It was the final day of the 2011/12 season, one which was dominated by the city of Manchester. Coming down the wire, both the red and blue sides were locked on 86 points, with Manchester City leading on goal difference. As a Manchester United fan, personally I was rather optimistic that we could still steal the title away from City. Matchday 38 sees us away at Sunderland whilst City would be visiting Queens Park Rangers (who was fighting to fend of relegation on the final day). One thing about football is its unpredictability and how matches often pend out against the form book. A team fighting for survival at the wrong end of the table is always a team that is extremely tough and tricky to play against. Thus with that in mind I was hoping QPR would do us a favor.
My optimism grew immensely when we defeated Sunderland 1-0, and by the time the final whistle was blown at the Stadium of Light, City was trailing QPR by 2-1! QPR however, was a man down with Joey Barton’s dismissal, and with a barrage of City attacks the unthinkable happened. It was a Hollywood written script, when Sergio Aguero blasted a 95th minute winner to hand City the title. Two goals in the space of 5 minutes in extra time, and frankly that was the lowest point of my life as a lifelong Manchester United fan. To lose the title to our fierce neighboring rival was one thing, however to lose it in the manner everything dramatically unfolded was heartbreaking to say the very least.
When the final dust settled, the final table read:
1. Manchester City – 89pts (GD +64) ; 2. Manchester United – 89pts (GD +56)
For every Manchester United fan all around the world, it was going to be a long summer.
Credit must be given to City though. In my opinion the final BPL table never lies. People can have their views, perhaps saying that some teams were lucky/unlucky to finish where they did after 38 games. However, throughout the 38 games played, the good and bad lucks would eventually even themselves out for every single team. Therefore hats off to City for a great season and they were definitely worthy champions.
The manager of United, Sir Alex Ferguson, has always been a demanding manager who was hungry for every bit of success. The way we lost the title was a painful experience for the great Scot. Never one to give in to adversity, Sir Alex laid down the gauntlet for the upcoming 2012/13 season by making two marquee signings – Robin van Persie from Arsenal and Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund.
van Persie (29 years of age) was the Golden Boot winner for the 2011/12 season. Upon signing the BPL’s top scorer from Arsenal, Sir Alex insisted that never again will United lose a title on goal difference. With United’s usual policy of never signing players close to 30 years of age for more than £20m, this was a major signal of intent to wrestle the title back from City.
Kagawa was captured from German champions Borrusia Dortmund for £12m, and becomes the first Japanese player to play for the Red Devils. An attacking midfielder of brilliant technique with the ball at his feet and possessing an eye for offensive play, this signing further showed the seriousness of Sir Alex in winning the upcoming season.
Over to the other top teams in the league, surprisingly champions City did not add any major signings to their squad. Manager Roberto Mancini confessed prior to the start of the season that he had been frustrated by the lack of recruitment to his title winning squad. London club Chelsea added two big signings to their roster – Belgium attacking midfielder Eden Hazard and Brazilian playmaker Oscar. Hazard was the hottest property in Europe in the summer of 2012. The Belgium was courted by both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, but he eventually opted for the former, where Champions League football was on offer.
With the departure of top scorer van Persie, Arsenal took to the market in signing German international striker Lukas Podolski from German club Cologne. The London club also captured French international Olivier Giroud from Montpellier for £12m. Manager Arsene Wenger will hope for the two new arrivals’ effectiveness in front of goal as Arsenal attempts to end their long trophy drought.
Meanwhile over at Tottenham Hotspur, the London club lost influential Dutch playmaker Rafael van der Vaart to Hamburg but signed Fulham’s Clint Dempsey in a last minute deal on transfer deadline day. The American, who had a stellar 2011/12 season for the Cottagers, agrees a £6m deal with Tottenham with just one hour to go before the deadline. Liverpool on the other hand managed to keep hold of Luis Suarez and these two clubs will be hoping to break into the top four. Notably, Spurs and Liverpool head into the 2012/13 season with new managers in the shape of Andre Villas Boas and Brendan Rodgers respectively.
The Premier League welcomed back the returning Southampton, Reading and West Ham. These three teams would be hoping for a solid season, with the ultimate aim of avoiding relegation back to the Championship. Personally, I was glad to see West Ham back in the league, with Sam Allardyce at the helm.
As all the clubs revealed their new signings for the upcoming season, fans all around the world eagerly awaited for the start of the 2012/13 Barclays Premier League season. Never a dull moment in arguably the world’s best football league, the season ultimately lived up to its great expectations and eventually ended with a large twist which would impact the league immensely in years to come.
To be continued in Part 2.