EPL, Day 28: Manchester City 4 – Manchester United 1

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
March 14th, 2004 • 5:00 am

I remember that day early in the 2002-2003 season, when Manchester United were having such a dreadful start, and the TV commentator said, during yet another defeat by United, something like, “Oh, how the mighty have fallen!”

Now, we all know that this observation proved to be rather premature. United recovered quite nicely, and it’s only Arsenal’s tremendous unbeaten run and ultimate win at Old Trafford late in the season that enabled them to clinch the title just the same.

Today, however, things are quite different. The clash of egos between Alex Ferguson and David Beckham resulted in the latter moving to Real Madrid in Spain. Alex Ferguson brought in a number of new players, at high expense.

Manchester United had a decent start of the season, but still managed to register a number of losses. A number of players got injured. Rio Ferdinand got foolishly (but deservedly) suspended for 8 months for missing a routine drug test. Ferguson got involved in a number of controversies (the Rock of Gibraltar saga, the issues with his agent son, etc.).

Manchester started dropping a significant number of points in the Premier League. Having enjoyed a 5-point lead over Arsenal at one point, they found themselves 9 points behind. They lost their first leg in Portugal 1-2 against FC Porto in the Champions’ League second round.

And then there was this fateful mid-March week. A combination of tough luck (the second Scholes goal wrongly ruled out for offside) and inability to finish off their opponents cost them their qualification for the Champions’ League quarter-finals. And today, what seems to be the final nail in the coffin: A resounding defeat in the derby against Manchester City at the City of Manchester Stadium.

Granted, City were quite fortunate to be leading 2-1 at half time. United dominated the first half and still somehow found themselves down 0-2 until Scholes grabbed a goal. They hit the wood work a couple of times.

But then, you would have expected them to be all over City in the second half, after getting the infamous “hair blower” treatment from Alex Ferguson during the break. Amazingly enough, nothing of the sort happened. And a bad defensive mistake by Silvestre, just back from several weeks with an injury, enabled Sinclair to give City a two-goal lead.

This time, Keegan’s team didn’t make any mistakes, and even managed to get a fourth goal near the end through a wonder strike from a tight angle by Wright-Phillips. All this, remember, without their star striker Anelka, who was suspended. Against a team that stiff featured Scholes, Giggs, and van Nistelrooy. Wow.

Today, it might finally be appropriate to say, “How the mighty have fallen!” Because it doesn’t seem like Manchester United will be able to recover from this. Yes, they are still in the running for the FA Cup, and if they do manage to win it, it might be enough to keep Ferguson in place. But they still have to face Arsenal in the semi-final… who will definitely have the psychological edge!

Mathematically, things are still possible in the Premier League, but surely Arsenal will not squander a 12-point lead this time. Not with only 10 games left. It would take a major reversal of fortune. (Chelsea only have a 9-point deficit, but certainly don’t look like they might be able to catch up with Arsenal either.)

Will this 2003-2004 season be Alex Ferguson’s undoing? If so, he’ll only have himself to blame. Beckham, the decision not to buy a new defender to replace Ferdinand during the January transfer period, etc. And overall, a definite lack of class. As van Nistelrooy will attest, in football, brute force and bullying will only get you this far…

Comments are closed.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.