In the not-too-distant past, Manchester United consistently positioned themselves at the top of the Premier League under the skilled leadership of Sir Alex Ferguson. Before the unfortunate tenure of David Moyes, the disappointments under Louis van Gaal, and the gloominess of Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex claimed the league title in five out of his last seven seasons, with his final victory occurring in 2012-13. As the current team struggles under the tutelage of Erik ten Hag, let’s examine the individuals who accomplished EPL glory for The Red Devils a decade ago.
The Title-Winning Season (2012-2013)
Manchester United’s 2012-13 Premier League campaign marked the conclusion of Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure as their manager. With a remarkable 26-and-a-half-year tenure, Ferguson became the longest-serving manager of any English club.
During his time with the Red Devils, Ferguson secured an impressive 38 trophies. At the age of 71, he held the distinction of being the oldest manager in the Premier League or the Football League. On May 8th, 2013, Ferguson announced his retirement from his managerial position.
By the season’s conclusion in April 2013, Manchester United claimed the Premier League title again, solidifying their status as the first team to win 20 English top-flight titles. Throughout Ferguson’s 21-year reign in the Premier League, United emerged victorious in 13 seasons.
The 2012/13 Squad
The misery of the 2011/12 season seemed to motivate Manchester United to avoid a tense finish to the season. Their determination to win every weekend was evident, especially through the consistent performances of key players like Michael Carrick and Patrice Evra.
Robin van Persie sealed the season with a rapid first-half hat-trick against Aston Villa at Old Trafford in April. This win put United 16 points ahead and confirmed them as champions. It was a fitting end to the season, coinciding with Ferguson’s retirement, who would announce it shortly after. His final match as United manager ended in a unique 5-5 draw against West Brom.
At the end-of-season awards, Robin van Persie was unsurprisingly dominant. However, he was edged out by Michael Carrick in the Players’ Player of the Year category. Carrick’s consistently superb performance throughout the season earned him recognition from his teammates. Van Persie did win the prestigious Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award, as voted by the fans. He also received the Goal-of-the-Season prize for his stunning volley against Aston Villa, just one of 26 goals he netted that season, which elevated United fans and those backing him at the bookmakers.
Most squads since this season pale in comparison to the starting XI below. Even with the likes of Ronaldo, Varane, and Sancho having played at Old Trafford since, top online bookmakers in 2023 continue to offer better odds on their perennial rivals, Manchester City. But perhaps the primary reason is due to the absence of Fergie.
- David de Gea
- Rafael Pereira da Silva
- Patrice Evra
- Rio Ferdinand
- Jonathan Evans
- Michael Carrick
- Luis Valencia
- Thomas Cleverley
- Robin van Persie
- Wayne Rooney
- Ashey Young
- Anders Lindegaard
- Danny Welbeck
- Shinji Kagawa
- Ryan Giggs
- Benjamin Amos
- Chicharito Hernandez
- Phil Jones
- Chris Smalling
- Paul Scholes
- Robin van Persie: 26
- Wayne Rooney: 12
- Javier Hernandez: 10
- Shinji Kagawa: 6
- Patrice Evra: 4
Key Players: Where are they now?
David de Gea’s departure from Manchester United this past summer signified the absence of any players from Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge of the club in 2012-13.
Patrice Evra, widely regarded as one of the best full-backs in Premier League history, was a prominent figure for United during that season, making 42 appearances. However, he departed from the club merely a year later. After leaving United, Evra had stints at Juventus, Marseille, and West Ham before retiring in 2018. He has since gained recognition for his exceptional contributions as a football pundit.
Rio Ferdinand, widely regarded as one of the greatest English central defenders in history, made his move to Manchester United in 2002 from their rivals Leeds United, setting a record transfer fee of £30 million at the time. Ferdinand enjoyed a remarkable 12-year tenure with the club before briefly joining Queens Park Rangers in 2014 and ultimately retiring from professional football in 2015. Currently, he is involved in various roles, including working as a TV pundit.
Antonio Valencia, the former Ecuadorian international, went to Manchester United in 2009 from Wigan Athletic, where he showcased his skills for ten seasons. Following his departure from the Red Devils, he continued his football journey, playing in Mexico and Ecuador, before retiring in May 2021.
Valencia’s counterpart on the opposite wing was Ashley Young. Like Valencia, Young transitioned into a full-back role for United and enjoyed a lengthy career at the club. Young even held the esteemed position of club captain for a season. In 2020, he departed United to join Inter Milan, where he consistently played in the defensive line. He later made his way back to the Premier League, joining Aston Villa and then Everton, where he currently starts full-back.
Leading the line behind the striker was Wayne Rooney, widely regarded as one of United’s greatest players. Following that season, Rooney became the club’s all-time top scorer and remained with United until 2018, when he returned to his childhood club, Everton. After a brief period with DC United in America, he returned to England, this time joining Derby County, where he eventually assumed the manager position. After making a positive impression at Derby, Rooney returned to DC United as their manager. After a mutual contract termination in October 2023, he is now currently tipped to become the new Birmingham City manager.
The star of the team was Robin van Persie. His impressive tally of 26 goals was crucial to United’s title victory and was integral to their overall success. Following two moderately successful seasons, the striker left Manchester and joined Fenerbahce in Turkey before eventually returning to Feyenoord Rotterdam, his former club, in the Netherlands. Currently, Van Persie primarily serves as an assistant coach for the Dutch club’s U-18 and U-19 teams, occasionally providing punditry for Premier League and Championship matches.
The Future of Man Utd
Manchester United knew their club’s potential for greatness, as it was evident during Ferguson’s tenure. However, they lack knowledge about the specific factors that contributed to that success. Consequently, they are unable to gauge how close the club is to achieving that level of greatness again.
In the absence of this understanding, they have resorted to a simplified belief that the key to success lies in finding a single exceptional individual. They hoped that Moyes, Van Gaal, Mourinho or Solskjaer would be that person, but unfortunately, they were not. The jury is still out on Ten Hag. As a result, the club will surely embark on a continued search soon, hoping to come closer to their aspirations, even as they continue to drift further away from being a major player in elite-level football.