Now that the season is truly over from both the domestic and European perspective for all English clubs, it is a time worth spending on taking a look at the season gone by. Yes, before that, a mention about the Champions’ League final where Milan beat Liverpool 2-1, although to be fair, the scoreline flattered the Rossoneri. The Scousers would have had every right to kick themselves for not taking the opportunity to beat a below-par Milan team. Anyway, we are not complaining. The last thing you want to hear is some drunk Scouser screaming about winning it for the 6th time through the night.
Back to the post, this is the first of a three part series, (oh wait, it could also be extended to four or five depending on what I feel might have gotten left out in the three parts), on our 2006-07 season where we take a look at the performance of our team, players and how they fared in general. So in addition to my opinions, I will also be objective about their performances by rating them on a scale of 10. So kindly grant me that luxury.
Today we take a look at the defence.
Edwin van der Sar
Has shouldered the goal keeping burden for the past two seasons. While he’s mostly been reliable, of late, he has shown that he is fallible. He has made a few mistakes, most prominently criticised for his indecisiveness, resulting in Drogba’s goal in the FA Cup final. I think people may have been a bit too hard on him, but I also think he has one season left in him at the most. He’s been great these two seasons, but I would like to have Ben Foster blooded next season as EVDS’s United career most likely comes to an end.
His debut last year against Man City was nightmarish, but he has turned this season around in style. So much so that when fit, he’s made the left back position his own displacing none other than Gaby Heinze. His rampaging runs down the left flank added another dimension to the already attack minded team. But this has allowed large vacant spaces in the back, although his tackling has improved a great deal with every passing week. Some (actually one) piece of comical defending did stick out as a sore thumb – the game against Milan – in an otherwise great campaign for the lad.
Although displaced from the left back spot by Evra, his versatility allowed United the luxury, in the absence of Ferdinand and Vidic, to play him in the center of defence. Coming back from a horrible injury from which he didn’t quite recover for long (despite playing the World Cup) his performances have been below par going by the high standards he set in his debut season here. I feel bad when the press goes around linking him with every European club they can think of. Gabby this season, has been subdued, but I believe he has a longer future in this club than your local newspaper can speculate. Although he might have to fight tooth and nail with Evra, which is always good for the team as a whole.
Like Evra, Vidic had a rather slow start to his time at OT. The language, the weather and of course, the fact he was coming after a long lay off (the Russian season had come to an end when he arrived). This season, his no-nonsense defending won fans over. Suddenly Rio Ferdinand looked much more confident than before, thanks to Vidic’s commitment to stay back to defend while allowing Ferdinand to move forward with the ball. A fully fit Vidic was sorely missed at the San Siro.
Last season, he was good, but had far too many of those lapses of concentration when all you could do is gape and wonder if some player of his talent could actually go to sleep so suddenly. But his partnership with Vidic has been very effective with their understanding of each other’s ability playing a great part in their awesome defensive record this year. He had his usual composure in the tackle, fallen sleep less often (the Portsmouth game?) and has looked much assured with the ball. His contribution has surprisingly been underplayed, although I would personally wish he’d quit jumping on a player every time that lad scored a goal.
The captain has been excellent every time he’s played. He is 32 and it is a wonder that he is still able to simultaneously make those runs forward while showing great positional sense and awareness while tracking back to defend. Great on the tackle, aggressive and showed good leadership. Another one of the defensive trio (Vidic wasn’t fully fit) sorely missed on that fateful semi-final at the San Siro. It’s a pity and testament to his value that England haven’t found a better full back after all these years.
At the start of the season, a lot had been said about the depth of the Chelsea squad and a lack of it at United. But the depth of the United squad wasn’t so much in the numbers as much as it was in the versatility of the personnel present. We mentioned Gabby’s versatility (O’Shea and Fletcher also to an extent) and Brown was no different in that respect. He was as good at the center as he was at right back. He was so good at right back that we didn’t miss Neville all that much when he was injured. With the center of defence pretty much settled with Vida and Rio, one might see Brown more involved at right back as Neville’s age and body give way.
Less said, the better. Although to be fair he’s hardly played this season. So wouldn’t be fair to rate him either.
That about concludes the first part of this series. Join us tomorrow, where we review the midfield. Till then you could drop us a line or two (or as many lines as you want) on what you thought about the players and their ratings. Please stick to the defence part. We’ll get to the midfield tomorrow. (And yeah, we’ll cover O’Shea in midfield.)
Compliments and invectives allowed.