TERRACE TALK: Man United - The best derby defeat we could have hoped for

About half an hour into Saturday’s derby, touted as the most watched, globally, of all time thanks to its tiresome Pep ’n‘ Jose Show element, I suspect I wasn’t alone in hoping for some sort of Bournemouth-style incident to occur.

You may recall the comical ‘bomb scare’ in the spring that caused Old Trafford to be emptied after various clowns left a fake device in a toilet. Sadly, on Saturday, the clowns appeared to be on the pitch and in red shirts. 

The only fake bomb in view was Jose himself, the supposedly explosive catalyst of Manchester United, momentarily exposed as a damp squib by his mistaken selections and failure to react to the traps set by Professor Pep.

Yet by full-time, after a thrilling second half, at least half of my Red colleagues were almost cheerful — or certainly, at least, exhibiting all the positive mental attitude that the sports psychologists tell us is so important. 

“Best derby I’ve seen in years,” enthused one. 

“We’re a work-in-progress heading in the right destination,” concluded another.

Off-hand, I can’t think of any derby defeat I’ve witnessed that was greeted with such refreshing non-knicker-wetting equanimity. Truly, this Mourinho fellow must be some sort of miracle worker.

The fact City were hanging on for dear life at the close, riding the luck of unawarded red cards and penalties, counted for much. 

Connoisseurs pointed to the potential re-emergence of Herrera, as well as the indications that United may have stumbled across a 4-3-3 alternative to the expected future formational deployment.

Football, like the capitalist markets, is all about consumer and supplier confidence: Somehow, those things remain intact at OT even after something as fundamentally and eternally awful as a home derby defeat.

Besides, we have imminent goodies to look forward to, in the shape of a trip to Rotterdam. Once upon a time, we’d disdain the idea of eager Europa League anticipation, but Feyenoord are A Proper Club with estimable history, as well as some *cough* ‘handy’ fans.

The type of Reds whose ganders were goosed by the argy-bargy with City fans in the town centre on Saturday will doubtless be looking forward to some fun and games with old friends in Holland. 

Even the trip to Watford next weekend offers the possibility of similar entertainment, spiced up by reports of rum doings between the Hornets and Hammers at the ‘London Stadium’ (ugh) on Saturday.

Heh. I feel like I should be apologising for propagating such good vibes after such a bad result. But as I write these words on a Sunday afternoon, I am reminded of one tiny but telling indicator of smarter minds at the helm. 

One senior pro was enthusing to a snout on Friday about a tinkering change Jose has introduced: Guaranteed post-match days off for the players, no matter the result. 

In the old days, Fergie, LVG, and Poor David would reserve the right to call in the players for punishment sessions, but Jose has decreed that planned family time is sacred.

It’s a move that costs him nothing but earns huge goodwill from often married senior men who already take defeat badly enough without the boss making it worse. Punters brought up on tired cliches about the ‘tyrant’ Mourinho may be surprised to hear he has a heart after all, but a man who can claim to have built so many champions didn’t do so via the whip alone.

Days like Saturday are unmitigated disasters for the Moyesies of this world; but to the Mourinhos, they’re valuable intelligence reports. 

We’ll find out next year at the Wastelands return how much he has learned...


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