Enjoying Anfield’s 19th title dilemma

GREETINGS from a broiling yet beautiful Lyons, where I am sat drinking Paulaner surrounded by pink-faced sweating lard-buckets wearing Red.

Sadly, they are from Munich, not Manchester as I had hoped when I booked the trip.

Still, it’ll be an amusing sublime- to-ridiculous expedition to have to trawl over to the wild wastes of Wearside for Sunday’s potential showdown.

The euphoria of last Saturday’s final ten minutes against Spurs has long since faded, it must be conceded: such is the effect of subsequently seeing your rivals knock seven shades out of their opponents (“Stoke won’t roll over for anyone,” Mystic Fergie had laughably declared the day before).

I note that our two final fixtures are against the very two teams Chelsea have sept-acularly destroyed, and I can’t say I’m expecting United to come anywhere near emulating them in either case, especially not without Rooney.

Nonetheless, ! I trust we all recognised what a splendid performance Berbatov gave in the second half against his old team-mates. And once again, I am reminded of 1994/5: Berbatov is reprising the role of Andy Cole in that run-in, a player who was dividing the fans throughout the spring as we mourned the key absence of a talisman (for Rooney, read Cantona).

I remember Cole superbly guiding us to key penultimate furlong wins against Southampton and Coventry that year, before he collapsed ignominiously at the final fence in east London. Lord, spare Our Dimi that fate in ten days’ time; not even we self-confessed Berbaphiles believe he would ever live that down.

I was impressed by Modric and I was intrigued to see Fergie giving him an extensive bigging-up in his programme notes too. Naturally, this has set tongues wagging about a potential summer move, although our information at Red Issue is still that James Milner, and perhaps Stephen Ireland, are far higher up the priority list.

Milner is talked of in some footballers’ social circles in town as “nailed on” for United, although some would suggest old Wiggy might be a better bet, not least because he is a boyhood United fan. In contrast, Milner is Leeds United through and through – never a good omen.

Then again, you can read too much into the significance of old enmities. Take Liverpool this coming weekend, facing the hilariously horrific prospect of helping hand us the key 19th title.

Again, it’s back to 1994/5: remember the final day, when no-one believed the Scousers would do anything other than roll over for their beloved Kenny Dalglish? Yet triumph they did, causing many of us Reds to shamefully look down at our shoes. This time around, they clearly have something to fight for on their own account too, and there’ll certainly be no aspersions being cast around here, nor whingeing afterwards if Chelsea win comfortably. Unfortunately, one can’t vouch for Fergie, though…

So we head to Sunderland still hoping against hope, to be frank. And that’s despite the good omens: Brucey sides have been our pliant opponents in two successful past title deciders; Macheda has summoned up memories of last year’s equally sensational (and near title-winning) intervention against Villa; and Nani’s exquisite goal-touch reminded us of Andy Cole against the same opposition at 1999’s climax.

But if the next time you and I commune, we do so as supporters of a team that’s just conceded the title, let us not whine about it like, well, a Chelsea Nu-fan would. They’ll have beaten us home and away, they’ll have kept their nerve at the pressure points, and they’ll more than likely have set various goal-difference records in the process. For there’s one key distinction between 1995 and now: then, we felt robbed. But this time, we probably shouldn’t.

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