Is this season now another disappointment for Man United?

United Celebrate

Manchester United were chasing a treble just over one month ago.

United were the Premier League leaders by 9 points, were entering the sixth round of the FA Cup and had drawn Real Madrid in the Champions League.

They now sit 15 points clear of Manchester City at the top of the league as they head in to the second Manchester derby of this term with the reigning champions, but will Sir Alex Ferguson and his team consider the title alone satisfaction?

In the run up to Christmas, after United defeated City 3-2 at the Etihad back in December, there was constant talk of their ambitions of a treble-winning season to match that of their sensational 1998/99 season.

The club’s official website was awash with the manager and players outlining their belief that this team was special and it had the potential to be as successful as the former.

The likes of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck were being compared admirably to the strike-quartet of that season – Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sherringham.

I have to admit, I couldn’t disagree that they had undoubtedly the best strikers in the country, and possibly the best strike-force on the continent at the time - in fine form and fitness, no less.

The first disappointment was obviously their failure to progress past Madrid into the last-eight of the Champions League.

Few would argue that Nani should have been sent off by referee Cuneyt Cakir (well, except Roy Keane, perhaps) and especially after United had managed to hold the Spanish champions to a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu, giving them the away goals advantage, it seemed like the tie was theirs to lose.

Who knows what would or could have happened had twenty-two men remained on the pitch at Old Trafford but, despite their misfortune in the harshness of the decision which went against them, they did fall apart and concede very good goals from Jose Mourinho’s side and I have to say I think the Portuguese ‘special one’ got his tactics right on the night.

Next up, United were drawn Chelsea in the FA Cup and although the current cup holders (and European champions) were dismal and half-asleep in the first half of the clash, United failed to capitalize and were stunned in the second and, as Ferguson admitted, probably lucky to earn a replay with the Blues who equalized.

The replay was a reflection of a ridiculously congested schedule for both teams and you could see the fatigue on some players – the sharpness wasn’t what it ought to have been.

However, Chelsea took their chance and Demba Ba’s goal was exceptional, as was the pass from Juan Mata and United were on the back foot as I’ve seldom seen them this season.

Van Persie and Hernandez had their chances and were unfortunately undone by unusually poor composure from the Dutchman and an exquisite save from Petr Cech but ultimately United were the poorer team on the day and Chelsea deserved winners.

United were very disappointed after the Champions League exit – they were understandably ‘distraught’ and felt they’d been robbed – however they can have no real complaints about their FA Cup exit.

They will almost certainly win the Premier League now with just 8 games to go and almost 80 points on the board already – they’re not just near, they’re clear out of sight.

But is that enough for a team that showed so much promise? Not to take credit away from winning the league title, that is a great achievement but they’ve won it so many times before. A treble is rare obviously, but then again, so is the squad that Ferguson has at his disposal this term.

They’re a rare breed, Manchester United, but this season looks as if it’s going to go down in history – as something of an average, ordinary and pedestrian Manchester United title winning season.

images: © edwin11, © gordonflood.com

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