A Look Back at the Manchester United 2007-08 Champions League Winning Team

The 2007-08 Manchester United team was one of the best one of the best teams in recent memory. This team achieved a double with a Barclays Premier League title as well as lifting up the Champions League title. There are three things that made this team standout compared to others: attack force, defenders, and the greatest manager of all time. Obviously, we should all know that this team was managed by the great Sir Alex Ferguson.

The attack force on that team was on of the most lethal in Barclays Premier League history with Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney, and Cristiano Ronaldo. The back four was also some of the finest we’ve seen with Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, and Patrice Evra all in their primes with Wes Brown as well. Today, we look back on some of the key players, goals, and moments that defined this 07-08 team.

Key Players:

Cristiano Ronaldo: The Portuguese winger who was bought by Sir Alex Ferguson from Sporting, for just over 12 million pounds in 2003, and turned out to be the superstar catalyst of this team. For most if not all of the season, Ronaldo played right wing but was lethal from there scoring 31 goals in 34 league appearances despite taking eight games to score his first. Another eight goals in European competition and three more in the FA cup sent his tally to an astounding 42 goals in all competitions. Despite his great output, he faltered in some of the biggest moments of the season such as missing a penalty at Barcelona in the Champions League semifinal and missing his penalty in the Champions League final shootout against Chelsea. He may have faltered in those moments, but Ronaldo’s goal scoring prowess earned him the Ballon d’Or at the end of the year. Currently, Ronaldo is plying his trade at Real Madrid looking to bring to help bring the club back-to-back Champions League titles, 11 total, and a possible 4th Ballon d’Or award for himself.

Wayne Rooney: The English striker was moved out of his comfort zone often with Sir Alex Ferguson, and that was once again the case here playing off of the main striker Carlos Tevez. The future captain of Manchester United had an off-season in terms of goalscoring but still found a way to find the back of the net times. In terms of catalyzing, he did a phenomenal job racking up more assists than goals in the league. As a natural striker, Rooney wasn’t the most pleased being put behind Tevez, but due to his persistent tracking back, that was probably the best choice for Sir Alex Ferguson. Today, Rooney is trying to help captain Manchester United back to Champions League football after missing out on it last year under David Moyes and Ryan Giggs.

Carlos Tevez: The third of the “Big Three” attackers and the main striker of this squad. Tevez was brought in from West Ham on a two-year loan over the summer. His first season, he made quite the impact scoring 19 goals in all competitions. His linkup play with Ronaldo was good, and it was even better with Wayne Rooney right behind him. Tevez scored one of the penalties in the shootout against Chelsea to keep them alive in it. Currently Tevez is plying his trade at Juventus, dominating the Serie A this season with 20 goals at the ripe old age of 31.

Paul Scholes: The “Ginger Prince” didn’t make an impact in terms of goalscoring, but in terms of making vital tackles and controlling the midfield, that he did. Not necessarily a full-time starter in the league, Scholes was vital in the buildup to many goals and made many key tackles in preventing the opposition from getting their fluid movement going. Scholes scored three goals all season but none was more important than his strike at home against Barcelona in the semifinals. His goal was the difference make in their 1-0 aggregate victory over Barcelona sending them to the final against Chelsea. Scholes is currently a pundit on BT Sport after retiring a second time in 2013.

Michael Carrick: This man holds a special place in United’s fans hearts for continuously playing the holding midfielder role and the 07-08 season was no exception. The Englishman was often paired up with numerous players such as Scholes, Anderson, Owen Hargreaves, and even Rooney, but no matter who was there he was the vital piece linking up the defense and the attack. He continues to thrive in this midfield today even with all the new faces around him. He has extended his contract one more year in hopes of bringing Manchester United more silverware in what could possibly be his last year.

Edwin van der Sar: We now come to the man who was the last line of defense for Manchester United. After the departure of Peter Schmeichel, United had a series of poor goalkeepers and decided to end up signing Edwin van der Sar in 2005. He did not disappoint like the others and was the first-choice keeper all the way up until 2011. In the 07-08 BPL season, 11 clean sheets in the league and made 130 saves, an astounding number given United’s back four at the time. The one save that does not go on the stat sheet but was the most important of them all was his save on Nicolas Anelka in the 2008 Champions League Final shootout in Moscow giving United their third European Cup in their elusive history.

