Greetings, comrades, on this international workers’ day, from the horny-handed freelancer branch of the Soccerati Union.
Now this may be hard for you to believe, dear reader, but there are occasionally those who find fault with this column’s work. Even worse, some have the cheek to say so. “Bit too negative today, wasn’t it?” grumbled one so-called mate about last week’s special run-in preview column.
Well, I shall certainly be seeking him out today to waggle my backside in his face. Four dropped Premier League points later, and suddenly United’s supposedly irresistible charge into the Champions League may end up hanging by the thread of a Vigan whim.
The two dropped at Wastelands were obviously more understandable than the two surrendered yesterday. But let’s not just accept what happened at City with a smiley shrug.
The match, result, and the way Jose set us up has been compared to our game at Anfield last autumn. Yet surely there should be no such comparison? We were on the ropes with sagging confidence back then, and Liverpool were in good form. Last week, we were supposed to be on the up, post-Chelsea and Burnley, with an inconsistent City eminently takeable.
But we tediously played for the lowest-scoring-possible draw, despite the leapfrogging opportunity on offer.
That was a must-win game when you’re a point and an inferior goal difference adrift, not a prompt for “let’s be happy with a worthy away point” soundbites.
But if Thursday’s United case was at least arguable, then yesterday’s brooks no dissent: Guilty!
I do note, with a respectful doff of the black cap under which I am sentencing Rooney to death, that Swansea fought as determinedly and intelligently as I suggested would be the case last week.
But, really, United: Just what was that? This is squeaky bum, not beach bum, time: It’s the run-in, on grass — not the close-season, on sand.
As I write, the City score has just come in, which at least means we might have been let off the hook injured, rather than definitively gutted. But as the Red Issue editor wrote here last week, sneaking into the Champs League via the Europa back door might be a fairer, juster return for what United have produced this season.
Suddenly, mention of sniffing around that back door puts all our peckers up. ‘Y viva / we’re off to sunny Spain’: A midweek excuse to slope off work and wife to a sunny beach, at the start of glorious May, for an actual European semi-final (and associated booze-up). It’s been so long that this is actually exciting again, even for blase Fergie-spoiled Reds.
Marvel: It’s been six years since we’ve had a proper continental semi. (You can insert your own ‘tight trunks’ gag.) And we’re up against original opposition, in a novel stadium, facing a team that’s good enough to make this entertaining and possibly nailbiting, but not so good as to terrify and then depress us. You really couldn’t ask for much more, could you?
Well, bar it being in the proper grown-up’s European competition, I concede. Yes, we’re at the kiddies’ table, scoffing nuggets and Irn Bru. At least Rooney will enjoy that. And at least we’ve been good enough to make the guest list. And at least it’ll still be a good laugh.
As might be next weekend, when we face Arsenal, and enjoy potentially a final sighting in the wild of Arsene Wenger, last of a dying breed and now in danger of professional extinction.
The punditocracy’s David Attenboroughs did wonder how long he might survive on the footballing savannah, following the loss of his longstanding hunting partner, the Greater Purple-Spotted Fergie. He’s done well to soldier on so long alone, bless him.
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