Thursday, February 25, 2021

A Manchester United fan’s dilemma

The curtains have fallen on yet another season of arguably the best football league in the world ÔÇô the Barclays Premier League (BPL).
To the red side of Manchester, Liverpool’s ‘last minute’ slip that handed the championship to the welcoming hands of Manchester City conjures up memories of the 2009/2010 and 2011/2012 seasons.

The 2012 photo finish saw the ‘Noisy Neighbours’ snatch what had seemed like yet another premiership title for Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. And it was United’s title, at least for what seemed like the longest couple of minutes which saw t City’s Sergio Aguero score a last minute goal to sink Queens Park Rangers and end City’s almost 50-year league drought.

Like United two seasons ago, Liverpool had maintained a commanding lead of more than six points leading into the final few weeks of the 2013/2014 season. They had a seven point lead going into the game against fellow title hopefuls Chelsea.

A win for Liverpool would have all but ended Jose Mourihno’s chances of launching his BPL return with a bang.

But it was not to be for the reds. And their undoing would come from the most unlikely of sources, the great skipper Steven Gerrard with a little yet so costly slip that saw him hand over possession to Demba Ba for the Senegalese to score a decisive goal that would lead to the Londoners securing a crucial 2-0 at Anfield.

The loss to Chelsea would signal the beginning of the end of what had been an incredible season for Brandon Rodgers men.
Good, fluid attacking football that saw the trio of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and 19 year-old Raheem Sterling score more goals between themselves than the whole of David Moyes’ Manchester United combined.

Without taking anything away from Manuel Pellegrini’s City, any neutral would have loved to see the Merseyside giants end the more than two decade league drought.

But in this case whoever was to win this season’s championship between City and Liverpool would have some sort of bearing on the state of mind of any united fan despite the Red Devils finishing further down in an uncharacteristically poor seventh spot.

Given the long-standing rivalry between United and the ‘Noisy Neighbours’ that was exacerbated not only by City’s last minute scoop of the title from United’s palm in 2012, but also by the two embarrassing defeats that saw the blue side collect the maximum six points from United this season, there is no need to explain why I would have the championship go somewhere else.

And who still wants to hear a 46-year-old Beatles song, ‘Hey Jude’, which has played City’s championship soundtrack since winning the league the same year (1968) the song was released by the famous British boy band.

As for Liverpool, of course their seven point lead going into the final games were a reminder of the 2011/2012 season when Manchester City won the league with only minutes to go. But with Liverpool, it is more about championship record.

Steven Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea that signalled the beginning of the end for the reds title hopes also brought back memories of the 2009/2010 season.

Mourinho’s Chelsea won the title at the expense of United thanks to a Gerrard error. Or was it really an unfortunate error?
Gerrard played a ‘suicidal’ blind back pass to keeper Pepe Reina that fell to the dangerous blues striker Didier Drogba who dully rounded Reina and passed the ball into an empty net.

Chelsea went on to win the game and subsequently the championship. Liverpool maintained their record number of championships. Manchester United lived to fight another season. And fight they did; breaking Liverpool’s longstanding record of 18 titles. If only Gerrard had believed in karma, and perhaps with the benefit of a crystal ball, he would have known that ‘mistake’ would come to haunt him again. But this time it was at their own expense.


Read this week's paper