For once, in his post-match comments on Saturday, José didn’t dissemble, and he spoke for what was in all our hearts. We all knew we’d robbed the Cherries blind - but we felt it was the cosmic karmic balancing for our own last-gasp mugging at Stamford Bridge two weeks back. Somewhere in the back of mind chirped the old cliché “these things even out over a season”.
Mourinho was scarcely exaggerating when he suggested we could’ve been 5- or 6-2 down at half-time. We have certainly seen some witless panic-stricken first halves during this increasingly bizarre season, but that was surely right up there with the best/worst of them.
United’s second-half fightback, which centred upon an unexpectedly lively and unprecedentedly effective Sanchez display in the middle, did deserve at least a point; Rashford’s coup de grace was a tad cruel but ecstatically received in a gooning United end that had earlier been groaning over his previous misses.
Marcus has been the cause of much agitated debate amongst fans for weeks now. Twas ever thus, you might say; in some ways, this all reminds me of Andy Cole, another naturally gifted and instinctive forward who could never quite convince the whole stadium that he was an intelligent enough player for us.
Still, Andy ended up with a European Cup winner’s medal, and scored a Premiership clincher, both of which feats must seem inconceivable to Rashford at the moment. Bouncing fun though full-time was on Saturday, no-one’s forecasting such great things for this squad.
First we have to face Juventus in Turin while still fresh from the “schooling” their Harvard-level players gave us the other week; then we go to the lair of the world’s most brilliant cheats for a potential flaying next Sunday.
I say “cheats” because the latest Football Leaks have just confirmed what we all have believed for years. That is: City and PSG successfully got away with the most obvious manipulation of the football rule book ever seen, and thus are both now unsurprisingly dominating their countries’ football off the back of their plutocratic windfall.
Hearings, and perhaps court cases, to come will eventually determine who, if anyone, should be held to account for what happened, and whether the obvious manipulation amounted to actual indictable misconduct.
But by then, will anyone care? Because the Leaks’ more newsworthy revelation was that the top clubs are all still engaging in secret plotting for a European superleague, long after we’d thought such plans had been thwarted.
The details of the proposals being made have nauseated many fans, some of whom claim they will abandon the game should they come to pass. Hmm; we’ll see.
I’ve heard many a fan promise he will do X or Y should Z come to pass, and it’s telling how often those promises are forgotten or reworded by the time August comes around again.
Indeed, the only mass fan promise I can recall that many have genuinely stuck to is that made by thousands who founded FC United in 2005: to boycott the Glazers. They have clung to their creation and eschewed the temptations of the bright lights of Old Trafford, even when they were missing out on European Cup Finals. Their principled stand’s rarity illuminates its admirability.
But we get ahead of ourselves. The idea of United fans fretting about a superleague seems absurd when we currently can’t even get into the Premier League’s top four, and are in serious danger of not qualifying from our Champions League group. We’re about as far from ‘super’ as we have been in over a decade.
And yet...I remember the doom ‘n’ gloom before our last visit to Turin. We expected a beating, and a shockingly out-of-form Ryan Giggs was supposedly on his way out of the club. Cue a dazzling career-saving display from the Welshman, and a sensational 3-0 win. And what of our last visit to City? We were supposedly just there to make up the numbers and watch them lift the title. Cue the then under-fire Pobga ‘doing a Giggs’; wasn’t that the happiest day of the season?
So: prepare for the worst but dream of the best. It’s not much of a plan, but it’ll have to do. I’ll leave you to insert your own Mourinho pre-match-talk joke there...”