You signed last summer's will he or won't he join Man U - Bruno Fernandes. Does the midfield perform in a stable way in how you've set it up in front of ball playing defenders?
Yeah, shame we couldn't tempt him when we're crying out for him.
I'm more than happy with our midfield set up in-game, they are (Fernandes & Pogba) seeing plenty of the ball and creating and taking chances. Having the defensive BWM doing nothing but recycle possession has freed them up to make their marks.
Our remarkable league campaign continued to steamroll into January as we brushed aside Everton, Palace, and West Ham, taking us to twenty-one won out of twenty-three in the league with the only blots being the two draws between Christmas and New Year. Our first league defeat came at the hands of Arsenal at the Emirates and to be fair we were well beaten by the North London side, Bruno Fernandes' goal the only real positive for us in a game where Arsenal bested us. We rounded out the first month of the year with a frustrating draw away at Watford, Anthony Martial bagged a hat trick in fourteen minutes in the reverse fixture in August but no such joy was to be had at Vicarage Road.
We only had four league games across February and March and we added three more wins to our total in fairly routine performances vs Norwich, Brighton, and Stoke. In a previous post, I alluded to the fact that I am happy when we win by one or two goals, especially if we can keep a clean sheet too. This improvement since the last campaign has seen us turn those tightly contested draws into wins which have been vital to our title hopes. We fell to our second league defeat against our title rivals Liverpool. Despite our impressive haul of wins, they are relentlessly on our tails looking for any slip-ups which they could capitalise on. They may well have just tripped us up.
April saw us continue our patchy run of form, it is bizarre to think five wins from eight with only one loss is patchy form, but at the top of the game, these dropped points could be all the difference come to the end of the season. Two points were definitely dropped against Southampton as Danny Ings levelled for the Saints with one of the last kicks of the game, we then went and earned these two points back as Daniel James hit Wolves on the counter in the eighty-seventh minute. Unfortunately, this dip in form has seen Liverpool overtake us as they kick on their campaign, at the end of April they sat on eighty-three points with us now in second place on eighty-two.
We needed to take maximum points in May and hope Liverpool we're held elsewhere. It is incredibly difficult when there is nothing at all you can do except get on with your own games. Many a night I am kept up reliving the defeat to Liverpool at Old Trafford. Is it going to be another year without the title? Is Klopp just that good? Is Liverpool finally going to get back up on their perch? Our performances wouldn't tell you I am thinking that way. Five straight wins are all we could do to give ourselves a chance and we did so emphatically. Huge wins against Spurs, Villa, and Bournemouth sent a wave of doubt up the M62 into Anfield. This was enough for Liverpool to suffer their fifth defeat of the season, at home to Everton nonetheless. Liverpool had bottled it and we were back on top going into the last day. The final day was definitely my best day in management, a one-nil victory saw us bring the title back to Old Trafford, the club I had supported since I was a boy, and the club which gave me a chance not only as a player but also as a manager. Nothing will ever top this one. Manchester is red.
Our FA Cup campaign continued into the fifth round where we were knocked out by Everton, we were quite lucky to get that far to be honest, with a late goal coming from substitute Marcus Rashford in the fourth round replay against West Ham. As our young talents develop I will look to progress deeper into these domestic competitions but as it stands the league was our number one priority followed by the Champions League.
Speaking of the Champions League, we came incredibly close to reaching the final. Sadly we couldn't overturn the deficit inflicted upon us at the San Siro by the Rossoneri as they went on ahead in our place. Prior to our elimination we beat CSKA Moscow handsomely, and also battled well to overcome an always impressive Atléti side in the quarters.
With the league win this season I am desperate to bring the Champions League trophy back to Old Trafford. It is my personal goal to overtake Liverpool's high of six trophies, whilst also staying ahead of them in league titles.
Marcus Rashford finished the season as our top appearance-maker, he hit top form this campaign as he hit thirty-two goals in all competitions paired with his eleven assists. Marcus' impact on the club should stand as a testament to our beliefs of giving youth an opportunity and hopefully his meteoric rise will ignite a spark in our next wave of academy talent.
Lindelöf, Maguire, and Aké proved tough opposition for our opponent's attackers but I am still looking to improve upon the number of goals conceded this season. Luckily a lot of the goals let in have come in games we have won or else we could be in a different position. Although we have improved our defensive record in the league there is still room to improve which is great news for me as its something we can look to focus on again next year.
Our league goals increased by ten compared to last year so I am delighted with our efforts on that front. Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, Federico Bernardeschi, and Mason Greenwood all hit double figures for goals in all competitions which is incredible. Special mention to young Greenwood who has greatly impressed when relied upon.
Following our twenty-first league title victory last season the pressure was on us to go out and dominate the market to ensure we can finish atop the pile again this year. We spent big money on eight new first-team signings, one of which joining up with us in January saw the return of the iconic Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford. We are hopeful that these signings can be the catalyst to our success not only again in the league, but also in European competition as we look to go one better than our previous semi-final showing.
