Back in August I was sat in the same bar I found myself in yesterday, watching the Community Shield between Manchester United and Chelsea. It’s a bar that sell litres of cocktail at a discounted price, and as such it’s popular with the American students who live in the area. It being August, and Rome emptying for the month, the bar was mostly empty, apart from: me; my girlfriend; the bar staff; a group of young, and extremely loud Americans, who were tipping jugs of cocktail down their necks. One of them was wearing a Manchester United replica top, with ‘Chicharito’ on the back, and given that he was going on to anyone who would listen about how Mexican he was, I could only assume that it was his nickname; he was certainly playing the ‘exotic’ card for the benefit of the perky upper-class East Coasters in attendance, even if he had a plummy WASP-ish accent straight out of The Bonfire of the Vanities. In any case the girls huddled around him were giggling at his boorish, narcissistic rambling, and there was no doubt he was going to be poking one of their whickers before the day was through. ‘I wonder what “Chicharito” means,’ I said to myself. ‘”C**t”?’
It was only when some unknown called Javier Hernandez came on as a sub at the start of the start of the second half that I realised that ‘Chicharito’ was his preposterous pseudonym, and as he ran onto the pitch this loud-mouth d**k rammed that point home by thrusting both arms in air, waving two jugs of cocktail around and shouting ‘WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, YEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH, CHIIIIIICHARIIIITOOOOOOOOOO’, giving his name a phony Spanish inflection entirely missing from the rest of his speech. He then spent the next twenty minutes going on about how ‘f*****g stoked’ he was at seeing one of his ‘brothers’ play for his favourite ‘Premeeer League’ team. He was the worst type of arrogant, vulgar, entitled little s**twipe that the States has to offer, unable to hold his drink and bawling his head off at the staff when he didn’t get exactly what he wanted, when he wanted.
But worse was to come: Hernandez scores to put United 2-0 up, and this kid goes apesh**t, flinging his drink everywhere and hooting like he’s centre stage in Girls Gone Wild. Hernandez wheels off to celebrate with the United fans, and ‘Chicharito’ spins around, double fist pumping and gurning, his spit-flecked chops looking ever more smackable as he pulls two of his female companions close enough to feel their firm, bra-less chests on his. ‘WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO’, they scream. ‘YEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHH’, he hollers. I look at him: young, presentably good-looking in a preppy way, surrounded by 19-year old girls dressed in belt-thick skirts and vest tops. The world at his feet, he’s got, and if he f***s up it doesn’t matter – he’ll have as many chances at life as he wants. ‘I hate you,’ I think.
I look at him: young, presentably good-looking in a preppy way, surrounded by 19-year old girls dressed in belt-thick skirts and vest tops. The world at his feet, he’s got, and if he f***s up it doesn’t matter – he’ll have as many chances at life as he wants. ‘I hate you,’ I think.
Since that day I’ve been following the progress of Hernandez with a grim fascination, and everything he does will forever in my head be associated with that helmet in the bar in August: every goal, every good performance, every piece of glowingly positive press is another notch on his bedpost, another reminder of a young man having the time of his life, without a care in the world. So it shouldn’t have come as any surprise to me that yesterday, in more or less the same spot I had all of my hopes shovelled back down my throat by this nippy, smug-looking little b*****d; he knelt down in the centre circle, looked at my faint aspirations of an improbable – and entirely undeserved – title and 40 seconds later s**t all over them. Thanks to whichever supernatural being he was praying to – and I refuse to accept that a good, loving God as we recognise it would grant the wishes of someone so craven and superstitious – he has been one of Manchester United’s key men this season, and a constant thorn in my side, popping up with crucial goals and providing their midfield with the kind of mobility we sorely miss.
The contrast between the two sides could hardly have been more stark, with Chelsea looking witless and slow-footed, a side that looks for goals more in hope than in expectation, and who make playing football look like crushingly hard work. Manchester United meanwhile were full of movement and creativity, constantly finding space to manoeuvre while maintaining defensive solidity. There was a joy and vitality about their play that’s hard to resist: it’s amazing what Alex Ferguson has done with what is objectively their worst side in nearly a decade, and even if they’re nowhere near as powerful as they once were, they have a manager who knows how to drill his players, and is an expert at picking out, and exploiting, weaknesses in the opposition.
To think that, even though faced with probably the greatest club side the world has ever seen, it is eminently possible that this team could be European Champions come the end of the month. It’s a team that is nowhere near the level of their opponents, nor even the level of the side that won everything that counted in 2008, but to be honest, it would be hard to begrudge them victory; they’re the country’s best side, they’re deserved Champions, and it’s all down to one man and this knack he has of just winning. I walked out after the game disappointed, but not dejected like after past defeats; we don’t deserve to be champions, not this team. It would have been comical had a side that hasn’t played well since October won the league, and it would have been an excuse to ignore the massive restructuring that needs to go on should the club wish to remain among one of the country’s best.
Certainly Chelsea could do a lot worse than scouting for young talent like Chicharito; hungry young players who will add a spot of dynamism to a drab, tired old side, and who have something to prove, rather than superstar names for superstar fees. Today he won his side the league title, and brought back to mind the face of my nemesis. The dribbling, grinning, self-satisfied visage of a man who will win, and keep winning, because that’s all he’s ever known. The Master Of The Universe.
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