Terrace Talk: Man United - Passion play returning to Theatre of Dreams

Ole Gunnar always struck me as a lucky player at United. That ‘good luck charm’ quality seemed apt for his impish, otherwordly-creature demeanour, too. He’d come on for the final act at the Theatre of Dreams like some Shakespearean sprite and conjure up another improbable Midwinter’s Night winner, before exiting stage left and taking the next magic sleigh ride to Lapland. (Well, Kristiansund; near enough.)

Terrace Talk: Man United - Passion play returning to Theatre of Dreams

Ole Gunnar always struck me as a lucky player at United. That ‘good luck charm’ quality seemed apt for his impish, otherwordly-creature demeanour, too. He’d come on for the final act at the Theatre of Dreams like some Shakespearean sprite and conjure up another improbable Midwinter’s Night winner, before exiting stage left and taking the next magic sleigh ride to Lapland. (Well, Kristiansund; near enough.)

Still, even this particularly fortunate festive elf must’ve chuckled when he saw the Yuletide fixture list on the day he got the United job. Three easy games, two against terrible sides; two at home, and the other at what was his familiar second home. Also, he will have noted last night that his next opponents have just been taken apart and all flaws exposed in a five-goal thumping. No baptism of fire; more a christening in cotton wool.

To add to all that on top of the Christmas cake, a bowl-full of glacé cherries, viz. the sudden and spectacular mid-season avalanche at Manchester City. That equivalent of having the world’s best-looking bloke stunt-skiing in a loincloth past your wife’s chalet every day, that ever-present in-yer-face horror which blighted Mourinho’s daily existence as a reminder of his inferiority — gone. Of course, they are likely to be back, but bruised and dirty, with their hair mussed up. However much one may pray, or stab pins into Pep voodoo dolls, no squad with that quality folds overnight.

But we have all now seen that it’s not only Liverpool who have found the secret to beating them, and that they are actually capable of losing successive matches. They are, after all — whisper it into Emperor Pep’s laurel-flecked ear, someone — mortal.

This may come as a shock to some members of the English press pack, who’ve taken to describing watching City as being akin to some sort of transcendent semi-religious experience.

Having their ‘good news’ story relentlessly rubbed into our faces for so long — at a time when United have been almost nothing but bad news — has been galling. Not least because their fairytale’s fundamental underpinning — financial cheating via despicably accumulated sovereign wealth — was usually only mentioned en passant or in footnote.

So twice in just five days, we have enjoyed what had become an almost forgotten pleasure; basking in success while sniggering at City calamity. How long has it been? Oh, how we used to take this for granted under Fergie.

To be frank, we all took the win over Huddersfield for granted too and, naturally, everyone expects a similar portion of good cheer on Saturday, when the Cherries turn up, hopefully still groggy from being roughly destoned at Spurs.

How wonderfully weird it feels to go into games confidently expecting to win again. How almost forgotten was the sensation of Pogba making you cheer instead of vomit. (Is there a ‘Pogmoji’ for that?) These are the same players who were cringeing under the weight of the sturm und drang above their heads just a fortnight ago; they now look as gleeful as Christmas kids who got the number one present on their Santa list. (Which is, I suppose, what they are).

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And somewhere out there in the winter wilderness, presumably glowering with resentment at being stitched up and parcelled off by Ole the elf and Eddy the troll, will be The Grinch Whose Christmas Was Stolen. José has 18 million reasons not to let this fester too long; sometimes, you just have to accept your luck has finally run out. Ole’s old luck is clearly powering on into Fergie time; long may the ref’s whistle be delayed.

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