Four Years Of Dimitar Berbatov?
Four Years Of Dimitar Berbatov?
Sir Alex Ferguson became the most successful manager ever at Manchester United when the team had won the 2008 European Cup Final. Skilful Spanish right wing powerhouse, Cristiano Ronaldo, had headed home a wonder goal on 26 minutes from a cross by centre half Wes Brown, who`d been deemed too good to leave out for most of that season, and so had played at right back. Wes Brown had crossed the ball after being given it by Paul Scholes at a throw in. After some intricate short interchanges with Scholes as the supporting midfielder, near the right Chelsea corner flag and along the touchline, Cristiano Ronaldo leapt like a dolphin to meet Wes` crossed ball with his forehead and direct it inside the left goal post and down towards the back corner of the net.
England and Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard had levelled the score at 1-1 just before half time, and extra time didn`t produce a further goal. Both Chelsea and United were given five chances for individual players to score against the opposing team`s goalkeeper from the penalty spot but, if the scores remained level after that, the first player to fail to level the scores would be cast in the role of pariah and the other team would celebrate.
Cristiano Ronaldo had missed a penalty for Manchester United by over elaborating his approach to the ball and delaying his strike too long to have enough power in the shot to beat the `keeper. John Terry, the England and Chelsea centre back and captain, could have won the trophy for Chelsea, but he fell on his arse in the rain and the ball didn`t find the net. Ryan Giggs had replaced midfield maestro Paul Scholes in the 87th minute and had scored from his penalty, so then Manchester United`s Dutch goalkeeper, Edwin Van Der Saar, needed to save Chelsea centre forward, Frenchman Nicholas Anelka`s spot kick, which he did, and Manchester United had won their third European Cup.
When Ryan Giggs scored from the penalty kick against Chelsea it was his second European Cup Final winners` medal and Ferguson`s second success as manager in the competition, which made him the best United had ever had. Sir Matt Busby had been the only manager before Alex Ferguson to achieve success in the European Cup against Benfica at Wembley 4-1 in 1968, with two goals from Bobby Charlton, the first coming in the 53rd minute from a John Aston Jnr left wing cross which, rare for Charlton, whose head almost never touched the ball, resulted in Bobby`s heading over a surprised Benfica `keeper and into the net.
John Aston was his father`s son at Manchester United. John Snr had been United`s left back in 1948 when Blackpool had lost to Sir Matt Busby`s team 4-2. Busby`s instructions to John Jnr., the Manchester United winger given his chance that May day to shine at Wembley, were to run at the Benfica defence and cross the ball to the forwards as often and as quickly as he could.
Although Benfica levelled the game 1-1 through Graca on 75 minutes, Manchester United`s Northern Ireland superstar winger, George Best, got their second in extra-time after goalkeeper Alex Stepney kicked the ball upfield beyond the centre circle and Brian Kidd backheaded it on. George caught the ball on his right heel as it dropped behind him and, flipping it past the Benfica defender, went on to round the `keeper and stroke the ball into the empty goal in the 93rd minute. Forward Brian Kidd was the 19 year old `teenage sensation` in the team as the direct replacement for the injured `King` of Old Trafford, Scottish goal hero Denis Law. Kidd`s youthful zest saw him react quickly to the Benfica `keeper`s parrying his header after a corner from the left and he headed the ball straight back over the `keeper and into the net in the 94th minute. In the 99th minute Kidd mesmerized Benfica`s defenders with a jink down the right wing before crossing for Bobby Charlton to lift the ball over the `keeper with his right boot, and once again Busby`s known faith in young players was justified.
Manchester United won the European Cup for the second time with Alex Ferguson as manager in 1999 after Bayern Munich had led 0-1 until the last few minutes. Ferguson had begun with the black twin strike force of forwards Andy Cole and Trinidad and Tobago international, Dwight Yorke. The United manager had brought off Andy Cole and Swedish winger Jesper Blomqvist, who`d been in the team for the injured Paul Scholes, to supplement Dwight Yorke with another pair of strikers, Norway`s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham. Ferguson`s four striker armoury had been the mainstay of a season`s campaigning that would eventually bring them four trophies.
