We had woken yesterday to the sad news of the death of actor Frank Kelly, who as Father Jack was arguably the most popular Catholic priest in Britain since GK Chesterton’s best-selling days.
Thinking of Jack’s hapless housemates Ted and Dougal while en route to watching the United-Arsenal match, I chuckled at the memory of the ill-matched bumbling duo, habitually praying for a miracle to get them out of some scrape into which their incompetence had driven them. Naturally, that then led me to think of Messrs Van Gaal and Giggs.
And as I remembered who we were about to face — the title-chasing sophisticates of Arsenal — and fretfully counted our injuries, Fr Jack’s words seemed the only possible response: “Feck!” and “drink!”
But miracles do happen in football. Once upon a time, as devotional Reds will recall from the Book Of Fergie, there was Mark Robins, who would suddenly appear like a celestial vision in penalty boxes to deliver us from the evils of potlessness and possible relegation in 1990.
Mike Dean will do that to you https://t.co/EDHd9vwNW9— James Dart (@James_Dart) February 28, 2016
His name had been back on our lips ever since mid-December when, with our collective backs to the wall, we had all begun to wonder whether only such a deus ex machina could save LVG’s dismal régime. Since the New Year, as casualties have mounted in the treatment room and the remnants of LVG’s possession philosophy crumbled, we have ended up having to throw the kids into improvised battle, the whiff of Hitler’s bunker in the air.
Shortly after nine o’clock on Thursday night, one of those unknown kids looked History in the face, grabbed the nearest figurative pen, and scrawled his name in huge letters all over its next chapter. And as though keen to prove it was indeed a genuine miracle, and not just a fluke, he promptly repeated the trick yesterday.
Rashford’s brace of braces against the Danish midgets and London giants, embodying the exuberance and fearlessness of youth seizing hold of adulthood, now stand every chance of being as fondly remembered in a quarter of a century as Robins’ cup goals are today. (Unless *cough* he’s simply the new Macheda. But let’s not spoil the moment, hey?)
Is the bad spell broken, then? Most of us, based on recent grim experience, had expected to win through against weak opposition in the two cups but then come a huge cropper against the Gunners: I had described this season’s well-worn LVG United manoeuvre of two tentative steps forward, followed by a huge one back, as the Fresian Fandango.
But now that the Fletcher Moss Foxtrot has so spectacularly emerged onto the dance card, with the resultant explosion of relief and flood of renewed confidence in the team, can we dare hope to see our one overriding hope fulfilled? Namely that this collection of players finally be allowed to produce the sum of its parts?
It may seem perverse to some outsiders to say so, but in one respect we can be grateful that Louis has had his hand forced. Rooney’s absence not only played its part in the process that allowed Rashford on to the pitch in the first place, but it has also obviously meant the abandonment of gameplans based around his lumpen centrality. Churlish though it may sound, given that he had at least begun to find the net again, Rooney’s injury has been the mother of invention.
Moreover, who today would pine for his return, when Rashford and Martial are suddenly offering us the most entertaining new double-act these islands have seen since, well, Fathers Ted and Dougal?
Wayne, take your time in the treatment room; sit back and enjoy a nice cup of Mrs Doyle’s tea. Go on, now, go on. And y’know, there’s plenty more where that came from to be had in China, if you fancy a trip...”