The light-hearted fidgeting of Christmas 2018 is over and the serious fretting of the new year can begin in Manchester City households. We can at last raise a tentative glass to the rebirth of the real City. Frail, feeble, and flawed.
What dizzying change of scenery is this? First Liverpool are anointed the new New Invincibles after their thumping win over Newcastle put them seven points clear of the old New Invincibles, City, who are now to be found floundering behind Spurs in third place.
Throw in City’s dramatic loss of form and those wise men of the media stating just a month ago that City were “simply too good for the rest of the league” are beginning to look a tiny bit premature in their grand pronouncements.
Liverpool’s emergence as the darlings of the nation is particularly galling. The immediacy of social media in this new age of Brexits, Trumpisms, and fake news can sometimes take the breath away. When one of the myriad betting establishments rinsing their reputations through the gentle yellow light of the Premier League tweets the challenge “Name us a better Premier League era defender than Virgil van Dijk”, you know hysteria is taking root and life itself may never be the same again.
In reality, association football was of course founded some time before the dawn of social media. Even the stripling Premier League has now stood tall on its own spindly legs for some 25 years, time enough for the fluffy-chinned new millenials in charge of BetBob’s Twitter feed to be emboldened by their memories stretching back literally years to a time when Alex Ferguson still ruled the roost and Rory Delap could throw a football out of the ground.
Which, in a roundabout way brings us back to the real crux of the matter.
The clever money that until a week or so ago said Klopp’s men would grind to a halt like the Anthill Mob after driving through a carefully placed mosaic of carpet tacks does not look nearly so clever anymore. As attention creeps over to those real Dick Dastardlys of the football scene, Manchester United, they too are now causing City pause for thought.
The ceremonial dumping of Jose Mourinho (the Special One), having already scorched the reputations of David Moyes (the Chosen One) and Louis van Gaal (the Egotistical One), marks a turning point in United’s modern history. The famed United Way has gone. Nobody at Old Trafford can say “we’re not a sacking club” and keep their faces straight anymore. In their desperation they have become like the rest of us and, in doing so, will now be extra focused on not repeating recent hilarious blunders.
The Latest Chosen One may have a patchy managerial record, but he is a familiar face from United’s rich past, his name and reputation held in the same breath as 8-0 larruppings of Nottingham Forest and One Night in Barcelona mythologies.
After 90 highly successful minutes in Cardiff and a home win over Huddersfield, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has already served to steady what was a sinking ship.
So, where do we go from here? City fans brought up on great disasters of all dimensions can now head back towards the all-too-familiar territory of clawing self-deprecation and cloudy pessimism.
We have had some fun watching the United soap opera develop shape. The machinations of the desperate and the clueless may be drawing to a close at last. City’s sudden slump gives the giddy red masses at both ends of the East Lancs road the opportunity to let off some steam.
For City, still apparently pounding the beat on four fronts and holders of the Premier League and Carabao Cup, the future all of a sudden looks reassuringly uncertain. Only a club steeped in the traditions of music hall farce can manage to construct such eye-wateringly improbable scenarios.