Moral Victory For The Perenial Losers In The FA Cup, Manchester, 10th of January 2012

The Police were having a quiet day yesterday in town, obviously disapointed that there was virtually no trouble so they did what they’re the best in the world at and tried creating trouble to give justification for their heavy presence in town. All the baloney pre-match from the GMP about every copper near the Etihad stadium “being in riot equipment” was shown for the rubbish it was on approach to the ground. There was a line of police outside the away fans turnstliles and approximately 30 police across Ashton New Road togged up in riot gear scratching their arses outside the Kippax chippy. In town, the Police unilaterally closed the Paramount pub on Oxford road to a group of peaceful fans five minutes before kick off. With the timing of the closure, a person of a more cynical disposition may think they’d done that to wind up a pub full of lads waiting for the match to kick off by forcing them to find somewhere else at such short notice, maybe create a disturbance. In my view, anybody who has that train of thought is spot on.

As we all now know, United ran rampant in the first half yesterday at the Etihad stadium. Rooney made it 1-0 when City still had eleven men on the pitch. City skipper and Centre half Vincent Kompany was sent off a couple of minutes later. When I was growing up, watching and playing football, the tackle that Kompany did would’ve been at worse a booking and a free kick. Most referee’s would’ve ignored it and called it a fair challenge, but whether it’s 1982, 1992 or 2012, a two footed tackle was the same then as it is now, the only difference is, now it’s an automatic red card. I don’t believe Vincent Kompany did that tackle yesterday with any malice, but malicious or not is not really the point. A footballer of Kompany’s skill and a man of his intelligence knew what he was risking when he went in two footed on Nani. How low his feet were to the ground, whether he got the ball or not or intent is a complete irrelevance. The most alarming thing to me about the whole thing was Wayne Rooney running to the referee, Chris Foy, like a schoolyard grass pointing out the two footed challenge. I don’t like seeing that from any footballer, but when a United player does it, it disgusts me. Rooney, we all love as a player and for his commitment on the pitch but for Christ sake, I hope he turn’s that in.

On Twitter last night, Vincent Kompany said “The fans, the players and every single person involved with Man City FC were incredible today. Definitely the moral winners of this game”. It was a surprise to absolutely nobody that City tried claiming a “moral victory” yesterday. The mentality of the club is of one constantly used to losing so they’ve been claiming all kinds of moral victories since 1976. The only people who ever claim a moral victory are the perenial losers. City won the FA cup last season, they look a good bet for both the Premier League and the League cup this season yet they’re still trying to claim moral victories in matches that they’ve lost. Can anybody remember the last time United tried claiming a moral victory or more accurately, the moral high ground after losing a match. United played Arsenal off the pitch in the 2005 FA Cup final in Cardiff but lost, on penalties. Not one player, fan or official of United claimed a moral victory after Patrick Viera slotted the winning penalty in for Arsenal that afternoon. It would’ve been deeply embarrasing if anybody had, United just went home, correctly feeling robbed but ultimately knowing that Arsenal won, United had lost and C’est la vie. City appear to want the respect, kudos and sympathy from every angle. In City’s world, there’s no such thing as a defeat, just victories and moral victories. When a player from an opposing side to them gets sent off, rightly or wrongly then that’s just how it goes. When one of their players get sent off, at best, it’s incompetence of the worst level or at worst, a conspiracy against them. City now want to be known as a club on the up, a club that’s gonna get used to winning things on a regular basis, a club that’s going to be mentioned in world footballing circles in the same breath as United, Liverpool and Arsenal. They also want to retain the affection of the English public that they’ve picked up over the years through losing games in pretty hilarious circunstances sometimes and as such, they’ve become much lionised for their gallows humour. One thing they’re going to learn is that if they do start winning things, with the regularity that they intend is that they’re going to come up against a lot of hostility in this country. The English mentality is to depise winners, take ’em down a peg or two. It’s based on envy and resentment but when City players and fans start noticing these emotions will be when they can call themselves succesful. It’s one or the other.

