The last game of the season was played against Southampton on Sunday, and for the first time in many years, United had nothing riding on it. Both teams at St.Mary’s came out knowing that the result wouldn’t affect their positions in the table, and couldn’t make a difference to any other club in the league. Yes, United could finish sixth with a win if Tottenham lost at home to Aston Villa, but the chances
of that happening were very slim.
What was interesting for us United supporters was that this would be Ryan Giggs’ last game in charge, at least for the foreseeable future, and it could well be the last appearance in a United shirt for some of the current players. Unfortunately it seemed that some of them had already started their summer holidays as they were abject in the first half, and Southampton took a well deserved lead through Ricky Lambert (though Vidic seemed to have been fouled in the build-up). In the second half, United improved enough to make a fight of it, though it didn’t need much as they were very poor in the first forty-five minutes. Juan Mata scored a brilliant free-kick to equalise and make the away fans party even more than they usually do. In the end, a 1-1 score line kept everyone smiling, and it ended Gigg’s tenure as interim manager with just one defeat in four games. All in all, not a bad showing, though against Sunderland and the first half at Southampton showed similar problems that we had when Moyes was still the manager.
Looking at the rest of the Premier League programme, Manchester City made sure the trophy stays in Manchester by beating West Ham 2-0 to finish the season at the top of the table, two points ahead of the April Champions, L’pool (who beat Newcastle 2-1). Personally, I’m not happy that City are the new Champions, but it hurts a lot less that they are than if L’pool had indeed won it. If anything, the blue quarter of Manchester made sure that we can still sing the ‘Giggs 13, Gerrard 0’ song (hence this week’s headline). The other teams in the top six all won as Chelsea beat Cardiff 2-1 in Wales; Arsenal won 2-0 at relegated Norwich; Everton did the same at FA Cup finalists Hull; and Tottenham beat Villa 3-0 in Tim Sherwood’s last game in charge of the club. City, L’pool, Chelsea and Arsenal will compete in the Champions League next season; Everton, Spurs and Hull will all take part in the Europa League, while our own United will look in from the outside as this is the first time in 25 years that the club didn’t qualify for a European competition.
As I write this, Tottenham aren’t the only club to be looking for a new manager, as West Brom got rid of Pepe Mel even though he did well enough to keep them in the top division (just about), while West Ham will decide in the near future if to keep Sam Allardyce or not.
It has also been confirmed that English Lionheart John Terry has signed for an extra year at Chelsea, to hopefully shed a few more tears that will keep us smiling next season.
Back to United, Rio Ferdinand announced that he will be leaving the club this summer. Though he will be missed in the dressing room, I think it’s the right time for him to be moving on as he is after all 35 years old, and his performances have been deteriorating slowly over the past months. He could still turn it on and show why he has been such a success at the club over the past twelve years, but he was also making more mistakes than in the past. We thank him from our hearts for the great times he’s given us, and wish him well for the future, in and out of football.
Phil Neville and Chris Woods also had their contracts terminated by the club, in what seems to be a clear move by the incoming manager that he’ll want to bring his own staff in.
Park Ji-Sung, another footballer with excellent United connections, announced his retirement from football at the age of 33. We’ll all remember him as a top professional who always did the job required of him. Personally I always enjoyed watching him play, especially when present at Old Trafford, as he took ‘covering every blade of grass’ to a different level. He was a non-stop machine, and will always be fondly remembered by the supporters of the clubs he played at, including PSV where he won two Dutch league titles (to add to the FOUR he won with United).
While we await more World Cup squads to be announced, it’s nice to see De Gea, Mata, Van Persie, Januzaj, Valencia, Kagawa, Jones, Smalling, Rooney and Dat Guy Welbeck get called up by their countries, though some squads are only provisional at the moment.
We’re also still waiting for Louis Van Gaal to be confirmed as the new permanent manager, though the way things are moving, that might only happen when Holland are out of the World Cup. We also expect Luke Shaw to be signed by the club unless something changes drastically. Some might think that £30m for a young defender is too much, but unfortunately English players come at a premium, and if he goes on to achieve what Rio Ferdinand (who cost the same amount TWELVE years ago) did at United, we’ll look back at Shaw’s signing as a bargain. Here’s hoping that we do get him, and maybe try and keep Evra as back-up, if only to instill the ‘United love’ into the youngsters.
We hope that once the dust settles, and Ryan Giggs has his meeting with Van Gaal, things will start looking brighter and clearer for us United fans, and we can start looking forward to the new season with aplomb. But let us first have a relaxing summer and enjoy what promises to be a great World Cup in Brazil.
Until the next time… COME ON UNITED!!!