It’s been a weekend for saying goodbye. Not only to the 2017/18 Premier League season — good riddance, on the whole — but also to some characters who’ve marked the competition’s last 15 years or so.
Arsène Wenger’s already been round the farewell lap two or three times these past weeks, of course. But there’s also Rui Faria, surprisingly announced as departing Old Trafford after nearly two crucial decades assisting at José’s side. Nothing sinister, we are assured; it may even be something to be welcomed, if it helps lead to a change in United’s style.
Then we have Michael Carrick, hanging up his Red shirt after often distinguished and always honourable service. And there’s also a thought for Wayne Rooney who one hopes, for his own dignity, would now take the curtain call and head off for a Stateside semi-retirement.
Some might even wish to add John Motson to the list, arguably the voice of English football for at least three decades, taking charge of his final game yesterday. He was no Barry Davies, nor even a Brian Moore, but his is the voice attached to so many of my generation’s most vivid youthful memories.
Looming above all those in our thoughts this week, however, was someone we briefly thought we might have to say goodbye to for good, and in the most unexpected of circumstances - Alex Ferguson.
I do hope the old fella enjoyed the sight of all the quasi-in memoriam tributes pouring in; it must have been like watching your own funeral. And how fitting that he has ended up demanding, and getting, some Fergietime; last Saturday in Salford, he tapped his watch, and the celestial ref agreed to play on. For many years yet, one hopes.
As I write, I am told Fergie is busy rescheduling his summer and making travel plans, which obviously bodes well. Will he want to continue travelling to watch United next season, though? After all, this season’s hardly been good for anyone’s health, has it?
One shouldn’t adopt a churlish tone in what is, after all, traditionally that most sacred of upbeat times - viz. Cup Final Week. But the fact remains that most Reds have ended up feeling distinctly disgruntled. It’s not just about Seville either; the feeling would be the same had we, say, gone out more respectably in the quarters.
The league campaign has provided a few days and nights of roaring abandon, to be fair; victories against City, Chelsea and Liverpool all lifted the club, as did the comeback at Palace. But trudging into second place a country mile behind City has largely felt like being on a forced march, especially because of the often grim fashion in which our football has been played.
Beating Chelsea at the weekend would obviously end the season on a high, as the old cliché goes, but won’t make any difference to that overall judgement. No-one wants another season of simultaneously being neither the best nor exciting. Top dogs or top draws; that’s always been the demand. But how to achieve either as long as Pep is at City?
So we head to Wembley, where there may be more departures to look back on - not that we’ll know it at the time. For one thing we all seem to agree on is that this squad will be having its last hurrah, and that for several players, it’ll be their last day in a United dressing room. So don’t forget to set up the office sweepstake on how many times the press will link Neymar to us this summer. Before he then decides to flounce to Spain, leaving us to choke instead on a couple of last-minute Supermarket Sweep panic buys. ‘Football, eh? Bloody hell,’ as someone once said, in a rather more appealing context...
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