May I be the first to wish you a happy new year, dear reader? Yes, that’s jumping the gun a tad; but being premature is very à la mode, it seems. Because Liverpool FC are the 2019 champions, or so we are told by most of the English media, so we may as well all go home.
Admittedly, Saturday was grim radio listening for Manchester Reds. And to think that only a few weeks ago, some were brightly talking up the ‘new’ Gunners as potential players in, if not winners of, the title race.
Then again, a few weeks ago we were still listening to Mourinho talking about top-four chances, while we bayed for Pogba’s blood. Ahem; *embarrassed cough*. Tempus really does fugit, doesn’t it?
But let us not mention LFC again, lest we jinx the upcoming match with City — and how wretched it is to have to be rooting for City in any football match. The night before, we will be at Newcastle, which surely constitutes the only half-serious test in Ole’s opening quintet. And we do so off the back of our first triple of the season, thanks to last night’s canter.
It was certainly hard not to be premature with the forecasts yesterday once Pogba had got us off to a flyer. Never was the result in serious doubt thereafter, against a weakened and out of form side. Just briefly, when a raised United foot in our box at 3-1 caused grimaces, did your correspondent even vaguely consider the possibilities of it going to 3-2 and thence pear-shaped. Literally minutes later, all such fear was definitively banished.
Thus ended a three-game week that must surely have been one of the most gentle, foot-rubbing, brow-soothing managerial introductions of all time. Three games of us all floating by without an apparent care in the world, as players recharged with relief and powered by euphoria behaved like fully committed enthusiastic professionals for once.
There is a perverse pleasure to be had in seeing Reds who were screaming every insult known to man at Pogba in November now treating him like the prodigal son of December. Football fans can turn as fast as the wartime crowds in 1984, when told their enemies have just become their allies — and have always been their allies.
“Did I really once say he should be melted down for tallow?” marvelled one colleague, memory now apparently obscured by the dazzle of a dozen goals in a week.
Hey-ho; like the French in 1945, we put the unpleasantness of a now-vilified regime behind us, draw a veil over any recent volte face, and march purposefully forward into what we hope will be the footballing equivalent of the Les Trentes Glorieuses. Although we do have to be patient at first, if we believe the briefings. There’ll be no new-year transfer-window treats for little Ole, it seems.
But what of transfer targets for next summer? How are United going to conduct searches and approaches for players when they don’t know who the manager will be? Or, perhaps more pertinently, when they won’t be able to tell anyone who they plan it to be? Not if they want it kept secret, anyway. Having a director of football in place would be a huge help, if they can appoint a good one ASAP, but it won’t answer a footballer’s simple must-answer question: Who will be my manager?
For now, however, such concerns aren’t in the forefront of the collective mind. It is a new year, with a new boss, and a new chance; optimism, however mindless, abounds. The new year’s resolution is simply to enjoy this honeymoon period for as long as it may last. We may even finally get to see that these players do have it in them after all. In which case, the tallow man may have to wait a while...