In injury time Teddy Sheringham looked to have given United the chance of winning the 1999 European Cup Final against Bayern Munich when he twisted in the penalty area to direct a shot from legendary left-winger, Ryan Giggs, making a record 759th appearance for the club, into the net. Ryan Giggs had been standing outside the Germans` area at centre field for a corner kick by England and Manchester United winger, David Beckham. The Munich defence had cleared the ball only as far as Ryan, who`d struck at Bayern`s goal from distance. Too weak to trouble the Bayern Munich `keeper, Sheringham swivelled and turned to direct Giggs` failing effort fiercely at the goalmouth and United were level in the first minute of stoppage time. In the 93rd minute, after another corner kick from the left by right winger, David Beckham, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer kicked out as the ball headed on by Teddy Sheringham reached him. The ball crashed high into the Bayern net and United had won 2-1.
Goals from Paul Scholes and Teddy Sheringham had won Manchester United the FA Cup 2-0 against Newcastle United a few days before the encounter with Bayerm Munich. Scholes in centre midfield had played the ball into the feet of Sheringham from outside the Newcastle area in the 11th minute and the Manchester United forward, in front of goal, struck home. Returning the favour in the 53rd minute, with his back to goal, Teddy Sheringham had received a pass from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the right of the Newcastle area. Shielding the ball, Sheringham had given it to Scholes who`d drilled in a shot that beat the `keeper from just outside the area.
The 1999 League Championship had been won the week before when Manchester United had beaten Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in the last game of the season after being 0-1. Losing would have given the title to defending champions, Arsenal, but thanks to the now legendary right boot of England winger David Beckham, who sent a swerving shot from the right-hand side of the area into the top corner of the Spurs` goal in the 43rd minute, Manchester United were level just before half-time. United`s star centre forward that season was Andy Cole, who`d been transferred to United from Newcastle in 1995 as a replacement for the dozen or more goals a season reliability of ageing Welshman, Mark Hughes. Andy Cole always earned the newspaper headline, `Goals to Newcastle` on his return to the colliery town, and his appearance in the 1999 FA Cup Final didn`t disappoint either. Two minutes into the second half, Cole received a right side through ball from Gary Neville, the Manchester United and England full back. Stopping it instantly with his first touch, Cole lobbed it over the Newcastle `keeper and the title was won.
The European Cup was the third trophy for Manchester United in the season of 1998-99 but, last and by no means least, United won the Intercontinental Cup, when Palmeiras of Brazil were beaten in November 1999, half a year onwards. Palmeiras had themselves become the champions of South America, having won the Copa De Libertatores in the same season United won in Europe, which gave Manchester United the opportunity to play for the Intercontinental Cup against Palmeiras. After a typically amazing dribble by Welsh wing wizard, Ryan Giggs, which took him over to Palmeiras` left corner flag, Manchester United`s central midfield general, Roy Keane, was left with nothing to do but score as, timing his run to perfection, Keane ran onto Giggs` precise cross to the far post in the 35th minute and, as it reached his right boot, directed the ball into the goal`s mouth from close in.
Although Sir Alex Ferguson`s status as a great manager was assured by the European Cup Final defeat of Chelsea in 2008, the following season revealed problems with his managerial style. Bringing the Bulgarian centre forward, Dimitar Berbatov, to European Cup holders Manchester United from Tottenham Hotspur in September 2008 for 30,000,000 GBP, Ferguson looked to have found another goal machine. With 9 league goals from 31 games, Berbatov helped United to another championship but didn`t make the European Cup Final team. Barcelona had told everyone the player they most feared was Paul Scholes, who`d scored the only game of the home and away two-leg semi-final the previous season to beat Barcelona at Old Trafford`s stadium, Manchester, and take United through to the Final in Moscow against Chelsea, which they won thanks to the Ryan Giggs` penalty goal.
Paul Scholes didn`t play against Barcelona and neither did the star new centre forward, Dimitar Berbatov, while United lost 0-2. A second string reserve team had beaten Tottenham Hotspur in the 2008-9 League Cup Final after extra time on penalties, 4-1, with a young centre forward, 18 years old Danny Welbeck, playing alongside experienced Argentinian striker Carlos Tevez, who`d won the Copa De Libertatores with Boca Juniors before arriving at Old Trafford for the 2007-8 season and who had scored one of the penalties that had won the European Cup for Manchester United against Chelsea. After Ryan Giggs slotted home the first of United`s four penalties that beat Spurs in the League Cup Final of 2008-9, Tevez scored from his spot kick before Cristiano Ronaldo and the Brazilian left-midfielder, Anderson, completed the rout.
