In football, just as it does in life, a persons best qualities tend to shine through in adversity. Many examples of that fact can be pointed out in a multitude of ways and one of the very best examples was shown this season by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Contrary to many past years, the Carling Cup may well become the only piece of silverware added to the bulging Old Trafford trophy cabinet but that does not even begin to define the story of 2009-10.
We should have known that this extraordinary season of twists and turns would go right down to the last day. It now will really be squeaky bum time for both Ferguson and Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti tomorrow afternoon when anything can happen. Chelsea, one point ahead at the top of the Premier League should beat Wigan at Stamford Bridge to be crowned champions in Ancelotti’s first season in English football.
But will they?
United will be waiting for their great rivals to slip up and Fergie is the master of last day drama. This will be the fifth time that the title has been decided as the clock ticks down and three times Sir Alex has emerged victorious. The only time he missed out came when Blackburn pipped him. Only once on the last day have both teams going for the big prize won their games. What has now been proven is that there is no better league in the world.
After more than 9 months of battle we still don’t know who the champions will be, it has been that kind of season. United have never been at their consistent best and have lost seven times. Fergie points to defeats at Burnley and Fulham as moments that could cost him becoming the first manager to win four successive titles.
Chelsea have lost one less game and it was only a few weeks ago when manager Ancelotti admitted his side could have blown it. It is credit to both clubs that they have refused to give up. Chelsea threw down the gauntlet with a comfortable victory at Anfield against a tired and dispirited Liverpool.
Sunderland’s passion was far greater than that of Liverpool as United battled away for three points. They should have scored more than Nani’s match winner and that is the point of this time of the season. You just don’t know, strange things happen.
United fought against Sunderland as if they still believe. They were under pressure knowing Chelsea had already won but no heads went down. Fergie will continue to tell them that this is not over. United will now be looking for an unlikely Wigan hero at Stamford Bridge, someone to add one last twist to a season that has kept us on the edge of our seats.
It has been a season full of surprises and this weekend is going to be a battle between red and blue. Ferguson knows he is the underdog and yet funny things happen when the pressure is turned up high. It is what makes the English game so special. The United boss said “You never know what happens in football, we have stretched it out and nerves go on. It’s a crazy game and you never know” He’s right. There might just be one last surprise for us.
Was the 2009-10 season a good advertisement for the entertainment value of English football?