pulled a goal back while Berbatov looked on as to what could have been. The league was thought not to be lost still.
Looking to bounce back in fashion it came in shape of old foes Bayern Munich at Old Trafford four days later. Wayne Rooney was to everyone’s surprise put in the starting line-up barely able to run on a dodgy ankle injury sustained in the first leg. It was a mind ploy by Ferguson to unhinge the German champions.
By 40 minutes it looked to have worked. Gibson slammed home the opener after 3 minutes and a brace from Nani made it seem that another Champions League final was in sights. Although just before half-time a Michael Carrick error allowed Bayern’s nifty little Croatian striker Ivicia Olic to steal in an away goal.
United needed to press forward in the second half or weather the storm which in itself was not an option but after Rafael was sent off for a second yellow after a foul on Frank Ribery five minutes after the restart it looked like the inevitable (a second goal for the Germans) would happen and that the game wouldn’t end well for United.
With their backs against the wall United couldn’t weather the storm and every Manchester United fan say it coming. It wasn’t easy on the eye. Each minute seemed to go by slower and slower and by the time Arjen Robben , another player Ferguson, missed out on, volleyed a superb volley into the net from the edge of the box with 15 minutes remaining, having being picked out from a Ribery corner and just like that the game was over.
The Champions League dream was over as United had to watch Inter led by talisman Wesley Sneijder inspire them to a 2-0 victory over Munich to claim a 3rd European Cup.
All was still not lost in the league. United went into the game at Ewood Park four days after the Bayern game, two points behind Chelsea and a win over Blackburn Rovers would put them top before the Londoners played again piling the pressure on Ancelotti’s men.
Instead United had a European hangover. Creating very little and desperately in search of a goal the only real chance came to Antonio Valencia who shot straight at Robinson clean through on goal. Berbatov wasted an opportunity in the final moments proving when the going gets tough the Bulgarian can’t take responsibility.
On the penultimate day of the season United were 1 point behind Chelsea. United had to beat Stoke and needed Chelsea to drop points at home to Wigan. Instead of playing a nervy game Chelsea romped to an 8-0 victory to celebrate their first Premier League in 4 years in style.
More than a year had passed since and United collected a record 19th title overhauling Liverpool and even though they were outclassed in Wembley at the brilliance of Barcelona the wounds were healed. A Premier League and Champions League double was there for the taking that season. United didn’t take it but in the despair of defeat and ‘’if only’’ victory went one better the season after.
By Darren Hickey @DHick92