At half-time yesterday, one of my ageing colleagues, known for his punchy pessimism, summed up proceedings better than I could: “Same old shoite, then. A team full of physically weak cowards, and the only hope of a goal is if Martial makes something out of nothing.”
Hats off to the old grump: Ten minutes later, his point was amply proved, as Le Garçon Des Merveilles did the business, before we all drifted back into slumber again. (Or snuck off to find a screen on which to watch the cricket final: Manic excitement but with an unhappy ending, and thus the exact opposite of Old Trafford’s miserable fare.)
The original Boy Wonder, aka the (injured) Wayne Rooney, must have been looking on as his former and current teams laboured — and perhaps wondering about his future?
Poor though United were, I detected no swelling chants pining for the return of the non-prodigal son. Rooney will have been painfully aware of similar sentiments from England fans after the Three Lions’ sensational victory in Berlin last week too.
The reason Roo sprang to mind was the sight of that other most famous United and England forward and captain, Bobby Charlton, emotional at the vision of the Old Trafford stand being renamed in his honour. It is Bobby’s place in the scoring record books that Rooney is challenging but some wonder whether Wayne will get the chance to break them all. It may seem mean-minded, but for many Reds there lingers the hope that Rooney will fall at the last fence before being sold, thus allowing his 78-year-old predecessor to be left with something tangible that will not be broken during the approaching winter of his lifetime.
Blimey! Departures, defeatism, death... I suppose it’s been that sort of mood this past fortnight, with the 1916 commemorations, as well as Johan Cruyff’s passing striking this correspondent with particular force.
As a guilt-complexed Brit, I’m going to steer well clear of the former — except to offer continuing grovelling apologies — but as a fellow ‘intellectual’ football-loving smoker, I must say I felt rather solemn about Cruyff’s death.
Cruyff was the footballing superstar of my youth — I was a bit too young to have been able to say that of George Best — and the first time I ever saw colour TV pictures was when watching him in the 1974 World Cup, for which my dad had bought our first multichrome set. Primitive technology and transmission distance meant Cruyff’s orange shirt glowed and throbbed with an almost extraterrestrial intensity which, when added to his otherwordly skills, made him seem to me every bit as unprecedented and exciting as another contemporary orange-hued ET: David Bowie.
My lifelong loathing of German football began when they robbed Cruyff and company in that final; my parents’ generation muttered about the bombers of 1940, but for me it was all about Der Bomber of ’74. And ever since then, I’ve always had a thing for the Dutch, and was delighted when the silky Arnie Muhren arrived at OT in the ’80s. “One day,” I must have thought to myself at some point, “we might even get ourselves one of those brilliant Dutch managers.”
Sigh. Be careful what you wish for, hey?
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