Today’s is an important annual date in every United fan’s calendar. Just after 3pm, some will gather at Old Trafford, and the ‘Flowers of Manchester’ will be heard. It’ll be low-key and properly respectful.
Next year will mark the 60th anniversary of the Munich crash, and an array of media projects will no doubt be under way in preparation to mark the milestone. One in particular has accidentally come to my attention — a proposed feature film about the Busby Babes, with a very famous name in the production seat.
I am told a well-known former player has seriously suggested that he and a couple of colleagues might play the parts of some 1958 players.
“Doubtless this will be felt to be good for their ‘brand’ too,” groaned my informant.
One trusts wiser heads will at some point prevail, and that such an abomination will not come to pass. But there’s no accounting for taste in modern football, an over-monetised circus that can have the most deleterious effects on people’s self-awareness, and grip on reality.
It’s certainly the case that United employees’ routine behaviour annoys many of us much more it used to. The ongoing videoed dancing shenanigans of Pogba and Lingard, for example, is trivial stuff but has got under the skin of a lot of Reds to quite a damaging effect recently.
In a very rare planetary alignment, even Rio Ferdinand managed to chime with most fans when he publicly disdained their behaviour.
The examples occur almost daily.
A United player showily wearing different coloured boots had some fans in apoplexy last week; players like Shaw and Martial are regularly pilloried for supposed attitude deficiencies; others are sniped at for suspected lack of commitment or loyalty.
Indeed, the cumulative effect is this: If one could measure such a thing, I’d say our collective affection for the combined personalities of the squad is as low as it’s been for any of its predecessors. Truth be told, I suspect you could have said this for all the squads of at least the past decade or so. There is an ‘us’ and ‘them’ in place nowadays that is hard to imagine ever disappearing. We have come a long way from the boys of 1958 who will be remembered today, that’s for sure.
The current crop of pampered multimillionaires did at least do their job at Leicester yesterday, after an awful opening 40 minutes that gave no hint of what was about to happen. I was pleased for Mata, who needed a good finish like that after spectacularly missing a couple of sitters in recent weeks. Zlatan showed some moments of leadership; Pogba had decent spells; Herrera managed to be a little less slyly snide than has sadly been his wont this season.
Nevertheless, something of the midweek stench created against Hull still lingers on even today, together with a sense of unease. Mourinho’s mouth has been especially active since the goalless farce against the Humbersiders, and his branding of some unnamed players as not being “winners” did feel like ‘a moment’.
All winter hitherto, we have sometimes felt like we are watching not so much a normal football season but a mass audition for impresario José, and one senses several players are about to be told “don’t call us — and we won’t be calling you either”.
One doubts we will end up with a more “lovable” squad when José’s finished his forthcoming two-window surgery, though. But all we feel capable of asking for these days is that they might be more successful than what they will have replaced. And a touch of class, once in a while, wouldn’t go amiss either. Save the dancing for dazzling defenders.
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