Aftermath Of The Blue Massacre, The New Dawn After The Blue Moon, Manchester, 24th Of October, 2011

Over the years, I’ve seen United get a good leathering a few times. The first thrashing I remember United getting was at Goodison Park in October 1984 when a rampant Everton team, who’d go on to win the title that season, beat United 5-0. I remember a title chasing United side being beaten 4-1 by Queens Park Rangers at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day 1992 courtesy of a Dennis Bailey hat trick. The day/night before was Alex Ferguson’s fiftieth birthday and with United having a 5PM kick off the following day, there was a lot of innuendo and rumour as to how the United team had spent New Year’s Eve. On the day itself, a usually very good United team were appalling, losing heavily to a side they should have comfortably beaten.

In the Autumn of 1996, Newcastle United beat the Reds 5-0. That day, Newcastle were worthy winners but anybody who remembers that match knows that United were unlucky to lose 5-0. It was, as Ferguson said at the time, a blip and the end of season league table proved him right (this was the season, 1996-1997, that Liverpool, finished fouth in a two horse race). The same can be said about the time that United lost 4-0 at Anfield in September 1990 and 4-1 at Old Trafford, nineteen years later. Yes, the better team won but the results weren’t a true reflection of how United played, it was just one of those days.

A newly promoted City beat United 5-1 in September 1989, in a day and a game that no fan of either side will ever forget. United that day were that bad that they made a pretty poor City side look like world beaters. In March 2004, City beat United 4-1 in United’s first appearance at what was then called (I think) Eastlands. In my opinion, the result was a travesty, just another one of them occasional days when United had plenty of the game and created plenty of chances without finishing them off. City took their chances and it just summed up United’s day when Sean Wright-Phillips casually chipped in City’s fourth in the last minute. That season, Arsenal won the title without losing a league game, United would go on to win the F.A. Cup for the, to date, last time, beating City and Arsenal en route to Cardiff.

 The 5-1 in 1989 was, I thought, a once in lifetime day. Not even the most outlandish, bitter or deluded blue of my aquaintance ever thought anything like that would ever happen again, neither did I. Every one of my fellow reds knew that City were no longer the laughing stock. We all knew yesterday was gonna be a hard game but no red or blue, in their wildest nightmares or dreams saw this coming.

I’ve seen United play and ultimately lose valiantly to the mid 1980s Juventus team of Michel Platini, Paulo Rossi and Zbigniew Boniek (amongst others). I saw (virtually) the same United side destroy a Barcelona side that had Bernd Schuster and Diego Maradonna three weeks prior to the Juventus game. I watched United convincingly beat at least two great Liverpool sides in the 1980s and twice beat the so called invincibles of Arsenal in 2004. I saw Barcelona of Stoichcov, Bakero and Romario rip to pieces, a depleted, due to UEFA’s draconian foreigner rule, United side in 1994. That night, I think the average age of United subs bench was fifteen and three quarters* and those who were on the pitch weren’t much older. Whilst Barcelona can only play/beat what’s put in front of them, the outcome, 4-0, for me was farcical.

I’ve seen United well and deservedly beaten a few times. I’ve only ever seen United outclassed three times in my thirty years of watching them. First time was at the European cup final, against Barcelona in Rome, 2009, the second time was against the same team, same occasion in May this year and the third time was yesterday. With opportunities made and Silva rampant, six was a mercy. As much as United could and should’ve got double figures against Arsenal recently, City, if they’d have taken all their chances yesterday wouldn’t have been far shy of it either. Today, I’ve heard commentators and read match reports that said when Ballotelli passed City into the lead, it was against the run of play. In regards to possession percentages and what-have-you, they’re probably right but at no point did I ever think that City were under pressure. They soaked up United’s early possession with an efficiency that Jose Mourinho would admire. Going forward with Ballotelli, Aguero and the outstanding Silva, City looked frightening. United’s back four looked terrified of Silva but worst of all, United’s midfield didn’t exist. Everybody knows that Roy Keane’s never been replaced, yesterday, it was exposed in the most brutal possible way as there’s no way United would’ve lost so emphatically if Keane was in that midfield.

