For much of the past few months, you could argue that the British Prime Minister whom Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has most resembled is Boris Johnson. A hugely popular potential saviour who ends up stumbling into one contretemps after another, yet somehow always manages to plough doggedly on to the next.
But this morning, Ole can channel the 1979 leader Jim Callaghan instead of 2019 Boris. ‘Crisis? What crisis?’ he is entitled to say, after his boys scored six in two games. The misery of Bournemouth suddenly seems a long away. A week is an even longer time in football than in politics, as Harold Wilson almost said.
You might be able to detect from the above that this is election time in the UK, and we Brit Reds can thus be forgiven for having our minds elsewhere. But there’s an obvious parallel; massive uncertainty is on both the political and footballing horizons. Britain is heading for either socialist calamity or free-trading apocalypse (delete as per taste), and no-one really has a clue how the Ole Experiment will end up either.
I could just as easily believe we will be competing for a Champions League place come May as struggling to keep out of the relegation fight. We did, after all, kick-off in 14th place yesterday; these are not times for over-confidence or easy assumptions.
Indeed, plenty of O.T. grumblers will still insist that Partizan and Brighton were two terrible teams, playing badly, and these stuffings were the very least they could have expected. And, of course, we were at home, cossetted by a warmly sympathetic crowd desperate to believe. Maybe so, but these have still constituted three of the most enjoyable consecutive football hours we’ve had since early spring.
United banging in six wasn’t the only surprise this past week. On Thursday, one could distinctly hear Reds saying nice things about Rojo, for the first time in years. On Sunday, there was an even greater unlikelihood; praise for Fred.
While United’s youngsters threatened to find their feet, the silly season continued apace in the press. The transfer window approaches, and Ole continues to be attached to every available player in the world on a daily basis, despite his own protestations that he’d rather wait until summer to do proper business.
I did note that one player I believe we have been genuinely interested in, Sancho at Dortmund, appears to have his head in departure mode at his club; he was subbed at half-time amidst pointed remarks from his boss about ‘under-performance’. But would he still want to come to O.T. if, as rumoured, Liverpool have started getting interested?
It is a grim and unwelcome reminder of our clubs’ respective statuses these days that we have to worry about Liverpool becoming the more attractive suitors. It reminds me of the late 70s and 80s, when we were always praying potential deals would escape late Anfield swoops.
It’s not something we’ve had to be concerned about for nearly 30 years, and its re-emergence as a factor is about as welcome as would be the reconstruction of the Berlin Wall.
Images of 1989 Germany all over the place this week remind us of that autumn, when Liverpool were top dogs, the United boss was hanging onto his job by his fingernails, and City were humiliating us in our own back yard. A blonde PM was dividing Britain more than ever, and everyone was worried about Russia reacting badly to events on its borders.
Ahem. Funny how little one can travel in 30 years, isn’t it? That season ended up with United winning a Cup final, and thus securing the boss’s job.
Sadly, it also saw Liverpool crowned champions. You wouldn’t bet against either being repeated come May, would you?
The sooner we face up to the seeming grisly inevitability of the latter, the better.