Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My second Manchester United decade - 2004-2013

By the time the 2003-2004 season started, I had been at MIT for almost a year. It was hard. I couldn't watch my favorite European team's game as much as I wanted. I was in a country where soccer was not the most popular sport. Mind boggling. Arse... let me stop myself. No, let me continue. Arsenal. Man United's fiercest rivals were enjoying their finest season. Arsene Wenger's men went undefeated for a whole season and won the league again. The Invincibles. +Manchester United won the FA Cup though, ensuring we didn't end up trophyless. On the flip side, Arsenal won the 2005 FA Cup and have won only one trophy consistently over the last 8 years, the 4th place trophy that allows them to play the Champions League. Yes, I went there. Oh wait, you mean Arsenal hasn't won a major trophy since 2005? For real?

Talking about Champions League, some Jose Mourinho guy and his band of brothers beat our beloved team in 2004 Champions League and went on to win it. Shockprise. Mourinho came to England to coach newly-rich rubled Chelsea and won the league in 2005 and 2006. If you're scoring at home, that meant we'd gone 3 years without a Premier League title. This happened with players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Ruud Van NistelrooyRio Ferdinand, Louis Saha, Park Ji-Sung, and Edwin Van Der Sar in our ranks. Folks like Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, Roy Keane, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs were still around. We managed to win the 2006 League Cup final to save our face small.

Hey, Nelson Mandela is a fan like me, or at least of Sir Alex Ferguson. I've seen many Africans support various football teams because Africans played for them. I like the winning mentality and fighting spirit of Manchester United. Africa has more of the latter and less of the former. We need both. It was during this period that we had Eric Djemba-Djemba, a Camerounian. Manchester United has not had many African players in our ranks as Sir Alex doesn't seem to enjoy that they have to go to play in the African Cup of Nations in January and miss about 4 games. Quinton Fortune, from South Africa, was a mainstay in the United squad from 1999 to 2006. Except, I am learning from his Wikipedia today that he didn't play enough games to win Premier League medals from 2000, 2001 and 2003. Wow! Not good. After his retirement, he's returned to Man United, trains with the reserve team and is working on his coaching badges.

In 2007, after Quinton had left Manchester United, more winning fortune came our way. It's just a coincidence, I was just doing a play on words. Take a chill pill. I had also left MIT for Stanford where I was now afforded the chance to play soccer more seriously and was in an area of the USA which took soccer more seriously as well. Driven by the now mature Cristiano Ronaldo, we regained the Premier League title. The next year, we won our second Champions league title and defended the Premier League title. The whole club and its fans had waited for this a long time. Luck got us through. Edwin Van Der Sar had become our new Peter Schmeichel. Patrice Evra, Wes Brown, and Nemanja Vidic had become mainstays in defence. Carlos Tevez, Owen Hargreaves and Michael Carrick had become important players for us. They were joined by Giggs, Scholes, Ferdinand, Ronaldo & Rooney. Gary Neville, still the captain, hardly played. ManU fans were overjoyed. I remember this team like yesterday. But they fell short of the treble. That 1999 team would always be the best Manchester United side I've seen

The 1999 team couldn't make a second straight Champs league final like this 2008 team did though. This 2008 team run into the juggernaut called Barcelona who took away the title in 2009. We continued to dominate England, winning our third straight premiership in 2009. We lost it in 2010 and roared back to win in 2011. We could have added the Champions league that year too but we lost to (guess who?) Barcelona. We lost that 2009 final. That Messi character, creating another messy situation for MAN U. I started respecting how good the Barca team was and I find myself cheering for Lionel Messi and Barcelona from time to time. That 2011 Premier league title was sweet though. We went toe-to-toe with Liverpool for it and won it. We knocked Liverpool off their perch. Just like Alex Ferguson said we'd do. CHAMP19NS.

We lost the 2012 title to our noisy neighbours, Manchester City, after their new found Middle Eastern oil money. Who can forget the banner they put up telling Carlos Tevez who had signed after leaving us, "Welcome to Manchester". I had come back to Ghana by then, back to a country which appreciated soccer like it should and a place where Supersport was. I was watching the last round of games hoping for a miracle for ManUtd to win #20. We were winning, as ManCity had 'buckled under pressure'. When our game against Sunderland ended, we'd won the league.... until 2 late goals for Manchester City swung the title in their favour. Heart break. Like we always do, we roared back to the top again, winning the 2013 title with many games to spare. We quieted our rivals. CHAMP20NS.
Sir Alex Ferguson figured this was enough. 20 Premier league titles for Manchester United of which he had contributed 13. It was time for him to retire. Manchester United and football will never be the same. We're off to a not so great start in 2013-2014 season, but I trust the new guy, David Moyes, to get it right. It's the only thing we know as Manchester United fans from the last 25 years. It must continue. Glory, glory, Man United. #GGMU. We're the boys in red, and we're on our way to Wembley. Looking forward to a very successful third decade of supporting Manchester United.
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