Two bitter rivals, the older of whom suddenly looks very dated, with the handsome younger one starting the favourite for the ultimate prize, and...
Ah, you’re ahead of me. Yes, that intro does work just fine for the Emirates match, too. And judging by what I’ve just seen on the telly, in this bar — accompanied by an alarming number of local Gooners, now Frenchily hooting into my face — I took the right decision to Bogartese “I’ll always have Paris”.
It’s not just the fact that United played poorly and lost, or the tedium the two teams produced for 85 of the 90 minutes. The whole event just felt flat.
What was once such a magical fixture — and one that so often lived up to its hype — has now become just another London game. Amongst the Reds I know, there was so little sense of build-up to this one that we’d almost forgotten it was on. ‘Roll up, roll up, for the megatastic Fifth Versus Sixth Smackdown!’ No, it doesn’t quite work, does it?
Going to Spurs has arguably become more of a treat.
Speaking of treats, next up is a sweet one: our Thursday semi-final night at Old Trafford. A Thursday semi-final? How very un-United, as Don Revie once almost said. The team’s display in Spain deserved its result, namely that it has placed us securely in the driving seat to make the final.
Pogba produced a well-overdue ‘big-player’ performance in Vigo, which has temporarily muffled some of his critics; you might say United did the same.
Celta are no Barcelona, of course, but they did put four goals past that very side not so long ago; let’s not do ourselves down too much here.
Yet, should the asteroid strike/Le Pen victory happen, and United NOT actually make it to Stockholm on Thursday, then Spurs away, on Sunday, would become something akin to a rather desperate season finale.
It’s almost impossible to imagine United making the top-four if we were to lose, and it’s hard to imagine us recovering sufficiently from such a disaster three days earlier to beat a very good Spurs team.
Mon dieu: suddenly, I’m sweating. That would be not so much ‘squeaky bum time’ as an uncontrolled bowel event. (Enjoying your breakfast, folks?)
Let us calm ourselves with some transfer-gossip tranquilisers. You can’t have failed to notice that the press are in manic pre-window mode, at the moment, so let me share what I’ve been told over the past fortnight.
Jorge Mendes, the super-agent, had a planning meeting with Ed Woodward, in Manchester, after guesting at a recent game; shortly thereafter, Mourinho was heard telling friends he thinks De Gea will end up leaving. Many final in-and-out decisions have not been taken, because there are two different ‘shopping lists’ to choose from, dependent on next season’s Champions League status. The reported links with PSG’s Augier and Marquinhos are well-founded, although they are a long way from crystallising.
Griezmann has supposedly made it clear he will only come if we get into the European Cup. United are, indeed, very interested in Belotti, an interest that has been enthusiastically welcomed by most Euro-savvy Reds I know. And, finally, Michael Keane’s return to Old Trafford is “very close” to being finalised, according to three separate, family-linked sources. But what do we need most of all? The league table never lies, they say: all of the rivals above us have scored 20 goals more than we have. We average only 1.5 per game, and that’s also largely why United have drawn ten times at home. To rework Bill Shankly, sometimes football really is as simple as it seems: buy someone who can finish a chance as well as his dinner, José.