United fans of my age and above, should be able to remember a time when United were the most popular second choice team of a large section of the English population. In them days, particularly of teams fielded by Tommy Docherty and Ron Atkinson, United played exciting, swashbuckling football, won the odd cup, even more friends but more often than not lost agonisingly to teams that didn’t play with United’s flair or free spirited abandon but with more professionalism and discipline. It was OK to like United then because they were relatively harmless. Liverpool were the big bad dull ogre in them days, in 1982, they won the title with such ease, that when presented with the title at Anfield, instead of players passing the trophy along to their teammates, they nonchelantly tossed the cup to each other.

The day that Oldham won at Villa Park in May 1993, to hand the title to United for the first time in 26 years was the day that everything changed. Suddenly, resentment and jealousy reared it’s head from all kinds of unexpected avenues. It reached an hysterical crescendo less than two years later, in January 1995, when Eric Cantona took the law into his own hands at Selhurst Park and provoked a public and media outcry so severe that I was begining to think that England was a massive outdoor lunatic asylum. It was even worse when David Beckham got sent off for a petulant kick at Diego Simeone in St Etienne at the World Cup in 1998. The English public, heavily aided and abetted by a shit stirring tabloid press, decided that not only did Beckham cost England the match, but also the World Cup itself. I can see their point, the England team of 1998 would’ve made mincemeat of the winning French Team of Zinedine Zidane, David Trezeguet, Emmanuel Petit, et al, should they have met. There was police escorts for Beckham for nearly six months after that incident with panic alarms installed in his house. There was efigies of him hanging off a lampost in East London and hundreds, if not thousands of t-shirts printed informing Beckham that “He’s let himself and his country down”, just in case nobody had informed him earlier.

At about 5.45 yesterday afternoon, all United fans found out that our reward for beating City in the third round was going to be an away trip to Anfield. Whilst a shaken and stirred Jim Rosenthal was openly salivating at the outcome of this draw, there were wry smiles and grins all around me. Despite Joleon Lescotts attempted sage, but wildly innacurate and desperate assertion on Friday that City were now our biggest match, we’d now been drawn against our greatest enemy and rival. This is a match that in times of relative civility is a big one but after the recent affair of Luis Suarez racially abusing Patrice Evra at Anfield, this is bigger than ever. No doubt Merseyside police, Liverpool FC and the local council will come up with some spurious health & saftey excuse to deny United their right to 15% of match tickets. After United’s allocation for Anfield was slashed by a third for the league match in October on similar grounds, I’m confident it will happen again this month. it’s about time United hit these bastards tit for tat.

Luis Suarez’s comical defence has been made funnier by the chicken mourning followers of his club suddenly becoming knowledgable authority’s on the quirks and nuances of Uruguayan dialect. Suarez’s claim of terms of endearment whilst saying to Evra after kicking him on the knee  “Porque tu eres negro” (“Because you are black”), “Dale, negro…negro…negro” (“Bring it on, blackie”) and “No hablo con los negros” (“I don’t speak to blacks”) whilst pinching his arm was obviously a touching display of misunderstood bonhomie, to use Evra’s mother tongue for once. Since the guilty verdict was announced, Liverpool went on a robust defensive. Alluding without explicitly saying they’d appeal, wearing t-shirts at Wigan in support of a proven racist and once they’d seen the damning evidence against Suarez released, reluctantly and aggresively accepting the suspension without appeal but hinting at some sinster agendum and misunderstanding which, presumably down to the official secrets act, they’re not allowed to disclose.

What Liverpool have done is the classic default defence of the victim. It is not the first time they’ve done it. At the 1985 European cup final in Brussels, a faction of Liverpool followers were responsible for the deaths of 39 Juventus fans. Nowadays, if you hear any scousers reminisce about that night, you’d think that Liverpool were the injured party and not the club who’s fans had got all English clubs banned from Europe indefinetly, it ended up being five years. In the aftermath of the Heysel disaster, senior officials at Anfield tried blaming a gang of Chelsea fans (whom were never identified) who’d decided to go to Brussels for a Liverpool match against Juventus just so they could have a fight with the Italians.