In terms of outgoings, we wave goodbye to a few under-performing squad players. I am delighted with the monies recouped by the Pereira, Shaw, and Fred deals. I am confident that our new signings more than makeup for these departures.
We started our title defence perfectly, dropping only four points in our opening fourteen games. Both of these draws came in frustrating circumstances as we failed to get past Bournemouth and Stoke City, games we had targeted as winnable.
December saw our league form hit a rough patch by our standards, three wins from six is a disappointing return and we were gutted to suffer our first defeat at the hands of the Gunners at the Emirates. Once again, Stoke shown themselves as tough opponents as the Potters came to our ground and battled for another draw.
Things started to pick up once again in the new year as picked up six wins in January and February. Sadly for us, we lost to Liverpool at Anfield, once again they are going toe-to-toe with us for first place this year and despite beating them in October, this defeat could see the momentum tilt in their favour.
We entered March in a rich vein of form as we recorded eight straight league wins that spanned the full month and all of April. Strong wins against Wolves, City, Spurs, and Everton gave us an advantage for the first time in a few months over Liverpool as they finally dropped points elsewhere. As we went into the final two fixtures in May we sat on ninety-two points whilst our Merseyside rivals sat in second place on ninety-one.
Our penultimate fixture saw us travel to Vicarage Road to face up against lowly Watford. They were battling fiercely to avoid relegation and they took it to us from the very first minute. Their desire to fight for every ball was something we couldn’t cope with and their enthusiastic pressing play saw them go ahead of us in the seventieth minute. We had to throw everything at them now and that is exactly what we did, Anthony Martial levelled the game in the last five minutes but despite our best efforts, we couldn’t get another. The ball was firmly back in Liverpool’s court and they took advantage of our mistake to pound the misery on us further. Despite a final day victory against Bournemouth it wasn’t enough to retain the title as the celebrations commenced at Anfield.
We missed out on the first piece of silverware available to us as we lost to Spurs at Wembley in the Community Shield. Effectively a glorified friendly but to concede four goals was particularly disappointing.
Our EFL Cup campaign also didn’t take off at all as we fell at the first hurdle on penalties away at West Ham. Once again, we played a lot of youngsters here, but we cannot be too of them critical after going out on penalties, very much a fifty-fifty chance there.
We managed to get a little bit of revenge over Liverpool this season as we bested them in the FA Cup final, our first time winning this piece of silverware came at a bittersweet price as we had lost out on our second league title in as many years at the hands of Liverpool just weeks prior.
In the draw of the Champions League, we were pitted against Ajax, Shakhtar, and Club Brugge. A group we should be firmly top of after six games, and that is where we stood after five wins and one draw, the latter coming away against Ajax.
I was personally delighted to draw Porto in the first knockout round as we had a great bunch of Portuguese players in our squad who were buzzing for the fixture, it was two of our Portuguese aces who bagged against Porto in each leg, the returning Cristiano bagging in his first game back in the competition for us as he marked his arrival. New boy Fábio Silva clipping in against his boyhood side in the return leg at Old Trafford.
We made tough work of Internazionale in the quarter-finals as each defence stubbornly kept everything level after two games. Happily for us this time we progressed on penalties, specialist Ronaldo netting the decisive winner.
In the semi-final, we were up against the Galácticos, Real Madrid. Another cagey affair at Old Trafford but Martial’s goal in injury time saw us take a two-goal advantage to Spain where we managed to hold out for a draw with one goal apiece.
We travelled to Germany for the final, the biggest singular game of my short managerial career as we looked to overcome the Italian giants Juventus. Preparations were immaculate and we were in good spirits following our domestic cup win the previous week, if we won this then it would alleviate the heartache of dropping the league to Liverpool, slightly for me anyway. What followed was truly remarkable, in a battle for the ages we finished at three-all after ninety minutes. We looked the better side but Juve was certainly not out of this yet and they could have nicked it late in the second half if it wasn’t for the ever-present David De Gea. Just twenty minutes stood between us and another dreaded penalty shootout but five minutes into the second half of extra time Ben Chilwell progressed down the left-hand side, his tired legs just about beat his opposing full-back as he whipped in another low cross, it managed to squeeze through the barrage of limbs thrown at it until it curled back to our right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the edge of the box. In true Patrice Evra style, he swung his boot straight through the ball and struck it like a lightning bolt past the onlooking Wojciech Szczęsny. We had done it, and thanks to the most unlikely of goalscorers. United were once again Champions League winners and our side cemented itself firmly in history.
Plenty of top performers this season as twenty of our first-team squad averaged over a seven rating. Our main forward trident of Rashford, Martial, and Bernardeschi combining for forty-nine goals and eighteen assists. Our deputies also provided ample backup as Lopes, Silva, Greenwood, and Ronaldo all managed to hit five and above. I am also delighted with our midfielders efforts this year as Paul Pogba once again had a stellar campaign alongside Bruno Fernandes.