Alex Ferguson yesterday played Jonny Evans in the back four whilst leaving Nemanja Vidic and Phil Jones on the bench. When Ballotelli done Evans like a kipper in the first couple of minutes of the second half, which lead to Evans sending off, that folly was painfully shown up. At the time, whilst City were in control of the game, it was still only 1-0 and obviously retrievable, down to ten men against a team as organised as City, it was suicide. Jonny Evans is clearly not up to level required to play in a team of United’s ambition and I don’t believe he’ll ever be trusted again in an important game after yesterday’s debacle. Tomorrow night, United play Aldershot, it’s a blessing to have a first team game so soon after yesterday’s match and I for one, can’t wait for it to kick off.

On the bright side, in every season that I remember United getting a good hammering, at the end of every one of them seasons’, there was a trophy on United’s honours list. Yesterday was bad, but red brothers and sisters, when all’s said and done, it was three points dropped in October and we all know how long a football season is.

* A slight exaggeration, not by much though

Back In The Summer Of ’89 – Manchester, 23rd of October, 2011

Everybody’s talking about The Stone Roses as United are bookies’ favourites and about to play City. After a promising start by United, City run riot and are 3-0 up before United score a great goal to give some faint hope. It’s all in vain as City attack again in waves before winning comfortably, 5-1. This is a memory of mine from September 1989, a memory I never thought I’d see repeated, but today, it’s even worse. At least when City won 5-1 in 1989, it was at Maine Road, today, they’ve won 6-1 at Old Trafford.

Nearly two months ago, I watched United give Arsenal the same kind of thrashing I watched City give United today. Before today’s game, the word on the quiet from my red brethren was a draw would be a good result due to the obvious fact that City are playing well and United, despite good recent results, are not.

Since City beat Tottenham 5-1 at White Hart Lane, there’s been all kinds of talk about how this could be their year. My belief has been that City have not played any team that they shouldn’t beat since then and I was waiting to see how they’d get on against teams like Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or United. Today they gave a pretty good answer. Knowing City fans the way I do, they’ll already be out in the satellite towns of Manchester (despite all their talk, you won’t see many City fans in Piccadilly Gardens tonight) celebrating winning the title, like last season, before the clocks went back. This City team certainly can but there’s a long way to go ’til next May. As things stand, United are twelve goals & five points behind City, today’s a bad loss but we’ve all seen United recover bigger deficits than this.

On a personal note, I’m writing this an hour after the game, the result hasn’t yet truly sunk in, all I know for sure is City deserved the win. One thing I’ve gotta say in fairness to City fans is that for the first time in my years of watching derby matches, not once did I hear any mention, celebration or singing about the Munich air crash. Whether this is down to them now having a good team and thus not feeling the need to celebrate a tragedy or whether it’s down to the deserved slapping some of their fans got on Wembley Way or the motorway services last April, I don’t know but it was refreshing not to hear it.

United started the game with plenty of possesion and aggression but, despite that, I never thought at any time that City were under any pressure. Ballotelli’s goal was just too easy and when Jonny Evans got sent off in the opening minutes of the second half, I could feel a long afternoon coming on. With City three up on seventy minutes, United went into a kamikaze attacking mode without actually looking like scoring. The understanbly boisterous City fans were quietened with ten minutes to go when Darren Fletcher scored. City fans know from plenty of past experience that if any team could come back from 3-0 down, it’s United and there was a nervous quiet amongst the City fans’ section, just to my right but whilst United kept on trying, City’s defence were just too disciplined to be rattled. I believed when Fletcher scored that it was only at best a face saver, in the end, with three City goals in injury time, it wasn’t even that.

Sacre Bleu, Red Mist In The Black Mountain, Manchester, 8th Of October, 2011

After doughnut gate with David De Gea last week at Tesco’s in Altrincham, where, according to the Sun, he didn’t just walk out with the doughnut but “swaggered” out with it. I’d love to see what David De Gea looks like, swaggering around eating a doughnut. Wayne Rooney, never one to be outdone, last night got sent off in Montenegro in an incident in which City & England goalkeeper and also good pal of Rooneys, Joe Hart, correctly described as pathetic. Reading this mornings press, you’d think that England had just been knocked out of the European Championships, not just qualified for next years finals in Poland and the Ukraine. I thought what Rooney did last night was plain daft but the way the fourth estate have reported on it, you’d have thought he’d commited treason. Whilst it’s unfortunate that Rooney’s gonna be missing for at least one match in the Euro’s, is it really such a catastrophe that the loss of one excellent player could cause such disruption to the English chances of success next summer ? If England cannot replace Rooney for an important match then it’s a huge indictment on the quality of players available to Fabio Cappello and by association, English football itself. Continue reading Sacre Bleu, Red Mist In The Black Mountain, Manchester, 8th Of October, 2011

The Lawman And The Mercenary.

