Politicians’ stock answers usually make us all groan but I’ve always had a soft spot for one occasionally heard: “I’m not even going to dignify that with a response”.
It’s magnificently snotty, but also effective, in that the questioner has nowhere to go with a follow-up. Yesterday’s massively anti-climactic snorefest of a Manchester derby was bad enough to make me now bark: “I’m not even to dignify that with a report”. Are you going to question my judgment? No, of course not: you’re an Examiner reader, and thus by definition must possess the intelligent civility to acknowledge I am justified.
As I struggled to stay awake yesterday — as hard a task as keeping the drooping eyelids unfrozen during the Moscow match on Wednesday — my mind drifted back to watching ex-player-turned-telly-heart-throb Jermaine Jenas on BBC TV’s Football Focus the day before.
Asked simply whether watching United had become “boring” under Van Gaal, his perfect wholesome features took on a crestfallen look as he said “yes, sometimes it has,” spoken in the disappointed tones of a child who has received oranges for Christmas.
I can now turn up the volume on the stuck record that’s been spinning for weeks now, if you like? You know how it goes: Rooney’s been rumbled; Martial’s magic and must be number 9; Herrera and Mata should be first on the sheet and in charge; will The Philosophy ever allow for self-expression ... and so on, ad nauseam. But that would be as boring as yesterday. We all know the melody by now.
So on we trudge — and I note from an email outbox search that I have used the word ‘trudge’ about United four times already this season, which tells its own tale. What we might all hope for is that events will continue to conspire to drive LVG into decisions and directions he so clearly hadn’t planned to take.
For example: no-one thinks he ever wanted or expected to have to play Martial perpetually right from the off, just as we suspect he never saw Herrera lasting very long under his reign. But the pair have repeatedly grabbed chances to force the boss’s hand, much to our delight. By the same token, even someone as stubborn as LVG will eventually have no choice but to confront the Rooney elephant that’s not so much sitting in the corner of the room as filling it with the repellent stench of his dung.
Middlesbrough arrive next in the League Cup, which I mention not so much because we care about the competition anymore (we don’t), but to jog a memory of 1992’s semi-final against the same opposition.
That was the night of the famous ‘Fergie’s Red And White Army’ chantathon, which drove the side to a final that we won. I’d almost forgotten that the entire crowd once used to unite in genuine enthusiasm for a manager, so long has it been since we felt anything like that. (The spring of 2003, perhaps? Remember fist-waving at Highbury?).
Hard to imagine there’d ever be such universal acclaim for Van Loony, isn’t it? Then at the weekend, we go to one of the few remaining places in the division that can still kick up a good old-fashioned racket: Selhurst Park. Much though we all like to mock the eternally unhip ‘Super Eagles’ it has to be said they have now created something admirable with the atmosphere down there.
Perhaps we should all take hope from that? First you have to recognise what a frightful bore you actually are. I suspect LVG isn’t quite at that stage of self-awareness yet.”
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