Six in the City. The RSPCA have been called to Old Trafford to deal with a sick swan. Monday morning in the Ferguson household – ‘Get up Alex love it’s gone seven’. ‘F*** me, have they scored again?’ Manchester United fans have been given a phone number to talk about today’s traumatic events - 0161 616161. What do Colonel Gaddafi and United have in common? Both were slaughtered in their own back yard. Or, my personal favourite, the fourth official – ‘How many minutes do you want us to add on this time Sir Alex?’ ‘Just get that f***ing whistle blown’.
From almost the very instant that the whistle was blown the jokes came thick and fast as City fans tried to make sense of the surreal with the grounding familiarity of pub humour. Levity was required until it at least partly sank in because, like a child waking up to heavy snowfall or an adult being propositioned by a lingerie-clad supermodel, it was just too much to initially process, especially to supporters whose body and minds are hardwired to disappointment and farce.
A 6-1 routing of United at Old Trafford and, though it contained goals of genuine quality with touches from Silva that can rightfully be deemed other-worldly, the truth is that we didn’t even need to get out of third gear to achieve it.
Now you’ve played all the big teams Ferguson and Shrek, the Charity Shield was just an entertaining game, this was a football lesson.
After a traditional twenty minute gambit of derby-day cut and thrust Super Mario slotted home a pinpoint opener and from that moment on it was dreamland; the aura of our big bad rivals was forever dismantled in front of our very eyes. An entire lifetime of feeling second best dissolved. Shadow became sunshine and sunshine shadow. This was an October Revolution, only instead of a red army it was blue. And our freedom fighters barely needed to raise their rifles. In a bloodless coup that brought outright humiliation to our suppressors we even commandeered ‘Fergie Time’. That bordered on the cruel but to be fair we learnt from the best.
Soon after the break Johnny Evans – a player who has always had the positional sense of a blindfolded drunk – lost the Italian and United were a man down.
Balotelli, as unique as they come, predictably had his own demons to slay and he did so by unveiling a T-shirt that read ‘Why Always Me?’ while fronting the world like a beautiful black Cantona. Even some of the United fans in the pub couldn’t help but giggle at his lunacy. It’s because the likes of James Milner are tucked up in bed with a cocoa and a training manual while you are setting off fireworks in your bathroom Mario, that’s why. The man is glorious box office and, despite the public’s disdain and endless media castigation, football needs him infinitely more than he needs it. He is the antithesis of the watered-down, faux-wholesome modern-day game. A true maverick who puts people on the edge of their plastic seats.
Soon after the break Johnny Evans – a player who has always had the positional sense of a blindfolded drunk – lost the Italian and United were a man down. In truth it had no influence on the result but it did have a profound bearing on the manner of it. Even with eleven their performance was one of toil, their insufficient midfield being exposed in long overdue fashion. Out wide Nani was anonymous; looking like Jacko in 1985, playing like Jacko today while Ferdinand struggled to accomplish the basics at the back looking haphazard and ragged. In the stands Vidic glowered. Later a red on 606 summed it up perfectly, deriding Ferguson for not playing his strongest XI in one of the most significant derbies for a generation.
Aguero made it three, from a fluid move that was as effortless and natural as it was impressive but once Fletcher curled in a delicate cracker I headed out for a ciggie followed swiftly by another. Force of habit. Addicted to nicotine, conditioned to fearing the worst.
I returned at the exact point where Dzeko put the game beyond all doubt and confirmed, not an agonising collapse but a memorable massacre, and here – as much as I would love to revel and gloat….Zoe Ball, Mick Hucknall, Eamonn f***ing Holmes, can you hear me?...as much as I would love to highlight the astonishing artistry of David Silva, the architect supreme and his supernatural throughball for our sixth - all attention must now fall on United’s failings.
When City was in possession it routinely became target practice with Dzeko even fluffing a golden opportunity to make it seven.
They are trailing 4-1 at home and a man down with minutes remaining. The game is up and if indeed the title race is to go to the wire then goals scored in this fixture will effectively count for double. Each strike is a priceless commodity. Their decision to press forward, leaving just two centre-backs exposed and horribly vulnerable for the final throes was bizarre in the extreme. When City was in possession it routinely became target practice with Dzeko even fluffing a golden opportunity to make it seven. Ferguson later lambasted his team for doing so and the pertinent question is just who ordered such a dumb strategy? Perhaps – and there is no dig intended here – it’s because United are just not used to losing so comprehensively? They have no idea of the protocol in such circumstances and pushed forward en masse on a default setting.
It was the most startling illustration yet that United’s lack of a genuine leader – a midfield general – will ultimately cost them dear this term. Can you imagine them shipping in six with Keane in the side? It is inconceivable. Or a Scholes? Even Ratboy, who was so dumbstruck in the studio that his bumfluff moustache had moulted in shock.
In the dugout someone had switched Ferguson’s chewing gum for a handful of wasps and there is no doubt he will rectify this shortcoming in January. But unless he buys well – and the player settles immediately – I see little silverware for Manchester United this season.
Though there will of course inevitably be a momentous backlash. Everton next week and other such unfortunates will no doubt suffer greatly for this humiliation.
That however need not concern City, who have laid a demon to rest and now move onwards and upwards towards a bright blue horizon.
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