Any British United fan who remembers 1992, and who is also a Red in politics as well as football, could have been forgiven for suffering some sudden tremors of doubt before the weekend’s matches.
Witnessing the astonishing demise of the British Labour Party in Thursday’s general election conjured up memories of Neil Kinnock’s similar catastrophe in 1992. Now, as VE Day dawned on Friday, you couldn’t help thinking about United and Liverpool’s own battle for Europe, and muttering about “omens”.
Back in ‘92, United had staged a Labour-like late collapse in the title race before suffering the coup de (dis)grace at Liverpool’s hands, a disaster that went hand-in-hand with the Party’s, to us Red Reds. Was history now about to repeat itself? First Miliband, then Van Gaal, reprising the unlucky old roles of Neil and Fergie?! As Saturday’s awful match on a wretched pitch unfolded, you couldn’t have blamed me for any such historically-based, if irrational, nerves. At 1-1, most of us felt there was only going to be one winner: Palace. All of our recent sins were on full display, matched with yet another reminder of how lost we have become if Carrick is not on duty. Many of us had also assumed that beach-mode Chelsea would be supremely unbothered about resisting a Liverpool victory next day. Do the math, as they say: the Scousers would then have been ravenously upon us, like Tories storming election counts.
Above all, if there was one absolute certainty, it was that the worst player on the pitch, head and shoulders and ludicrous hairbunch above his fellow underperforming Reds, clearly wasn’t going to do anything useful in a month of Sundays, let alone 90 minutes...
Fellaini had told the press the day before that he had cried when Moyes left, which will have prompted some Reds to think that they would have cried the day Fellaini signed, had they known what was to come. But even though none of us expects his O.T. career to endure much longer, you cannot deny the lumpen chump the handful of key moments to which he has been an unexpected party this season, and to which he has now added his Selhurst deliverance. And God does love a trier — even one as trying as Marouane.
So once again during this Van Gaal inaugural season, United supporters emerged from a ground bearing the tell-tale cheesy shameful grin of the fan who knows they’ve just mugged someone. Three points from a game during which we’d have snatched hands off just for a single. Given that was the way the wind was clearly blowing this weekend, we should have been completely unfazed by LFC’s next-day failure to join a ‘battle for Europe’ after all.
Thus fourth spot is United’s, and our largely grisly season has been saved in the nick of time. Whether this past weekend had also saved LvG from what would have been a job-threatening crisis is another question. Clearly, we would have been in for a very hairy summer, once the financial and footballing implications of another non-qualification had sunk in. That we have skirted so close to the sink plug this season is an indictment of LvG’s under-achievement, and a gauge of our overall disappointment.
Much more of this won’t do, Louis: just get the money spent, and sort it out. The thirty-odd million for Depay is surely to be just the start of it. For judging by Saturday’s display, and its many precedents in the diary of woe, there are four or five players who seem to be asking to be relieved of a burden that is clearly beyond them. Lest the Glazers one day start asking themselves the same kinds of questions of the management...
God does love a trier — even one as trying as Marouane Fellaini.
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