As the sweating latter cockney stepped tremulously onto the stage, a Govanite accent rang out from the stalls: “Ach, nooo: there’s TWO of ‘em.”
Fellow Govanite Fergie, not to mention the rest of us, could’ve sympathised on Saturday as we watched Anton and Rio in that staggering second half, the former scoring whilst the latter — along with Vidic, admittedly — had a bit of a nightmare. Wasn’t too funny either; just like the Winters, then.
Rio should also have been punished by a penalty, which would have succinctly capped a wretched Christmas for the wobbly-gobbed one. You will recall he was the organiser of the now infamous players’ party, supervising the collection of a five figure sum. Rio was by all accounts very well behaved that night.
Much has been made of Ferguson punishing all the players, supposedly, yet I note that Rio himself played much of the subsequent Sunderland match wearing the captain’s armband. Well, then: either he was being honoured by the Boss for his unaccountable failure to molest anyone that night, or it would appear that Britain’s notorious “rewards for failure” culture has conquered Old Trafford too. To be frank, neither reason seems acceptable.
One notes too that Danny Simpson’s payback for his role that night — getting into a dance-floor fight for which he had to phone his co-combatant in apology next day, I can reveal — was to get a rare selection for the first team in the next match. Given that last year’s do also ended in some uproar and property damage, and that previous years have also featured some seedy stories I am going to take most of these ‘Fergie Fury’ stories with a pinch of salt. Millionaires who are too talented to be sold by a desperate European Cup-starved manager are, essentially, uncontrollable and indisciplinable in any meaningful sense, so let’s not kid ourselves otherwise, hey?
Granted, you can afford to jettison the attitudinal types when they are low-flying beasts like Richardson or Bardsley — but Rio and Rooney? No chance. They fear their women more than Fergie, and even then they seem to get off scot-free most times when the domestic rolling pin scenes unfurl. After all, Coleen’s no fool: you don’t end up earning more than your star footballer partner — as she now does, incredibly and absurdly — by chucking them out at the first sign of naughtiness. Just lie back and think of (the Bank Of) England, girls.
Enough: let us neatly close up this tawdry subject with a festively-themed punchline. What did the Upton Park disaster and the Great John Street party have in common? As far as United went, neither featured three wise men nor a virgin. (Tumbleweed blows by. Blimey: who let the Winters back in ‘ere?) As I write on New Year’s Eve — happy birthday, Fergie; I didn’t think you’d still be here, so one-nil to you, Sir — I don’t know whether we will have made amends for all that disgrace and for West Ham by beating Brum on Tuesday. But in any event our attention is already focussed on the FA Cup and a cracker of a tie at Villa on Saturday, a match whose eminent loseability makes it all the more attractive. A packed Cup-allocation away end, forceful and historically-charged opposition — no, we still haven’t forgotten 1957, let alone 2002 — and, of course, May’s stinging Wembley defeat to avenge by going one better this season: a merry start to a Happy New Year indeed, I trust.
* Richard Kurt, whose “Red Army Years” is only available via firstname.lastname@example.org