Key Games, Goals, and Highlights

All of Cristiano Ronaldo's goals of the 2007/08 season:

Paul Scholes' goal - Barcelona in the Champions League Semifinal second leg at Old Trafford

2008 Champions League Final Penalty Shootout

Manchester United 6-0 Newcastle United

Wigan Athletic 0-2 Manchester United: The day the Premier League title was clinched.

Newcastle United 1-5 Manchester United

Best Goals of the Season

The Rest of the Starters (Most BPL Appearances):

Wes Brown: The hometown boy was granted the opportunity to start at a new position due to a string of injuries to the captain Gary Neville, this position, right back. Wes Brown, a natural centerback, took this opportunity and fared fairly well in that role. With Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand dominating the centerback position, it was highly unlikely he would get a sniff there anyway. A goal and two assists in the league for a player who is originally a centerback is not bad at all, but his shining moment was assisting Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal in the UCL final. Currently, he is plying his trade at Sunderland with ex-Manchester United centre back, John O’Shea.

Nemanja Vidic: The man who would eventually take over the captaincy after Gary Neville would be the Serbian centerback. A dominant partnership was established with Rio Ferdinand (more on him next) when he was bought from Spartak Moscow and that partnership would last for a long time. His ability to read the game was second-to-none and was a smart when going into tackles only picking up five yellow cards. His lone goal of the season was against Everton in the league, but that was the goal that sent them to first in the league and would remain in the top two for the league for the rest of the season. Vidic would be named in the FIFA Team of the Year the following year and, now plays at Inter Milan moving to the Italian side on a free transfer last summer.

Rio Ferdinand: Ferdinand is the second of the dominant two-man central defender pairing along with Vidic. Just like his partner, he was smart when knowing when to go into tackles and was only booked four times that season. He had three goals all season, all in blowout victories. When Giggs was not on the pitch or starting, Ferdinand was sometimes given the armband for captaincy. Along with teammate and Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, Ferdinand was named in the FIFPro World Team of the Year in 08. Currently, he is at QPR in what is his last season ever as he is set to retire from the game of football.

Patrice Evra: The Frenchman was a hit during his time in a Red Devils uniform, and this season was no exception. With no single competitor at his spot, Evra made the spot his own and his own only. Key stat was he had two assists in all competitions. He is currently at Juventus teaming up with Carlos Tevez likely bringing Juventus home another Scudetto.

Ryan Giggs: The man who has been “Tearing You Apart Since 1991” tore up opposing defenses with Cristiano Ronaldo on the opposing side. The vice-captain of the team took over full captaincy duties due to Gary Neville’s lingering injury problems. Three goals extended his now Premier League record of 21 consecutive seasons scoring a goal which ended last season. The Welshman has been a fantastic servant to the club never leaving the team in his 21 seasons and is the assistant manager to Louis van Gaal right now.

Key Bench Contributors:

Park Ji-Sung: Eight starts in the league and seventeen starts over a long season may not show much, but the Korean central midfielder was always a key contributor. The first Asian man to taste success in the Premier League was always a favorite of Sir Alex Ferguson due to his work ethic. He was favored by Fergie so much that SAF was very disappointed to inform him that Scholes would start over him in Champions League Final against Chelsea (Scholes was suspended for the 1999 UCL final in their treble winning season so SAF opted to play him to give his first start in a European Cup final). Stats don’t show much for Park tallying a lone assist over the season, but him and Carrick had a great understanding of each other allowing their play to build up over time to set up the three forwards. Park is now working as a global ambassador of Manchester United.

Anderson: Manchester United took a gamble on signing the Brazilian midfielder from Porto for 20 million pounds in the summer leading up into the season. His size and strength is what made United buy him, and he did not disappoint in his first season. Like what we’ve said about Park, stats don’t show much with two assists, but 16 starts in the BPL for a 19 year-old Brazilian who just moved from Porto is highly impressive. Probably the highlight of Anderson’s season was scoring in the penalty shootout against Chelsea in the final, and also winning the FIFA Golden Boy Award at the end of the year. After a disappointing end to his Manchester United career, where he was often criticized, Brazilian club Internacional signed him to a four-and-a-half year deal.

John O’Shea: O’Shea was another central defender who was not given much of an opportunity to shine at the centerback role due to the excellence of Vidic and Ferdinand. Due to that, he often plied his trade coming on for either of the two men later in games or would even play midfielder in a more defensive role. For a defender, he racked up a surprising three assists on the season, and like we said earlier, he is currently at Sunderland partnering with Wes Brown occasionally at centerback.