The 2009-10 season was a poor one for United and, although Scholes didn`t play against Aston Villa in the 2-1 League Cup Final victory, Berbatov was selected to play as a striker alongside former Liverpool marksman, Michael Owen, who responded to the shock of an early 5th minute penalty strike for Spurs and replied for United on 12 minutes when Tottenham centre back, Richard Dunne, lost possession to Dimitar Berbatov. Dunne tried to tackle back, but succeeded only in pushing the ball into the path of Owen who took the chance to beat the `keeper in typical goal poacher`s style. Notoriously injury prone, Owen left the field of play just before half-time, but his replacement, England and United`s star centre forward, Wayne Rooney, headed Ecuadorian right winger Antonio Valencia`s cross over the Aston Villa `keeper for United`s winning second goal in the 74th minute.
Entering double figures for the 2009-10 season`s scoring exploits with 12 senior league goals, Dimitar Berbatov was 2010-11`s top scorer for Manchester United in the league with 20, but once again neither he nor Paul Scholes were in the team for the European Cup Final when the players won through to play Barcelona once more and United lost 1-3. When Dimitar Berbatov opened his scoring account in 2011-12 with 7 from 5 starts everyone was surprised when Sir Alex Ferguson preferred Danny Welbeck, the young black forward, who only scored 9 times that season from 30 appearances and United went on to lose the championship to Manchester City on fewer goals scored.
`Ferguson`s fledglings` was the name given to the quintet of nurtured talented young players that emerged within United after the double winning FA Cup and league success in 1994. Mark Hughes departed at the end of the 1995 season, when United failed to win anything, despite making it through to the FA Cup Final against Everton, where they lost 0-1. The defeat was a sign of an ageing Manchester United and the need to find younger legs to replace older giants. Mark Hughes` goal tally had dropped below double figures for United that season for the first time since his emergent first season of 1983-84 when he only made 11 appearances for 4 goals. Thereafter Mark Hughes` lowest number of appearances was 31 in 1990-91 when he scored twice in the European Cup Winners` Cup Final against Barcelona as United won 2-1.
Sir Alex Ferguson had begun to introduce `home grown` full back brothers, Gary and Phil Neville, stubborn midfield ball winner, Nicky Butt, midfield play maker Paul Scholes, left winger Lee Sharpe, on a nominal transfer fee from Torquay, and the man who would control the right side of United`s midfield for almost a decade, future England winger and captain, David Beckham.
In 1996 the team won the league with Butt and Phil Neville in the FA Cup Final winning `double` team in which Andy Cole replaced Hughes in the forward line. Eric Cantona, who`d won the championship with Leeds to deny Manchester United in 1991-92, was `the bargain of the century` at 1, 200,000 GBP. The Manchester United deep-lying centre forward and captain, in the mould of his equally legendary predecessor, Bobby Charlton (1956-73), lifted his foot to majestically address the ball and drive it through a crowd of players to find the net in the 85th minute to beat Liverpool 1-0 in the FA Cup Final of 1996. Eric Cantona`s second double was the third of the Frenchman`s four championships before the last in his retirement season. NIcknamed `Le King` to Paul Scholes` `Ginger Prince`, Eric retired in 1997 aged a mere 31.
Danny Welbeck was the last of `Fergie`s Fledglings` as Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012-13 season in which Danny scored only 1 league goal in 27 appearances. Paul Scholes had reluctantly agreed to come out of retirement in 2011-12, despite Korea`s Park Ji Sung being slightingly preffered to Scholes in both European Cup Final defeats to Barcelona, and Paul almost turned things around as United finished on the same points total as Manchester City, but the fewer goals scored left them the losers and Berbatov`s 7 from 5 games started looked like it was going to haunt Sir Alex Ferguson`s managerial career. He then made the bold move of bringing Arsenal forward, Robin Van Persie, to play at the `Theatre of Dreams` and the 29 year old Dutchman rewarded with 26 strikes to win the last of Alex`s thirteen championships and spare the manager`s blushes over his overlooking Scholes and Berbatov when they`d probably have made the difference up, not only against Manchester City, but in the two European Cup Finals Manchester United lost to Barcelona.
Time decides on greatness and Danny Welbeck`s, but Dimitar Berbatov was sold before the 2012-13 season began. The Bulgarian centre forward had won two championships for Manchester United with his goals, but it hadn`t been enough to win him selection for the European Cup Final team on each occasion against Barcelona. Paul Scholes` absence from the stage meant United wouldn`t win. Dimitar Berbatov wasn`t selected for his goals, which were needed to win the championship in 2011-12 and Manchester City won on more goals scored. Sir Alex Ferguson`s buying of Robin Van Persie was finally his admission of defeat and he retired.