2007 started like a dream. No sooner had the previous season ended then major transfer news broke and was swiftly confirmed by the club. Kuszczaks loan deal was made permanent and was followed by the long expected, and much delayed, transfer of Owen Hargreaves from Bayern Munich. Everyone expected that but the next day the club announced the signing of 2 young players with the world at their feet. Nani was signed from Sporting Lisbon and Anderson from Porto. United fans were buzzing with the news and it wasn’t even June yet! The transfer business seemed over for another year but there was one saga still playing out. That of Carlos Tevez who had a very complicated and some would say illegal loan deal with West Ham was unravelled and a 2-year loan deal completed in early August for the start of the season.
So much to be excited for and to talk about and the season had not yet started!
When it did it was an anti-climax. The Charity Shield produced a win on penalties over Chelsea but in truth that game didn’t matter, never does. In fact the omens were bleak as traditionally, and superstitiously, the winners never go on to win the league.
Then the doubts kicked in. The Premiership season started with 2 draws at lowly Reading and Portsmouth and a defeat to Manchester City of all people. Analysts will point to the sizzling football and passing of the United team and argue we deserved to start with 9 points from those games - the statisticians will point to the league table and show United in the relegation zone with 2 points from 9. It was going to be a long and fruitless season.
September was more rewarding and revived hopes. 5 wins including a great win away from home against Sporting in the Champions League brought deserved points and a climb up the table. The month ended on a sour note as the reserve and youth team were dumped unceremoniously out of the League Cup at the first hurdle by Championship side Coventry.
An unbeaten run followed, including a magnificent match drawn at Arsenal, taking us almost into December before we stumbled again to battling Bolton. Despite dropping points to us, Arsenal headed the charge to the Premiership with pundits drooling over their football and constantly talking about the babies at Ashburn.
United closed the gap and a fruitful December and January saw us reducing Arsenal's led still further. United easily qualified from a difficult Champions League group with a game to spare and in the FA Cup we won against fellow Premiership sides in Villa and Spurs, who were both easily despatched in 2 great games of football.
The month of February started with tears as we remembered those who had died at Munich and the long awaited and much hyped "remembrance" game against City overwhelmed the players emotions and the fairytale win was taken by City by 2 goals to 1 with United playing poorly. The 2 weeks of services and tv coverage and the emotions of the day with the United team wearing a traditional strip clearly took its toll on the players who did not perform anywhere near their ability.
Business turned back to the FA Cup in February and our route to Wembley looked to be taking a difficult path when we were paired with another Premiership side in Premiership leaders Arsenal. In a fantastic display of attacking football, United destroyed Arsenal 4-0 to qualify for the quarter-finals against yet another Premiership side in Portsmouth.
Those two games were sandwiches between the last 16 of the Champions League tie against a buoyant Lyon but tactically United were superb and quiet easily won, despite the score line 2-1 on aggregate.
United were dumped out of the FA Cup by Portsmouth after a reckless challenge by Kuszczak, who had replaced Van der Sar at half time, conceding a penalty and getting himself dismissed. Ferdinand went in goal but with a flapping Rio, ten men and a defensive minded Portsmouth it would be impossible to break them down and the 1-0 loss hurt for how it happened more than the football that was played.
Arsenal, since we defeated them in the cup, had lost their nerve and United gained the top spot in the Premiership overhauling a 12-point difference to establish a 5-point lead. It was not to be maintained though as more critical games came our way and once again we struggled with fitness and form in the closing stages of the season. The quarter finals of the Champions League against a Roma intend on revenge was set up by a magnificent 2-0 away win in Rome. The home leg was tight but when DeRossi missed a penalty it was game over and the 3-0 aggregate win set up a semi final clash with the mighty Barcelona. A 0-0 draw in the away leg was criticized for lacking adventure but it was forgotten when a 1-0 win, set up by a super strike from Scholes, saw United qualify for the final of the Champions League.
League form had suffered during those 4 games though and Chelsea were climbing to with touching distance of our crown. The season would go to the wire with everything to play for in the final game. As long as we avoided defeat and Chelsea failed to win by 20-0 we would be champions. It was nail biting stuff for 80 minutes with a slim 1-0 lead over Wigan at their ground being matched by Chelsea's 1-0 in their home match. Any slip up would cost us the title. Legendary Giggs came off the bench, slipped in unmarked in to the penalty area and when Rooney sublime pass found Ryan it was game over. CHAMPIONS!
We then travelled to Moscow for the final of the Champions League, against Chelsea in the first all English final. Chelsea were favourites but hearts were mainly with United in the 50th year since Munich. An enthralling match ended 1-1 after extra time and 10 men for Chelsea after Drogba was sent off for a petulant slap on Vidic. Everyone feared the penalties. Memories of the bitter defeat to Arsenal on penalties 3 years before in the final of the FA Cup filled most supporters with dred. After Tevez and Carrick had scored, Ronaldo missed and Chelsea had not. Hargreaves and Nani scored but so did Lampard and Cole for Chelsea. It was all down to the final penalty which if Terry scored we would be devastated. He missed! and in the excitement Anderson and Giggs stepped up for the extra penalties and dispatched them with aplomb. Anelka misses for Chelsea and UNITED HAVE WON IT!
3 trophies in the season and the big two once again going to Manchester. Isn’t life wonderful?