I was watching Denis Law last Saturday being interviewed on Football Focus, generally reminiscing about his days as a pro-footballer and drawing the inevitable comparisons with the lifestyles and living conditions that pro-footballers live in today. Two things mentioned regarding the treatment of his knee injury in the 1960s by doctors and the brinksmanship over a demanded £10.00 a week pay rise, which resulted in him being transfer listed by Sir Matt Busby, brought modern events into stark comparison. Specifically Owen Hargreaves recent comments over the treatment of his knee injury during the last three years of his lamentably injury plaugued time at United and Carlos Tevez’s alleged refusal to come off the subs bench on Tuesday night in the Allianz Arena in Munich.

Hargreaves claimed he was being used as a guinea pig during his injury by the medical staff employed by United, whether Hargreaves is right or wrong is not for me to say due to my lack of expertise in the treatment of knee injuries but if he has any complaints about his treatment, he wants to listen to Laws story about knee injury treatments in the 1960s to get some perspective, particularly when Law said he felt like his knee was being treated by “butchers”.

In an era when the word legend is overused, Denis Law is a legend in the old fashioned sense of the word. A bigger folk hero to the hearts and minds of United fans, you’d struggle to find. The original king of the Stretford end, he’s so popular at Old Trafford that he’s revered as much for his reaction to a goal he scored at in the Scoreboard end of Old Trafford against an already relegated United side in 1974 which just compounded it, as for any other deed of his during his time at Old Trafford. Along with Bobby Charlton, he’s probably the only United figurehead that could walk in and around City’s newly monikered stadium without getting abused.

Carlos Tevez is another ex United player who performed like a legend on the pitch when playing in red. A tigerish and mithering centre forward who never gives the best centre halves in the business a minutes peace. I’ve lost count of how many important goals he scored or created in a red shirt from where/what most people would call a lost cause. He was loved on the terraces and stands of Old Trafford, just like he was at his previous club, West Ham. When Tevez announced in June 2009 that he was leaving United, no United fan of my aquaintance was happy about hearing it. This was the second world class player United had lost in a couple of weeks after United had sold Christiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid for an eye popping £80,000,000. People were sorry but not surprised to see Ronaldo go, consensus was though that if the money paid by Real Madrid went towards signing Carlos Tevez permanently, then it’d be alright.

It didn’t, Tevez announced he was leaving United soon after and a few days after that, announced where he was going. Tevez had previously said that out of respect to United, he wouldn’t sign for our main rivals, Liverpool. It was a choice between City and Chelsea. Whilst amused at the unintended effects of his words, putting City firmly in their place, he went and signed for them. City fans were unsurprisingly ecstatic of signing Carlos Tevez from United. There was all kinds of talk of this being a seismic shift in the balance of power between the two Manchester clubs. These seismic shifts have been occuring on a bi-weekly basis since September 2008 in which time, United have won two titles and a league cup and City have won the FA Cup.  City fans with a nostrodamic foresight were singing, to the tune of “London bridge is falling down”, songs about Carlos Tevez and Munich on the day they signed him, they had him sussed all along.

Over the five years that Tevez has played in England, he has picked up a truly mind boogling amount of money in wages, to play for clubs and fans who worshiped him almost unconditionally and he has treated the fans of these clubs and the clubs themselves with an almost regal disdain, culminating in the incident in Munich on Tuesday night. Denis Law, as alluded to before, is an almost regal presence at Old Trafford. It’s an indictment of the warped realities of modern and old school football that a man who literally gave the lifelong wellbeing of his knees for Man United has, in the last twelve years released three autobiographies.

I’m not Denis Law’s accountant and thus, not privvy to his finances but the prolific nature of his autobiographical scribes tells me that he’s doing it for the need of money.  I just hope that the release of this book, obviously aimed at the Christmas stocking filler market, along with Paul Scholes and Gary Nevilles recent tomes flooding the market with United related books, yields enough money so that Denis can spend his dotage sitting in the garden, enjoying his grandkids or basically doing what the hell he wants to do and never having the need to do it again. Buy yourself the book, buy your father, granddad or uncle the book and buy your United mad kids, nieces and nephews the book, he’s a great man with an interesting story to tell.