Review of the Premiership season pt 1: Man United and Man City (could do better!)

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Simon Poulter of What Would David Bowie Do? rounds up the season

So that’s it. Done until August. Or July. Or the end of June, depending on where your club sits geographically or hierarchically.

The 2012-2013 football season is, more or less, over, bar a Champions League Final at Wembley between two German teams (so twice as guaranteed to end with penalties), and the Championship Playoff Final two days later at the same venue.

Has it been a vintage nine months? No. Not when its highlight has been the retirements of a manager and the replica shirt salesman who once played for him.

Not when the Premier League is won four weeks early by an in-development Manchester United, with the reigning champions failing to put up much of a fight.

And not when the wooden spoon positions of third and fourth become so critical to clubs’ fortunes that they become performance objectives in their own right, fought over like the last grains of rice in a famine.

The 2012-13 season has, to be honest, been pretty mediocre. And that mediocrity hasn’t been helped by the recurrence of racism as a core issue, the brief flare-ups of old-school hooliganism, and players and their clubs doing little to protect their reputations from their own behavioural misdemeanors.

Added to that, we’ve witnessed the sorry, greedy, paranoid state of affairs in which by March, 103 English league managers and coaches had been sacked, resigned or, to use that old chestnut, departed “by mutual consent”. What kind of season is it when onetime European champions Nottingham Forest fire four managers, and that chickens-in-a-basket case Blackburn Rovers end up with their fourth their season since August?

Like a Grand Prix, it is rare these days to end a football season feeling completely satisfied. Tired, yes, out of pocket, certainly, but after the requisite 38 games (or 69 if you’re Chelsea…), it’s difficult to look back completely objectively and say “that was brilliant from start to finish”. Because, short of 20 teams taking it down to the wire at either end of table, seasons tend to be as attritional as a French battlefield in 1917.

So, to formerly shutter this term, What Would David Bowie Do? presents its club-by-club end-of-term opinion on the Barclays Premier League 2012-13, in the process offering no apology whatsoever for the longer rant about Chelsea than anyone else (at least it’s spared you a separate post…):

Manchester United (89 points, goal difference +43) Champions

On the opening day of the 1995-1996 season, that football sage Alan Hansen told Match of the Day viewers that “You can’t win anything with kids” after a somewhat juvenile Manchester United team went down 3-1 to Aston Villa. That United team went on to win one of the club’s 11 league titles under Sir Alex Ferguson.

United looked similarly young this season, and history repeated itself with a defeat, at home on the opening day. It would appear that Hansen’s retirement from Match of the Day hasn’t come soon enough. But enough about him.

This may not have been a vintage season for Manchester United, but in his customary manner, SAF fixed his one main problem audaciously by bringing in van Persie, and blooded more youngsters in to the extent that the likes of Phil Jones ended the season looking like he’d been a first team regular for years. United’s season ultimately prevailed, but you have to wonder what a more spirited title defence from City would have achieved, and what if more teams like Chelsea had gone to Old Trafford and played United at their own game.

I’m not going to add to the already universal lament for Sir Alex, save that despite all we have vituperatively aimed at him from the terraces down the years, his remarkable record at Manchester United does speak for itself. Less so Paul Scholes – an inspirational midfielder at times, an unguided cluster bomb on occasion – whose eventual retirement deserves recognition. So, too, David Beckham. OK, he hadn’t played for United in ten years, spending that time in Spain, Italy, California and France shifting merchandise for Adidas, but it was at Old Trafford under Ferguson that one of football’s greatest stars was created, along with a modicum of ability.

Manchester City (78pts, GD +32) 2nd

Chelsea responded to their first league title in fifty years by winning another one in 2006. Manchester City responded to their first league title in 44 years by becoming increasingly dysfunctional, with their much respected manager Roberto Mancini losing his focus (Balotelli) and his political nouse in both the boardroom and the dressing room.

Finishing second is never a bad thing, but as successive managers at Stamford Bridge have found, second is always second best in the eyes of ambitious and success-greedy proprietors who believe that their investments owe them a right.

Getting sacked was an astonishingly cruel outcome for Mancini, but with Manchester United not being as rampant this season as their points and securing the title prematurely might suggest, the 11-point, 11-goal deficit with their neighbours became enough of a gaping chasm to expose a team that could have done much better with the right management approach. To end the season with a management clearout before the final game suggests a poisonous atmosphere

Next stop – The Londoners

Article originally published here.