Blood Red Sky Tonight Eclipses The Blue Moon, Manchester 8th Of January 2012

In two days time, it will be the 25th anniversary of Sir Alex Ferguson’s first FA Cup match as Manchester United manager which was won 1-0, with a goal by Norman Whiteside, against Manchester City. Over the last twenty five years, Ferguson’s been written off countless times by the certain people in the media. The first time was in the winter of 1989, the latest time was last week. Yet again all the obituaries have been written in haste, the front cover of this months 442 magazine was obviously commisioned with a United defeat at the Bradford gasworks stadium (thank you Mr Cousins) in the FA Cup expected. After the last match at Old Trafford between United and City, this is the first Manchester derby I’ve looked on with any trepidation since the 3-3 draw at Maine Road in October 1990, the last time City had a side that could’ve been considered somewhere near equal to United.

City today, were virtually at full strength. Sure, Yaya Toure has been collared by the Ivory Coast for African Nation’s cup but his replacement, Nigel De Jong ain’t a bad player to have as back up. City rested first choice keeper Joe Hart and replaced him with Costel Pantilimon, they can’t even say that the change of keeper weakened them as there was nothing Pantilimon could have done with any of Uniteds first half goals. Vincent Kompany was sent off for a two footed tackle on Nani on twelve minute’s, two minute’s after Rooney had headed United into the lead. In my opinion, the sending off was harsh, definetly a foul and a yellow card but not a sending off. Whilst Kompany may have been unlucky to have been sent off, the way City collapsed between then and half time is an indictment on them. Today in the first half, the pressure was really on for City and they can’t use the excuse of being a man down for that collapse. Any team with City’s aspiration’s should be able to cope with the loss of one man, no matter how harsh the decision or how important the player is to the team, which Vincent Kompany obviously is. The one City player who scares the shit out of me when he’s got the ball, David Silva, was anonymous throughout the entire game. The other dangerman Sergio Kun Aguero was a menace that was generally kept well under control apart from obviously the 64th minute when he seized on a James Milner cross after he’d capitalised on a mistake by a very rusty Paul Scholes.

United fans celebrating at the Bradford Gasworks stadium (Photograph courtesy of Neil Meehan)

I’ve since heard that from pundits and journalists that Wayne Rooney scored for United, against the run of play on 10 minutes. It must have been a similar run of play that the absent today, Mario Balotelli scored at Old Trafford in October as I never felt United were under any serious threat before City scored. Danny Wellbeck scored a beauty on 31 minutes with a swivelling volley that surprised Costel Pantilimon in the City goal. United were going for City with some gusto. Aleksandar Kolarov made a clumsy challenge on Wellbeck on 39 minutes for a definite penalty, Rooney forced a great save from Pantilimon but heads in the rebound. Before the match a win, any win would’ve been more than welcome. We’re now all dreaming of avenging the 6-1 defeat in October, especially when the magnificent Wellbeck just fails to connect in the six yard box in first half injury time. With all the momentum in United’s favour, half time was a nuiscance, it gave City time to regroup. When Aleksandar Kolarov scored with a perfect free kick, after a pretty soft decision from referee Chris Foy on 48 minutes, even with a man advantage, we knew it wasn’t going to be straight forward. Two minutes before Aguero brought the game back to 3-2, Valencia was tripped in the City box by Aleksandar Kolarov, for a blatant penalty which was waved away, by referee Chris Foy. After Aguero scored, it was a very nervous last 25 minutes.

United have had a couple of bad performance’s and defeat’s lately. Before today’s match, any win would’ve been welcome for United, bearing in mind City’s form and the feeling of dread amongst my red brethren for this game. With City’s failure to sell all their tickets for this fixture and with today’s result, it saves the deeply religious City fans of being in the moral Quandary of what to do on Sunday afternoons when their team are at home. Since the final whistle, a couple of hours ago, I’ve had text’s and phone call’s off red’s that I both like and respect telling me that it feel’s like a defeat or at best, a draw after the second half performance. As much as I like and respect these guy’s, I think it’s complete bollocks. United have won a game, back’s to the wall, away from home against a team that on present form, are the best in the country. There’s a lot of talk of papering over the cracks, especially with Scholes coming out of retirement but the crack’s have been getting papered over ever since them parasites seized control of the club in 2005. Whilst City have been running round like Viv Nicholson after too many Babycham’s and financial armagedon might only be round the corner for United, we might as well enjoy days like today as we’ve all known for a long time what’s coming.