Manchester United won the English Premier League title for the second year in a row and it is the 17th time overall they have been champions of England. They defeated Wigan 2-0 on the last day of the season, but it was Ryan Giggs who became the star of the show. The former Wales winger appeared in his 758th game for Manchester United, tying the record set by Bobby Charlton four decades ago. Giggs can, and likely will, break the record in the Champions League final against Chelsea in Moscow.
Until Giggs’ goal nine minutes from time there was always a slight threat of a Wigan intervention. Unfortunately for Wigan, their best player on the day was Chris Kirkland. Kirkland excelled in goal, keeping United at bay numerous times and giving Wigan a brief flicker of hope. A draw and a Chelsea win would have cost United the title. However, when Giggs came on there was a sense, at least to me, that a storybook finish was to be had. Sure enough, the Welsh wing-wizard found himself in clear on the keeper after a great pass from Wayne Rooney and cooly slotted home to end any doubts about the title.
Though Giggs may surpass his record for appearances, no one will eclipse the legend of Sir Bobby Charlton. He is a survivor of the 1958 Munich air crash that killed eight of his teammates and not only survived but went on to win English league titles, a European Cup (predecessor of the Champions League) and a World Cup with England. It’s not a stretch to say that he is one of the greatest English players of all time. Charlton also has ties to Wigan FC having been a director and caretaker manager for the club. He was on-hand yesterday to congratulate the current team and one would not fault him if he took a sense of responsibility for the team’s fortunes. It was Charlton’s pleas for the United board to keep faith with Alex Ferguson during his difficult early years that had a large part in keeping the Scot on the job and giving him the time to build a winning side.
United will take a moment or two to celebrate but they will refocus for next week’s Champions League final against Chelsea. Chelsea, who drew 1-1 with Bolton yesterday, were handed a major blow as captain John Terry dislocated his elbow and at the moment is doubtful for the final in 12 days. To his credit, Terry gave every indication he try to be ready. He said his elbow was “popped back in” while in the ambulance and he added: “I need three of four days rest but I should be fit for Moscow.” You certainly have to applaud his toughness!