Manchester United were in the hunt for their 20th Premier League title till the final couple of minutes on the final day of the season. It is beyond cruel for something this precious to be snatched out of the hands of someone at such a late hour- which would make Manchester United the most ruthless criminals in the history of football.
The sheer number of times our beloved club has come up with season-transforming injury-time winners is mind-boggling. Being on the receiving end this time was incredibly hard to take, but no United fan is entitled to a single complaint.
This penchant for late heroics is one of the many things that drew me towards United as a child. The whole perception of ‘never-say-die’ had to be altered when people started witnessing United sides doing the unthinkable over and over again. That is what makes this club truly great, makes their players truly the most special in the world, and makes their fans the most tested, the most delirious with joy and the most satisfied. It is an honour and a privilege to be supporting this football club. And the thing that pleases me the most is that Chelsea fans, Man City fans, Liverpool fans and all the rest of that mob hasn’t the first idea what it means to be part of the MUFC family.
City fans were quite clearly on cloud forty-four (that’s how long it took for them to win a title) when Aguero and co. successfully robbed United and Sir Alex of their 13th title of a ridiculously successful Premier League era. Every Man United fan must have experience an unaccustomed sense of devastation at the final whistle. I was no different, and there was no moment in my life when I hated the blue fucks from Wastelands any more.
But then I figured, I must give credit where it’s due. What difference will there be between us and the Bitters if we were to be so ‘bitter’ at one squandered opportunity? So I applauded them, and I accepted them as worthy winners of this crown. But all the time, I was, like millions of United fans the world over, ruing the fact that things could so easily have been so different. If only DeGea had kept his calm in that home defeat to Blackburn. If only Rafael hadn’t let the Everton attackers in (twice!) to tie the score 4-4 at Old Trafford. If only we had played a more attacking side at the Etihad.. but all of that would only have served to paper over the cracks. United have, in many senses, deservedly failed this season, and Sir Alex would be the first person to acknowledge that and make the necessary changes needed.
It is only reasonable that the world realise United could so easily have been champions this season. We got as close as one could possibly get without winning. In such circumstances, I found it really hard to stomach when people started comparing City’s late triumph with other comebacks that are part of football folklore. Like United’s injury time winner in the ’99 Champions League final that sealed the treble. That is, to say the least, preposterous.
How could a couple of late goals against 10 men relegation candidates be the same as scoring against Bayern Munich in the injury time of a Champions League final? Besides, isn’t hailing this City team as equals of the ’99 champions ignoring the fact that they let a huge lead slip away during the season and almost screwed it up towards the end? United were guilty of the same, and did get screwed in the end. What I am getting at is the inherent hatred every football fan who’s not a United fan has for our club. It almost borders on the scandalous. It is clear as day that they are highly inconvenienced by United having such a fabled history, and they’d do anything to bring those glorious triumphs of the past down.
For years, I have been in close proximity to this inexplicable dislike for anything United. And it has always made me happy when we manage to ride the crest of animosity and come out with more trophies than anybody else. This season was obviously different- our first without a trophy in 6 years (some may count the Charity Shield, but I don’t), and we are right to be mightily disappointed. But to rub salt into our wounds by putting this City victory on the same pedestal as the United of ’99 is just as lowly as any ABU can get.
I say, could any other team have managed what United managed this season with the amount of injuries we had and the austere spending the summers before? We have Sir Alex to thank for that, and a bunch of gritty players who don’t give in easily. But however hard you try, overcoming the loss of a defender and captain as fantastic as Nemanja Vidic proves to be well nigh impossible. Valencia and Nani were out for long periods as well- as was young Tom Cleverley, and Anderson. Our only hard-tackling box-to-box midfielder became grievously and was out for the season. Darren Fletcher is a football genius and a fan favourite, but all we could do then was pray for his recovery. United were forced to bring back a wheezing, stuttering legend, and play him with the brilliant but himself aging Micheal Carrick in centre-midfield for almost all games in the second half of the season. We had a young keeper who struggled to find his feet in the beginning and conceded quite a few avoidable goals. Despite everything, United did manage to do decently well- but sadly, there are no points for coming second.
In a season where we finished 19 points ahead of Arsenal, 25 ahead of Chelsea and several many ahead of Liverpool, it is hard to fathom why we aren’t champions. City obviously have a formidable side that their millions helped them amass, and it was only a matter of time before they became serious title contenders. The fact that they still only managed to just about nick the title from United’s grasp should be to their chagrin and an encouragement for us.
I had fun last season- the end result could have been better, but I wouldn’t exchange for anything the thrills and chills our team dished out so generously all season. Sir Alex has been in this situation quite a few times- come close and just miss out- and on each occasion, he has helped the team bounce back admirably, like true champions. Just ask Blackburn, Arsenal and Chelsea, all of whom were lulled into a false sense of security. City would do well to keep that in mind. While United will admittedly have to spend somewhat in order to improve, writing us off based on last season and on the fact that City and Chelsea seem to have limitless funds, would be utter naivety.
I was chuffed as any other United fan in seeing the deals for Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell being tied up. Midfield was one area painfully exposed during our Champions League and Europa League defeats last season, and it’s good to see SAF go about setting that right. I would hope for a left-back in the Leighton Baines mould and a running, tackling midfielder in the Strootman mould to be the further pieces of business we do this summer. Only time will tell who we’re actually going to buy, but one thing is for sure- I will go into next season with the confidence befitting a fan who has seen his team rise from the ashes on far too many occasions to keep count of.
As Reds have chanted so often down the years, inserting the name of the appropriate manager-
Mancini are you listening? Better keep our trophy glistening. We are coming in May, to take it away. Walking in a Fergie wonderland.
If I were you, I would be betting my house on United reclaiming their trophy. Because that’s what we do.