Up The Hill and Down The Slope

Dave-saves

So as we enter the merry month of May, there’s still no word on whether or not Spanish Dave will still be here next season. It’s not looking too hopeful, given that his girlfriend (a 2015 Spanish version of Whigfield from what I can gather) thinks Manchester is “uglier than the back of a fridge” and Jorge Mendes keeps crossing out Dave’s name on United’s contract offer and scrawling ‘Radamel Falcao LOL’ in red crayon.

Like everyone else, I like De Gea and I hope he stays for a long time. He’s been a great signing who’s developed superbly after being singled out and targeted as something of a soft touch during his first season. His supposed ‘catalogue of errors’ was something that was hugely over-exaggerated and I was always confident that given time and a little nurturing, he’d be sound. If he does go, however, then so what? With the greatest respect to the lad, he’s only a goalie. If he wants to go to Real Madrid and suffer the fate of not being Casillas then let him… it’s really no biggie in the grand scheme of things. We’ll soon find another one.

The derby turned out nice again, didn’t it? The build-up was horrendous given that the City fans I know (firmly back in plucky underdog/damage limitation mode) all solemnly predicted a United win. The thought of losing 5 in a row to them didn’t bear thinking about and thankfully, wasn’t something we were forced to suffer. You know you’ve been in a top goon when seats are getting obliterated in celebration, you’re being gripped by people who sit 3 rows behind and you’ve still got purple/yellow bruises on your calves 2 weeks after the game.

It’s always good value getting into work early on the morning after a derby win. The tension is palpable. Confused expressions of blues expecting full-on soccerbantz, countered with the feigned indifference of reds content to let them stew in their own disappointment. One always cracks after a couple of hours of non-football chat, resulting in a tentative “so, I suppose you had a good day, yesterday?” At which point, resisting the temptation to sprint the length of the office and do a knee-slide whilst triumphantly flicking the V’s with both hands raised, I find it’s more dignified just to smile, give an affirmative nod and maintain the silence.

After the giddiness of beating Liverpool and City in recent weeks, we were probably due a reality check – so the defeats at Chelsea and Everton came along as no great shock. United were well worth a point at Stamford Bridge and came very close to achieving that when Falcao hit the post. Possession stats, however, are meaningless in high-stakes games where one manager has basically instructed his team to sit back and let the opposition have the ball. Mourinho remains a master pragmatist, which is probably one of the main reasons why he’ll never manage United. He genuinely couldn’t care less whether it’s entertaining or not, he’s only interested in getting the 3 points.

Louis-van-Gaal-Manchester-United-Queens-Park-Rangers

The Everton game, on the other hand, was a genuine reminder of the shortcomings we’ve demonstrated this season. United simply didn’t turn up. It was Leicester away revisited as we were exposed due to a high defensive line, with several players looking bang average again after playing out of their skins for the last couple of months. Visits to Goodison Park always play out exactly the same way – Everton (both team and crowd) are a highly excitable bunch so you just need to let them tire themselves out a bit and wait for them to lose belief. What you don’t want to do, quite clearly, is to give the ball away straight from a corner and concede a goal after 5 minutes.

Despite this sudden downturn in form kiboshing the happy happy, joy joy vibes of late, the season is trundling to a reasonably satisfactory conclusion that should see us secure a Champions League place. And let’s not forgot, back in January as we blundered round the pitch at Deepdale being outpassed and outfought by Preston, you would probably have laughed in my face if I’d suggested that was still looking likely. Anyway, (almost) mission accomplished. Now whereas Moyes might have ordered an open-top bus for such an outcome, it’s good to note that Van Gaal is making all the right noises about his plans for next season. “I’m ­always at a club to win championships – not to finish third or fourth.”

This month marks the 10 year anniversary of the Glazer takeover, the event which led to the club being burdened with a £660M debt and also within weeks, became the catalyst for a couple of thousand reds to stop attending Old Trafford and instead form their own club, FC United of Manchester.

The existence of FC United, despite them going about their business in an environment (figuratively, if not geographically) a million miles from OT, remains an emotive subject that will continue to divide opinions decades from now. There might not be the levels of vitriol flying about that there were during their first couple of seasons, but there remains an ever-present undercurrent of tension. On the hand, there are those that’ll insist on brandishing the ‘Judas’ card at the merest mention of their name, whilst on the other, (choosing my words carefully here) there’s a condescending, holier-than-thou element within their support who’ll look somewhat aghast whenever you ‘fess up to still attending MUFC games. Admittedly, I’ve met far more of the former than the latter.

broadhurst park

For the most part though, you’ve got a few thousand people in the middle. Most FC fans of my acquaintance aren’t the militant lefties or tree-hugging idealists they’re ridiculed as, they are just normal reds. Reds who said “not one penny” and actually meant it; beer monster reds who watched United for years yet slowly drifted away; reds who stopped going well before Glazer, enticed back by an affordable alternative; swing both ways reds who will contentedly watch FCUM one week and MUFC the next. I’ve never met a single one though, who professes to no longer care about Manchester United. They might no longer attend games but the bond will always be there – it couldn’t not be given how FC came to exist.

Anyway, this is all just a roundabout way of tipping my hat to everyone connected with the club following their promotion up to the Conference North and the imminent opening of their new home at Broadhurst Park. 4 promotions and building a ground from scratch within 10 years is an amazing achievement, especially considering they started out at the very bottom of the pile with absolutely nothing. So many congratulations and the best of luck to all concerned… the story will make a great film one day (or more likely a terrible one, if Hollywood ever gets involved).

Copyright Red News – May 2015

www.rednews.co.uk

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