Coronation day couldn’t have been better. There was a sprinkling of sun, a brief downpour, and in classic Manchester United fashion the team tortured the faithfuls to no end before delighting with a moment to cherish and savour. The Mancunians were ecstatic not only for the third premier league crown in as many years, but United drew level with Liverpool’s historic all-time record of 18 titles in England’s top division. Sir Alex Ferguson notching up a phenomenal 11th title in his 23rd season in charge. His family attended the presentation ceremony; one of his grandsons proudly kissing the United crest on his jersey, throwing caution to the wind much like Gary Neville would in front of the Liverpool supporters.
After a comfortable derby win against Mark Hughes’ Manchester City, last weekend, and a last-gasp win against Steve Bruce’s Wigan Athletic midweek, United needed just one point to clinch the title against the visiting Arsenal at Old Trafford. The Gunners played fluently with hardly any hint of pressure, having cemented 4th place in the table, dominating the game throughout. On a day that didn’t warrant their best performance, and in a way that has defined their defence of the title this season, United got the job done with a goalless draw. Not without trying, though, as Rooney and Ronaldo came close to hitting the back of the net.
But goals were hardly what the 76,000 assembled longed for. In all their past successes, United had won the title at Old Trafford only once in the historic treble-winning season of ’98-’99. Ten years is a sore trial for the loyal supporter who throngs the Theatre of Dreams every weekend, ten-months-a-year. Little wonder then at the final whistle when a roar resounded throughout the ground to spark the celebrations. As they emerged onto the pitch to receive the trophy, the players and staff couldn’t wipe the broad smiles off their face, having played their part in the historic scenes in front of their own supporters to behold. Gary Neville went on to describe the current squad of players as the best to have graced the club. I think he will be proved right with victory over Barcelona in the Champions League Final on May 27.
However, Carlos Tevez surely seems to have called it a day at the club, bidding farewell to the capacity crowd who gave him a standing ovation as he left the pitch midway through the second half. That was the only blemish on an otherwise vintage Old Trafford mood. The joy and revel in the club’s achievement, a hunger and desire conveyed by the manager to build on the success. This isn’t the pinnacle just yet, said the boss.
But future exploits are for another day; for one day they all basked in glory. Celebrating with friends and family on the pitch, enjoying a hard-fought title race. And even as Gary Neville lifted the trophy above his head, the champagne fountains were overflowing in the streets, cementing United’s position as the undisputed kings of English football.
With success in Europe to look forward to, there’s little doubt where all the focus is now shifted. They won the premier league and champions league double last season, who’s to say they can’t do it again this time? Victory in Rome will forever etch the name of this United team as one of the best to have ever graced the game. Bring on Barcelona.
Originally published: May 17, 2009