We live in strange times. Last weekend, the coldest one this year thus far, there was no sign of any of those blue and white scarves that were so ubiquitous last season. Perhaps those scarves like the team they showed an allegiance to is, to use the vernacular of the fashion fraternity, “so last year”. Fashion is a fickle thing and that trait is something that dovetails beautifully with our mustachioed blue cousins. The noisy neighbours have suddenly gone very quiet. You may not have seen any City fans for a few weeks, maybe even a few months. You may feel that they’re now truly doing a Poznan and singing We’re Not Really Here but fellow reds, it’s our duty as decent people and neighbours to knock on their doors or call their phones. Ask them if they want a paper, maybe some shopping or suchforth. Whatever you do, call them, remind them of the fifteen point gap constantly and laugh your fuckin’ head off. After the gloatathon (sic) of last summer, it’s the very least we can do. With City’s defeat/moral victory at Goodison Park, a very good day was compunded by the Leeds scum and Liverpool losing. It’s always a joy to hear both of them have lost no matter how far they’ve slipped down the footballing pyramid. Liverpool had recently enjoyed a couple of decent results. This meant that they’d had their 79th resurgence since they last won the title 23 years ago. I’ll repeat that, 23 YEARS. Rodgers must stay!
Today was the antithesis of the almost funereal and sombre atmosphere of last seasons final home game against Swansea, which was played in the immediate aftermath of City’s win at St James Park. That day, I went into town with Peter G and Neil Beale after the match and ended up getting hammered with good beer and even better company. For all that, it had a rueful atmosphere, like that of a wake. Today, walking down the Warwick Road, old friends greeted each other with hand shakes that were slightly more vigorous than usual. Old school United fans are generally a shrewd seen-it-all-before kind of crowd on a league run in but there comes a point, where even though it’s not mathematical, the league is as good as won and today that feeling finally came. The last time we felt this to be the case pre-Easter was in 2001. Last seasons collapse on the run-in was a sickener, particularly Everton at home but City plugged away with resilience and deservedly won the title due to Uniteds reckless, nigh on suicidal defensive play. After what I saw at Goodison Park today, that won’t happen again. City had a golden opportunity today to put some pressure on United. Roberto Mancini had been whining about United playing their matches first in recent weeks so today, with City having not lost in five weeks and having won their last five matches, they were up against a demoralised Everton side who seven days ago, were booed off their home pitch having lost 3-0 to Wigan in the FA Cup. City didn’t as much lose as they were outplayed by a side who played a third of the match with ten men. As things stand, United have to lose five matches between now and the end of the season and that’s allowing for the improbability of City winning every single one of their remaining matches. The matches City have include away trips to White Hart Lane, Old Trafford and Swansea. If City win the title from here with a run-in like that I’ll sing Blue Moon on the Saturday night karaoke in the Three Legs of Man on Stretford Road.
There’s a way of playing football which is demanded by the crowd at Old Trafford, basically entertaining, attacking and free spirited wing play is what should be on the menu. The truth is, we’ve not seen a great deal of that this season. How many truly great matches can you recall this term at Old Trafford? Tottenham last September was one (even though we lost), Newcastle on Boxing Day another and the Real Madrid game was a great match ruined by a referee who should have just worn a shirt saying “Look at me Mam, look where I am”! All said, they’re the only great matches I can think of from this season at Old Trafford. Todays match was more of the same, it was woeful. Reading are like Norwich City, the last league visitors to Old Trafford, a feisty and game side who play with plenty of heart and equal mediocrity. Today was the third time United had beaten Reading this season and it was easily the most nervous United performance of that trilogy. A moment of genius came from Rio Ferdinand on 21 minutes when, with the subtlest of chips past Garath McCleary, he set up Wayne Rooney who scored United’s winner via a deflection off Alex Pearce which looped over Reading goalkeeper Stuart Taylor. Just after half time and right in line with the linesman, Nemanja Vidic pushed Adrian Mariappa in the United penalty area which looked a certain penalty to me. Much to my relief, referee Lee Mason didn’t see it that way and this was the second contentious (if not wrong) penalty area decision to go United’s way today after the Marouane Fellaini handball in the 86th minute at Goodison today was incorrectly given as a free kick for City on the edge of the penalty area. It’s a conspiracy City fans I tell you, a conspiracy (wibble…wibble…wibble ad infinitum). Coming soon on your super soaraway ManUtdfansblog, some of the text’s and emails I received from City fans last summer.