United aiming for unbeaten season
A little over 100 days ago, Manchester United had entered the darkest period in the club’s recent history. On 23 October 2010, following draws against the likes of Fulham, Bolton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion, the team sat in sixth position.
Added to the patchy form, the Red Devils had earlier been rocked by the news that Wayne Rooney wanted to leave the club. In a statement issued by the player and his representatives on 21 October, the England striker questioned the club’s ability to attract the world’s best players. “For me, it’s all about winning trophies – as the club has always done under Sir Alex. Because of that, I think the questions I was asking were justified,” he said.
Rooney’s contract situation was resolved on 22 October, with him putting pen to paper on a five-year deal. Since then they have embarked on a run which has seen them win 12 and draw four games in the Premier League. Despite the early season ‘crisis’, they are unbeaten in their last 29 league matches and if they avoid defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers tomorrow, they will set a new top-flight record beating their stretch between December 1998 and September 1999.
With 51 goals, United have also scored more than any other Premier League club this season and Dimitar Berbatov has netted 19 of them. As well as scoring three hat-tricks so far against Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City, the Bulgarian has also scored five times in his last three games, being well supplied by Rooney, who is second behind Arsenal's Robin van Persie in the top flight’s goals/assists chart.
"Some of our critics are making a meal out of the fact that Wayne is lagging behind in the goal stakes,” said Ferguson. "He is, compared with the bucketload he scored last year, but I am not worried. It's the scoring partnership that matters and the combination between our two front men has improved beyond all recognition.
“Last season Wayne benefited from Dimitar's work but this year it is Berbatov who is enjoying the last touch. That's what I call a successful strike partnership, reminiscent of Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke, and you know what we won when they were hot."
Another player in fine form at the moment is Ryan Giggs, with the Welshman producing fantastic performances to turn games around against Blackpool and in the FA Cup match against Southampton. The 37-year-old has signed a contract extension which will see him play into next season, with Ferguson believing that he has the potential to play at the highest level in his 40s.
“I get asked about Ryan all the time, and I always find myself talking about the same attributes – the way he’s looked after his physique, the way he constantly strives to better himself and the way he applies himself to make sure he succeeds,” said Ferguson.
“He’s a fantastic role model for young players. He recently appeared in his 600th league game, which is an exceptional achievement. That won’t be done again, not by one player at the same club. And then we can talk about his performances, which have been top class for 20 years. Even now, at the age of 37, he’s amazing.”
United have 14 games left to remain unbeaten in the Premier League and equal Arsenal’s achievement of 2003/04. Achieving that would surely give the club their 19th league title, which would overtake north west rivals Liverpool’s proud record.