Manchester United Party Time!
There are certain football supporters of all clubs for whom any silver lining has a big fat cloud hanging off it and, however good things are, they’ll seize any opportunity to dwell on the negatives. For example, as a sports reporter for a bog standard local newspaper many years ago, I attended a convincing 5-0 victory for the home side in a non-league game. On the bus back home, I took the opportunity to speak to one of their fans about what, surely, had been a great afternoon for him, especially as his team were also riding high in the table at the time. His response was to spend the whole bus journey ripping his club apart, condemning that day’s performance as unconvincing and assuring me that, next weekend, the shower of useless b***ards would be down to earth with a bump, make no mistake. And promotion? Forget it.
You’d like to think life at Old Trafford would be a bit different, but at United we have our share of such fans too. To listen to some Reds this week, it would seem that defeat at city on Monday was no less devastating than the 1-0 defeat at the Etihad last season that wrenched control of the Premiership out our hands and led ultimately to that cataclysmic day in May. We’re on a downward slide, apparently, our central midfield still lacking creativity (despite possessing, in Michael Carrick, easily the best midfielder in the league this season) and a manager (on the verge of his 13th title) who consistently gets his selections wrong.
I understand, given what happened last season, that there might be a sense of additional caution among United supporters in April 2013, but in some quarters it’s got the air of an irrational mini-epidemic of panic and I don’t think it’s helpful. I was as disappointed about the city defeat as anyone, but ultimately we’d got ourselves in such a great position before that game that any such disappointment could be shrugged off as no more than a temporary glitch in the glorious drive towards a twentieth championship.
I understand that some fans are looking at the Stoke game and thinking that points dropped there could soon narrow the gap to single figures and wondering where it all might lead from there, but some perspective is needed here. After all, it’s hardly unusual for United, in our frequently triumphant marches to the title, to throw in a couple of duff performances – surely United fans can recall the 1-4 defeat at the hands of Liverpool followed by defeat at Fulham and how little impact that ultimately had on the destination of the Premiership trophy in 2009?
The alleged lack of tactical nous of the greatest manager in British history was being rolled out as a reason then, too, despite having taken us to a Champions League and Premiership double less than a year earlier. No doubt Fergie finds it easy to dismiss it as something that goes with the job of being United manager, and I’m sure he’ll be using his experience and hunger for silverware to guard against the jitters of a minority of Reds fans getting a hold on the dressing room. However, the very fact of what happened last season needs all of us in the community of Reds fans to maintain our forward momentum.
The pessimists among us hate to admit it, but the party’s been in full swing for a while now and, for the most part, we’ve been riding to often hard-fought but very spirited victories on the back of it. The mood and determination to get our trophy back this year, among both team and fans, has been a decisive factor in us being where we are. At the end of the season the defeat against city will be no more than a mildly irritating blip in a hugely successful Premiership campaign. Let’s not allow the cautious among us to distract us from the job in hand: winning the league and partying at the neighbours’ expense.