Opinion: Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest ever Manchester United side
- This article explains why Sir Alex Ferguson's side in his final season was arguably his best ever.
Sir Alex Ferguson had many great sides in his time at Manchester United, it's hard to look past the treble winning side as his best ever in the sense of trophies won, and the fact that half the players in it were youth team products. Of course he also had his early Manchester United sides with flying wingers, and the magic of a certain Eric Cantona.
In a similar attacking vein were the United sides of between 2006 and 2009, when Rooney and Ronaldo were the kings of the English footballing landscape, and returned the club to glory after the wilderness of not winning the title for 4 years (United fans would do well to remember that it wasn't always constant glory under Sir Alex, there were some lean spells as well).
It's hard to pick Sir Alex's greatest ever side, given that there were many of them. Different United fans from different eras would have their own opinions, but for pure determination and quality, the 2012-13 side in his final season has to be one of his greatest ever sides.
Of course, there is a certain amount of nostalgia clouding judgement here, given that this was Sir Alex's final season as Manchester United boss, and of course his final Premier League title (13 in 21 seasons). Given the 5 years of drudgery United fans have endured since his departure, most of us would give anything to go back to that period.
It's worth remembering that even given the strength of that side, there were undoubtedly some clear weaknesses in the team, particularly defensive frailties (The Red Devils actually conceded 43 goals in the Premier League that season, that was one of their highest goals against tallies for some years).
However, it was United's stellar attack that bailed these defensive lapses. Maybe the best example of that was the 4-3 win against Newcastle at Old Trafford where The Red Devils had to come from behind 3 times to win, thanks to Hernandez's last minute winner.
The names on United's team sheet that season makes that side look like an all time best 11 - De Gea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Scholes, Giggs, Rooney, Van Persie, and Carrick. That side was packed full of past and future/present United legends. There's no question that they would absolutely batter the current Manchester United side.
The side had a potent attack - consisting of Van Persie, Rooney, and Hernandez. Of course, Van Persie was the difference that season, providing the goals that fired United to the title after rejecting the allure of City to join the institution that is Manchester United.
Hernandez contributed a useful number of goals as well, and although Rooney didn't have his best season (amid speculation he was going to leave just like in 2010), he still bagged a lot of goals.
This stellar strike force was backed up by a superlative central midfield of Giggs, Scholes, and Carrick, although Giggs and Scholes didn't have a huge amount of involvement that season.
Carrick enjoyed arguably his best ever season for The Red Devils, and truly started to be appreciated fully by the Manchester United faithful. Valencia, Young, and Nani all provided attacking threat down the flanks.
Although the defence didn't have its best season, they were still solid - with Ferdinand, Vidic, and Evra providing familiar backing to De Gea in goal, and Rafael had perhaps his best ever season for the club.
Welbeck and Cleverley also made useful contributions to the cause, that showed United's strength in depth, and that the tradition of promoting youth team players was still very active.
Of course it's worth quoting some statistics to use as evidence of this side's greatness - United became the first side to win 25 of their first 30 Premier League games (they have since been usurped by Manchester City in 2017-18).
This included an 18 match unbeaten run in the league, out of which 16 were wins. It's hard to imagine the current United side going on such a run. Remarkably, The Reds Devils also didn't lose away from home in the league after November (a shock 1-0 reverse to Norwich City, one of only 5 defeats in the league that season).
United only won the Premier League that season (and admittedly that did gloss over the side's clear deficiencies), but it was the way it was won that was most impressive. Attacking football, with an ideal blend of youth, experience, and thrilling games. It was even more fitting that it was the club's 20th league title in the 21st season of the Premier League.
It was a suitable finale to Sir Alex's legendary time as Manchester United manager, and the last great United side the Old Trafford faithful have witnessed.