MANCHESTER UNITED suffered a deep blow to their title bid this week, with their shock 2-1 home defeat to basement boys Sheffield United seeing them surrender top spot.
But just the fact that they are in the conversation at all is an improvement on recent seasons.
Not so long ago, United were there or thereabouts year-in, year-out under the expert guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Prior to the misery of David Moyes, lows under Louis van Gaal and the moroseness of Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex won the league in five of his last seven seasons, culminating in his final triumph back in 2012-13.
But as the current crop falter, let’s take a look at those that managed to get it done eight years ago.
DAVID DE GEA
David de Gea won the league under Sir Alex Ferguson[/caption]
The Spaniard remains United’s No1[/caption]
One of two members of the playing squad still at Old Trafford eight years on, along with Phil Jones.
The Spaniard, 30, has since gone on to win Man United’s Player of the Year award four times, appear in five PFA Teams of the Year, and has lifted the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League.
Rafael was United’s first-choice right-back[/caption]
The Brazilian took on his former club this season[/caption]
Academy product Rafael was a key man that season, but only lasted two more before being shipped off to Lyon.
The Brazilian, now 30, played 139 times in five years with the French club, before departing for Istanbul Basaksehir last year – for whom he twice featured against United this season.
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Vidic skippered the Red Devils to glory in 2013[/caption]
The Serbian returned to Old Trafford as an ambassador[/caption]
The once imperious Serbian’s powers had already begun to diminish in 2012-13, only featuring 22 times in the Premier League.
Vidic, now 39, would last one more year at United – before an ill-fated 28-game spell at Inter Milan brought the curtain down on his illustrious career in 2016, later becoming a Red Devils ambassador.
Ferdinand was a rock at the back[/caption]
Like his long-term defensive partner Vidic, Ferdinand would last only one more year at Old Trafford, before signing a one-year deal at QPR.
Form eluded him at Loftus Road, however, and he retired at the end of the season. He is now most often seen getting carried away about Man United’s fortunes on BT Sport.
Evra was a popular figure at United[/caption]
The Frenchman has retained his love for the Red Devils[/caption]
Patrice Evra, now 39, also left United in 2014 – but unlike Ferdinand and Vidic, enjoyed another few years at the top – turning out for Juventus, Marseille and West Ham.
The Frenchman now appears on Sky Sports as a pundit, and also laced the boots back up to play in Soccer Aid last year.
Carrick’s ability became more appreciated as his career went on[/caption]
The former midfielder now assists boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer[/caption]
A key man in that 2012-13 triumph, and in four others prior to it, the ex-Spurs and West Ham midfielder has become Mr. Man United.
Carrick, now 39, finished his playing career at Old Trafford in 2018, before coming a first-team coach with the club, a position he holds to this day.
Cleverley was a regular for club and country in 2012[/caption]
The midfielder is now trying to help Watford back to the Premier League[/caption]
An England regular at this point, homegrown midfielder Tom Cleverley appeared to be set for a long, storied career in the Man United midfield.
He was quickly cast aside by Louis van Gaal, however, first being loaned out to Aston Villa in 2014, before joining Everton permanently a year later – he now resides at Watford in the Championship at the age of 31.
Valencia would wreak havoc down the right flank[/caption]
The Ecuadorian now plays for Queretaro in Mexico[/caption]
Popular Ecuadorian Antonio Valencia extended his Old Trafford stay by evolving into a right-back, and even succeeded Wayne Rooney as captain in 2017.
He called time on his United career in 2019, however, returning to his homeland to play for LDU Quito, before signing for Mexican outfit Queretaro last year, where he currently resides as a 35-year-old.
Rooney won his final Premier League title in 2013[/caption]
Wazza is now manager of Derby County[/caption]
Legendary forward Wayne Rooney would leave United four years on from the 2013 triumph to return to Everton, but not before becoming the club’s captain and all-time leading goalscorer.
After his year back at Goodison, he turned out for DC United and Derby County, recently hanging up his boots to become manager of the Rams aged 35.
Kagawa showed glimpses of magic at United[/caption]
The 31-year-old recently joined PAOK[/caption]
The Japanese star, now 31, arrived as a marquee signing in 2012 from Borussia Dortmund, providing United fans with moments of brilliance to savour at Old Trafford.
At times, however, he struggled to find a consistent place in the team, and would return to Dortmund in 2014, before turning out for Besiktas and Zaragoza and recently signed for Greek side PAOK.
ROBIN VAN PERSIE
Van Persie returned to Emirates Stadium a champion[/caption]
RVP played in Vincent Kompany’s testimonial[/caption]
The 2012-13 title win is perhaps best remembered by Robin van Persie’s sensational season following his switch from Arsenal – in which he scored 26 goals.
He would never quite reach those heights again, however, and joined Fenerbahce in 2015, before finishing his career in 2019 winning the Dutch Cup with boyhood club Feyenoord. Can now be found offering punditry on BT Sport.
BEST OF THE REST
Man United’s title win had many contributors[/caption]
Anders Lindegaard stepped in ten times between the sticks that season, and now resides at Helsingborg, where he hit the headlines by scoring an injury-time equaliser last July.
Fortune hasn’t favoured the luckless Phil Jones, who remains at Old Trafford but wasn’t included in the 25-man squad this season having struggled with injury – his fellow defender Chris Smalling, however, was sold to Roma ahead of the campaign.
Jonny Evans impressed in 2012-13 and was perhaps let go too soon in 2015 – he now marshals Leicester’s impressive defence.
Midfielder Anderson retired aged just 31 back in 2019, following a downward trajectory in his career largely owing to injuries
Ryan Giggs would finish his storied Man United career in 2014, briefly managing the club before playing assistant to Louis van Gaal – is now Wales boss but awaiting court after being accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriend.
Popular Mexican Javier Hernandez left United in 2015, and now turns out for LA Galaxy in MLS, where he comes up against former team-mate Nani, who plays for Orlando City.
Danny Welbeck is aiming to resurrect his career with Brighton, while former skipper Ashley Young turns out for Inter Milan in Serie A.
Read our Man United live blog for the latest news from Old Trafford