There can be no question as to which was United’s most inspiring move yesterday — judging by the amount of comments it elicited from my colleagues, anyway.
“The United coach is stuck in traffic? I though he was stuck in 1995, but there you go.”
“Van Gaal normally waits until we get to the ground before he parks the bus.”
“Apparently, they were just going round and round in circles, and therefore thought everything was normal.”
That last comment rang especially sourly in the mind an hour into the game, when a continuingly immobile United still hadn’t had a shot on target. Ever Decreasing Circles indeed, but much less entertaining than Richard Briers’ version. And just when you thought that at least it wasn’t getting any worse, it did. Thricely. Round and round and round... and down the plughole.
Growled a comrade at the whistle: “What’s the betting Louis will blame it on the traffic, the Moomin-headed c*ckwomble?” Titter! Say one thing for the wretched Van Gaal: he does a fine job in prompting us to find ever more original phrases to encapsulate our damning of all his works.
Pause briefly to salute the day’s single bright spark: the 18-year-old novice Fosu-Mensah, immense again. It was fitting that the floodgates opened shortly after he had to leave the pitch. As for the rest of them... another colleague spoke for many as the 90 approached: “What an absolute shower of gutless bastards we have in our team. The fu**ers have simply given up.”
Not to let the manager off any hook, of course. In the final stages, United were deploying four attackers but with not one of them playing in their correct position, while poor Mata languished at wing-half. “Is this Total Football, then?” wondered one Red in earshot: “no, just Total Shite,” came the reply.
At least, most Reds wouldn’t have been too surprised by the outcome. There had been groans midweek as LVG and others happily chirped on about the club’s great record against Spurs, and the fact that United have only lost once against a ‘top side’ this season. Anyone who’s seen both Spurs and United play recently would’ve long since had this one down as a very likely home win; the rampant fate-tempting press conference display must have been irresistible to the footballing gods.
Somehow, though, fourth place remains in United’s ultimate grasp, however ludicrous and undeserved that seems: we mustn’t forget that. And even LVG’s United must look upon the imminent arrival of the hilariously abysmal Aston Villa next weekend as offering us the three easiest points of the season on a plate. (Erm: fate duly tempted.)
Fourth matters for obvious European reasons but also because informed observers understand that United can contractually dump LVG with a minimal pay-off if he fails to make the spot.
I am told by my Lisbon sources that José Mourinho has certainly been led to believe this is the case. What an invidious position for fans who want rid of LVG, but for whom the wishing of anything but victory in any game is anathema.
Until Saturday comes, however, the league must make way on the stage for cups, and a potentially exquisitely excruciating 24-hour period involving the Manchester clubs. How many Reds ever thought they’d live to see a quarter-finals’ switcheroo like this? For it is a newly-commanding City who stand on the brink of a European Cup semi-final, whilst a desperate United, scrabbling around in the last chance of a trophy saloon, face the bearpit of Upton Park and its Hammers hungry for history.
It feels like we’ve been forced to switch Mancunian clothes, and it chafes every single day. Lord only knows what Pep Guardiola is going to end up having us dress in: rags for The Rags, as our Bitter neighbours might quip.
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