Mamma mia! “Large public events might be cancelled,” Britain’s health secretary glumly admitted to a brow-furrowed interviewer on Sunday morning, as various worst-case coronavirus scenarios were put to him. Every United fan in the country will have immediately had the same thought: “What? including all remaining Liverpool matches?! Talk about a silver lining ...”
Most of us would also have the good grace to feel guilty about such selfish tastelessness, I hasten to add. And few would dare argue that LFC wouldn’t deserve their trophy — if it’s ever actually awarded.
Naturally, that didn’t stop us dancing around our living rooms as we listened to their shock collapse at Watford on Saturday. God has granted us one small mercy in this otherwise frightening season — that Liverpool will not be joining Arsenal and Preston in the elite band of Invincibles.
Elsewhere, however, his mysterious ways were looking as enigmatically worrisome as ever. Manchester City’s historic win in Madrid ruined the week — yes, despite our own romp against 10-man Brugge — and leaves us staring at the increasing possibility of an MCFC/LFC Disaster Double. The fact that City may eventually be prevented from defending any such title by CAS would be the scantest of consolation. 2020 would instantly become our worst year since 2005. S.O.S!
Every old Da’ would now interject: “never mind what the others are doing — you just concentrate on your own work, son.” Alright then; let us balefully and briefly examine the return to January-style normality that was the trip to Everton.
Normal: Martial being a doomfaced disgrace, Lindelof being a wet lettuce, De Gea being distinctly dodgy. Normal: the team running out of gas after an hour despite all those pre-season assurances about how fit this squad was going to prove to be. Normal: VAR turning an exciting climax into yet another soul-curdling mess.
Not that the offside decision was necessarily wrong by the letter of the law, mind you. And any Red will always get enjoyment from seeing Scousers crying about being robbed. No, it’s just that every time VAR steps onto the stage, the heart sinks.
It has nothing to do with it getting things right or wrong, it’s the whole miserable process and its attendant corridor of uncertainty down which we all must gingerly creep. Dare one celebrate anything with gay abandon anymore, knowing that some unwelcome voyeur may be about to blow the whistle?
Speaking of unwanted intruders, look who may be deigning to grace a training session with his presence once more: Monsieur Paul Pogba. Assuming that the fragile flower doesn’t break a metatarsal as he drives to Carrington — also assuming he still remembers where that is — there is even talk that he may be in contention for next weekend’s derby.
You may be familiar with the term ‘BGR’ — ‘Big Game Red’, i.e. the United fan who only swans in for the glamour ties and finals. Every right-thinking supporter hates them, and it’s that kind of mentality that has some arguing that Pogba shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the showpiece derby, given his recent behaviour and overall attitude towards the club.
I must admit I would prefer to see him serving a penitential hour in the saltmines of Derby County first; after all, who wouldn’t like to witness what Wayne Rooney might ‘think’ of him face-to-face on the pitch?
One thing’s for certain anyway; almost all lingering fears about United’s midfield crumbling without Pogba’s intermittent services have disappeared thanks to the boy Bruno. Can you hear the drums, Fernandes? They’re playing the winner takes it all, and it’s you. But why on Earth didn’t we buy him earlier? Not least as we could have saved money, money, money? (Sorry.) The comical answer briefed out by Old Trafford to one paper was that last summer’s hesitant Woodward was suddenly won over by some dramatic “growth” in the player since August. Pfft! Clearly, the only thing growing here is the nose of whoever told that tale.
Bruno was once again the best thing in Red on Sunday’s pitch, and could yet prove to be the difference between Champions League 2021 and oblivion. He is now the future, while Pogba is suddenly the past. Now if only there were a single word to summon up a once world- conquering Frenchman finally meeting failure on a big stage....