Champions again. 11 months later than hoped for, title No. 20 is in the bag and we can finally look forward to a little respite on the “Aguerooooooooo….” front. I’m reasonably confident MOTD will remove the clip from their opening titles next season and one assumes that Sky might cease playing it every 15 minutes. Persuading every single City fan I know to change their ringtone might prove a tad ambitious, however.
Despite talk of trebles and doubles ultimately proving just that, we’re left with a more than satisfactory single to savour – one that all of us would have settled for before a ball was kicked. Of course winning the league is always something to cherish, but winning it back from ‘them’ after ‘that’? This title feels more cathartic than celebratory.
After the final day drama last season, history will no doubt show this years title was won at a canter – but I remained somewhat twitchy up to the point we went 3-0 up v’s Villa. The bookies paying out early happens every year now, but the fact pretty much the whole of the football world (with the exception of Brian Kidd) declared the title race over and done with weeks ago only increased my sense of agitation. Talksport were dismissively telling listeners, “United have nothing to play for” prior to the West Ham game – pretty much the same line they were trotting out on the night we lost at Wigan 12 months previously. “Nothing to play for”? – we still needed another 7 points for fuck’s sake.
So despite being ‘inevitable’ and a ‘procession’ it never felt entirely comfortable. The thrills and spills of the opening half of the season were replaced by a return of the defensively solid, wildly unspectacular football that’s become our trademark over the last 3-4 years. Whilst there were some fantastic moments with late winners and goonage aplenty, it’s difficult to recall many games where the team performed for 90 minutes – the manner of the crucial 3 away victories at Liverpool, Chelsea and City being especially indicative.
Liverpool dominated us for the best part of the game and we only began to get a foot in the game once they’d had a man sent off; the trip to Stamford Bridge saw us storm into the lead then go to pieces before Clattenburg intervened and handed us back the initiative; RVP’s free kick at City, surely THE moment of the season – came off the back of a 20 minute spell where we’d barely had a kick and were hanging on desperately for a point. 3 pivotal games, 3 slightly fortuitous yet insanely satisfying wins. Our luck couldn’t last.
If those 3 fixtures were representative of United pre-Christmas, the 3 games biggest games during the 2nd half of the season resulted in 3 disappointing defeats. Madrid sent us out of Europe by winning at OT, a fairly abject performance saw us lose to Chelsea in the cup replay and City were well worth their victory in the recent derby. Our form aside from these games was solid enough but it’s fair to say, very rarely set the pulse racing. Winning is great of course and makes even the most uninspiring football palatable, but Manchester United should be about more than just winning.
Nevertheless, perhaps it’s slightly churlish to be airing these gripes now and instead we should instead focus on some good, old fashioned ballooning in light of what the management and squad have achieved – and it is a huge achievement. It won’t be celebrated with quite the same gusto that we’ve greeted previous trophies with, but that’s just an unfortunate consequence of us having gorged on success over the last 20 years.
My 40th is fast approaching and it occurred to me the other day that most of my first 2 decades were spent longing to see United win the league. That finally happened just prior to my 20th, so since then I’ve seen it happen another 12 times. 12 titles in 20 years – after it had taken us over 100 seasons of playing league football to amass the previous 8. If you’d informed me in the summer of 1992 that was going to occur, I’d have most likely called you a lying bastard before politely enquiring where you’d got your drugs from.
Whilst we can look forward to a relaxing few weeks receiving begrudging guards of honour and watching the tombola XL, the Berts are quietly licking their wounds and steadfastly maintaining an FA Cup will represent progress. After the awful noise which followed their title win last May, they’re pleasingly silent at present – no doubt gathering their breath for another sustained period of self-aggrandising bullshit should they overcome Wigan at Wembley. I received a solitary text from an alright one after the Villa game offering congratulations, this having been inundated with gloating messages at the close of last season. I didn’t bother sending any nonsense out myself, just having the knowledge that they’re hurting is enough.
Talking of pain, the serene ending to the season at OT is in marked contrast to the misery currently being experienced by supporters of Liverpool FC. If the manner of our title win feels ever so slightly anticlimactic, then do console yourself with the fact it’s gone down like a cup of cold sick on Merseyside. I’ve managed to go the whole season without mentioning Brendan Rodgers, mainly due to the fact I’m not sure where to begin – the man is truly a gift that keeps on giving. One expects he’ll be given another season before the scousers tire of his bluster, which is a relief because in the meantime he’s doing a fantastic job of promising an awful lot whilst in reality, delivering very little.
Rodgers, let’s not forget, wasn’t even first choice when he came in last summer. Roberto Martinez sussed the job was going to be a nightmare given the financial constraints in place following Dalglish’s extended shopping spree so sensibly gave them the swerve. It was clear FSG needed a good communicator after the PR disaster overseen by ‘Kenny’ and they got one. A master exponent of kind of flattering, syrupy rhetoric the scousers lap up, Rodgers is very good at talking so they took to him immediately. They called him ‘Brendan’ whereas everyone else pissed themselves laughing and called him ‘a dickhead’.
In fairness to Rodgers, he’s on a hiding to nothing ultimately – despite his brief surely not extending much beyond ‘manage expectations’. Although welcomed as ‘one of us’ after speaking in hushed tones about ‘class’, ‘dignity’ and ‘the Liverpool way’, it’ll be a surprise if he’s still there at the end of next season. It must be soul destroying for them at present: United champions, yet another slow realisation their owners aren’t going to pour millions in, manager a national laughing stock and their best player finally proving beyond all reasonable doubt he’s the biggest cunt in football. 23 years since they won the league now, roll on 2016…
Before I sign off, one last thing that’s been bugging me. Not content with insisting everyone should stand up for the Busby Babes every 10 minutes, I hear certain denizens of Stretford End Tier 2 spent part of the recent derby waving their JD Sports Adidas above their heads whilst bellowing ‘shoes off for the Busby Babes’. Here’s an idea for anyone involved – why not take it a step further and do something truly original? How about removing your shoes and beating yourselves unconscious with them instead?
Enjoy the summer and see you next season.
Copyright Red News – May 2013