Alex Ferguson had nothing left to prove in his final season.
By 2012/13 the legendary Scot was heralded by fans, pundits and players as one of the greatest tacticians and man-mangers to ever grace the dugout.
Sir Alex could have sailed peacefully into retirement with a trophy-less season and nobody would have complained.
But instead he delivered another Premier League title, the 13th of his Old Trafford reign, and he did it with arguably the weakest Man United squad of the Premier League era…
Put down your pitchforks.
Obviously no title-winning team is ‘distinctly average’ relative to all teams but the crop of 2012/13 were underwhelming compared to United’s previous winners, and most other title-winning squads of the modern era.
Just to clarify, we’re not saying this lot weren’t a great team worthy of the title.
It’s more of a testament to Ferguson’s brilliance and ability to draw the very best out of his resources.
The old guard
Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs are without a doubt two of the greatest players to grace the Premier League but even the very best are weathered by the winds of time.
The Class of 92 graduates started just eight (Scholes) and 12 (Giggs) league games respectively, they did have a combined age of 77 to be fair.
Their experience was vital and their presence on the training ground would have had a positive influence on the youngsters, but they were far from their devastating best on the field.
So who did play in midfield?
Michael Carrick was a near ever-present and played the role of quarter-back beautifully.
But there honestly wasn’t much elsewhere.
Ashley Young, Tom Cleverley, Nani, Anderson and Antontio Valencia contributed five goals from their 99 appearances.
The Ecuadorian winger has been a superb servant for United but the burden of the famous No7 shirt, worn by George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, weighed heavy on his broad shoulders.
By his own admission, his personal form was at its lowest during his second title win but when he relinquished the No7 shirt he reemerged as the club’s most consistent performer.
Shinji Kagawa did his bit and endeared himself to the Old Trafford faithful but ultimately he fell short of what is expected of a creator-in-chief for one of the biggest clubs in the world.
How about at the back?
While it’s possible to win the league with one or two midfielders not pulling their weight, it’s impossible to win it with a dodgy defence.
That being said Jonny Evans made more appearances than Nemanja Vidic and while Rafael boasts cult hero status he was certainly no Gary Neville.
Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra were sublime, no two ways about it; class acts.
David De Gea had got over his early wobble but Fergie still won the league with Anders Lindegaard starting between the sticks on ten occasions.
Special mention to Dutch left-back Alexander Buttner who somehow scored twice in five games.
What about Wayne Rooney?
12 goals from 22 starts represents a decent return, especially considering the role of centre-forward was occupied by someone else… more on that later.
Rooney scored a brace in the Manchester derby as United won 3-2 but all was not well; he handed in a transfer request after being omitted from Ferguson’s last ever squad.
Alright then smart guy, if they were ‘distinctly average’ how did they win the league?
The simple answer is Robin van Persie.
Arsenal fans watched in horror as the Dutchman racked up 26 goals to win the Golden Boot for the second season in a row.
Only this time he was the driving force behind a successful title charge.
We’re not saying United’s 2012/13 champions were a one-man team… but they were bloody close to it.
He must have had an accomplice?
He did, but it certainly wasn’t Danny Welbeck.
The England international contributed just one goal in 27 games.
Javier Hernandez on the other hand played the role of super sub magnificently.
Chicharito started just nine games but scored ten goals in the league (and 18 in all competitions) thanks to a series of captivating cameos.
So one red hot forward, a bunch of misfiring midfielders, two ageing legends, a decent defence and a super sub equals a title win?
With Fergie in charge, yes, yes it does.
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