An ‘easy’ start but jury remains out on Owen

IRREFUTABLE proof that I am getting both old and sad: more than once, whilst watching Sunday’s rather tedious 90 minutes, I found myself slyly turning on an earpiece-tranny combo to hear what Alan Green was blathering on about on the BBC’s commentary.

I’ll be toting a thermos and a tartan lap-shawl at this rate. Old Radio-Face never lets you down; within 10 minutes of kick-off, he was absurdly alleging that United had been given easy early fixtures “yet again” and invited listeners to draw the conclusion that the whole matter was a standard MUFC/PL fix.

Yes, and aliens killed JFK, didn’t they Alan?

Yet glancing at our opening trio, you wonder if he’s onto something: behold a week of pleasant and untaxing Old Pal’s Acts for Fergie to ease his way into the new campaign, against three of the top six bookies’ favourites for relegation.

On Sunday, he would’ve been draining the best claret with long-time mate and Fergie-worshipping Big ‘Eck, whilst up in the boardroom Karren Brady was reunited with her gossip-gal, United director Momo Watkins.

Tonight, we will doubtless have all sorts of nauseating flummery between Fergie and close crony-turned-MP-wannabe Alastair Campbell, who is increasingly referred to as ‘Mr Burnley’ by some, and ‘Revolting Dossier-Forging War Criminal Apologist’ by others (Guess which camp I’m in).

Thus, given the overall genial atmosphere and soft opposition, if we’re not sat atop the division on Sunday night with a maximum nine points, then it’d be as unexpected and unwelcome as, say, the sight of that slimy Scouse fink Michael Owen in a United kit would be.

Can you imagine that?!... oh.

Yes, Sunday will be remembered not for Rooney’s instantly forgettable goal but for a late substitution and first-class debut that will live on in the annals of infamy, say some.

Two clear months since the deal was originally done, and many of us still can’t quite get a handle on it.

I suppose one should concede it was less of an out-of-the-blue shock than the Eric Cantona signing, as Owen-to-United had already been seriously mooted in 2005. And many are currently arguing that we hated Alan Smith when he was at Leeds more than we ever did Owen, who never seemed as loathably Scouse as, say, Jamie Carragher or Robbie Fowler.

Moreover, there is certainly no gamble involved in his signing, and his desperate hunger to succeed is blindingly obvious.

Nonetheless: for now, you can place me in the Less-Than-Thrilled camp, sat back with arms folded muttering “go on, impress me, then.”

At least it gives the grumpier amongst us someone to pick on apart from Rio Ferdinand, though.

But let us praise, not bury: hats off to Patrice Evra and Dimitar Berbatov, who produced most of the class on display, and also congratulations to Ben Foster who, after looking shaky for so long, may have turned a corner with his dazzling late save.

Elsewhere, Antonio Valencia shocked no-one in proving he is no Cristiano Ronaldo.

Technically sound though Valencia may be, you fear for the loss of overall dynamism and accelerative capacity in the team.

A glance at Goodison on Saturday showed what we might be against on that score this season: are we up to it? And if not, wouldn’t that €60m bank credit help?

So, off to the heathen wilderness tonight: my dad went to the 1975/6 fixture, and came back shuddering, simply saying “never again”.

Ignore the sentimental tripe hype: Burnley is a vile club.

Let’s hope they are relegated.

Richard Kurt’s, ‘Red Army Years’ is available for Xmas via:

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