Owen Hargreaves: At the end of the 2006-07 season, Manchester United agreed to buy Owen Hargreaves for 17 million pounds from Bayern Munich. Although he was labelled as a defensive midfielder, he would sometimes play in right midfield shifting Ronaldo to the left hand side, the position where he plays now. Hargreaves wasn’t the type of player who was going to run by you playing right midfield, he would most likely bully you with his strength. His first season would be the one where he made most of his appearances with 34, and that number would dwindle down due to injuries. After his time at Manchester United, he went to crosstown rivals Manchester City along with Carlos Tevez, and is now a pundit for BT Sport.

Nani: Often hailed as the next “Cristiano Ronaldo”, Nani kept the hype train up pretty well in his first season. After moving from Sporting Lisbon for 20 million Euros in the summer, Nani made 26 league appearances and 41 total appearances in his first season, not bad for the next Ronaldo. His league output wasn’t quite Ronaldo-esque but in his first season, what were you going to expect. Just like his compatriot, he loves putting on a skills show and scoring great goals so three goals and six assists in his first season wasn’t so bad. However, the failure to live up to the hype caught up to him as his performance dipped during the latter years of his Manchester United career. He is now back at Sporting Lisbon on loan from Manchester United.

Where Are They Now:

Danny Welbeck: “Dat Guy” Danny Welbeck was a Manchester hometown boy through and through playing for the academy and for the Manchester United first team. He was on the roster for the 07-08 season having just been called up from the academy, but didn’t make his first appearances regularly until the 2011-12 season at the age of 19. He played for Manchester United for six seasons (thirteen in total including academy), but he had a poor strike rate. Welbeck only found the net 29 times in 142 appearances for them. After Louis van Gaal told him he was going to be fourth-choice striker behind Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, and James WIlson, Welbeck sought a move to another club. He was sold to Arsenal in last summer’s deadline day for 16 million pounds while United brought in Radamel Falcao on loan from AS Monaco on the same day.

Darren Fletcher: Another academy boy brought up by the Red Devils was the Scottish midfielder Darren Fletcher. He spent eight years in the academy from 1995-2003 and received his chances in the 2002-03 season. From then on out, he was a United regular whether it be in the first team or on the bench. Fletcher was an aggressive midfielder who was more known for his defensive tactics which is why he was switched from right midfield to central midfield late in his academy days. Sadly in 2011, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. This ruled him out for the 2011-12 season. On January 2013, he needed surgery aimed at trying to fix the condition and was ready for first-team football once again. However, he looked out of sorts in the United midfield after the surgery, and the vice-captain was signed by West Brom on a free transfer this past winter. In his career at Manchester United, he tallied 24 goals in 342 appearances and was named in the Premier League Team of the Year in the 2009-10 season.

Gerard Pique: Not many people can say they played for two of the most famous academies in football history. Well Gerard Pique can say he can playing for both Barcelona and Manchester United not just in his youth career but in his senior career as well. His United career was short however only spanning about four years and 23 appearances. With Vidic and Ferdinand holding down the fort, it was highly unlikely the 21 year-old centerback was going to get much playing time. In his time, he did win a BPL title and a Champions League trophy with Manchester United, but the next season with Barcelona, Pique won the treble with Barcelona defeating his former club to earn the prestigious treble. Pique is currently still playing for Barcelona and has won the league three times since and the Champions League once more. He has been named in the FIFPro World Team of the Year three times all consecutively from 2010-12.

Gary Neville: The third member of the Class of 92 is the only defender from this 2007-08 team remaining from it. The Englishman held down the right back spot for most of his career from 1995 on, but injuries derailed his 2007-08 season as the captain. As his career winded down, so did his appearances finishing with three appearances in his final season. His career highlights for Manchester United were the treble winning season in 1999, the 08 UCL title, 7 other BPL titles, and a Club World Cup title. Neville was named in the BPL Team of the Year five times as well as in the Team of the Decade. He is currently a pundit on Sky Sports.

Sir Alex Ferguson: We’ve finally come to the end, and what a fitting way to end it with the greatest manager in the club’s history, Sir Alex Ferguson. You all well know the history of this man, hired from Aberdeen, nearly fired from the team, etc, etc. In his 28 seasons at Manchester United, SAF won an astounding 38 trophies. He received knighthood after the teams’ treble winning season in 1999. He has won UEFA Manager of the Year/Team of the Year three times and has won the BPL Manager of the Year Award 11 times. After his retirement, he remains at the club as an ambassador and club director. He is also a UEFA Coaching Ambassador and teaches a class at Harvard.