1. Worthy Champions
Much as I hate to admit it, I actually found myself wishing United to win the title for the larger part of this season, once it became clear that Arsenal and Chelsea wouldn’t win it, and that Liverpool, for once, actually might. However, despite my obvious allegiance-based support, it has been clear for most of the season that United were the best team in the competition. They had their blips, as all teams do, but at the end of the day, theirs was the strongest and best managed squad of the top four.
Arsenal simply weren’t good enough to keep up a challenge, though performances like the one they put in will continue to frustrate their fans because they’ve proven that they can compete with the best, just not consistently. Chelsea would have run United really close had Hiddink been there all season, but ultimately Big Phil’s failure to motivate his team cost the Blues. And Liverpool kept the pressure on United, and they may have won it if Torres and Gerrard had been fit the whole time, but that also proves why they don’t deserve to be champions – because two men don’t make a team, nevermind Champions.
2. Tevez is off…
I think everyone who watched the Man Utd-Arsenal game and saw Tevez’s reaction when he was suctituted will agree with me when I conclude that the Argentinian doesn’t expect to play at Old Trafford in red again.
He looked disappointed, and then waved to the crowd that gave him a thunderous reception, while the look on his face told more than words could, that he knew he was out of there, even though he didn’t want to be.
Unless there’s a dramatic turnaround, I guess the only question now is where will Tevez be playing his football next season? Let me know your thoughts on that…
3. Hull to survive?
Well, Hull picked up a point on saturday, they’d probably have liked more, but even though as I write this West Brom are yet to play, Phil Brown might be allowing himself to breathe a little more easily than he has for a while.
Newcastle and Middlesbrough both failed to win, leaving Hull a point clear of the drop zone for another week, but more to the point, United’s clinching of the title makes it almost certain that the United team they face next week could have an average age of about 12, as Ferguson will rest everyone for the impending Champions League final against Barcelona.
Of course, United’s kids are no pushovers, as Everton found out in the FA Cup semi-final, and Hull will have to work very hard to beat them, but it could be the slight mental edge that they need to spur them on, and given that their survival is in their own hands, it could be enough.
If Hull do beat an under-strength United side there will doubtless be uproar from those below them, but let us quash that now. Ferguson will not play an under-strength team to purposefully sabotage any of the clubs in the relegation fight. His team selection will be entirely justified, and indeed, any manager would be telling a massive lie if they said they wouldn’t do the exact same in the circumstances.
At the end of the day, a football club has a large squad for this very reason, so that when the preferred players need a rest, they can have a rest. That is just how football works, and yes we may feel for those who are relegated should Hull survive, but if United had lost to Arsenal, we’d be feeling just as sorry for Hull.
4. The race for seventh place…
…is going to be interesting. It is now between Fulham and Tottenham, after Everton dealt a killer blow to West Ham’s European hopes with a convincing 3-1 home win. And the Toffes will play a key role in deciding who joins themselves and Aston Villa in the Europa League next season as they face Fulham on the final day of the season.
Spurs have to win and hope that Fulham lose or draw, though even if Fulham draw they will almost certainly clinch the seventh position as they currently have a superior goal difference of +7 to Spurs’ +2. However, Fulham’s tie with Everton will be tricky as the Toffees will want to win to seal another fifth place finish and to maintain momentum heading into the cup final.
That said, Spurs too will face a tough test as they face Liverpool, and they don’t share the home advantage that Fulham have. There is an argument that says Liverpool, with title hopes dashed, could take their foot off the gas, but I think the Reds will want to finish as close behind United as possible, not to mention the fact that they still could be overtaken by Chelsea, and 2nd is much better than 3rd.
So while most of the attention going into the final weekend of the season will naturally surround those poor souls at the bottom of the table, do keep your eye on the top half too, because though the title is done and dusted, there is still a bit more than just pride to play for.