I recently asked people on twitter who they wanted to get in the Champions League draw for the Quarter and Semi Finals.
One response reminded me what being a fan should be about. “I want either Barcelona or Real Madrid, because the only time we’ve ever played them is when I’m Spurs on PS3”
I mean this in the most genuine way possible, and I’m not being patronising when I say that I almost miss the naivety of just wanting to draw the biggest teams in the World to have a ding dong battle of a football match.
A few years ago being top of the League with 8 games to go, being in the Semi Final of the FA Cup and the Quarter Finals of the Champions League would be the cause of irrepressible optimism, now it’s a cause for concern that Michael Carrick isn’t in the top 10 players of all time, that in a league where Chelsea have been spanked 3-0 at home by Sunderland we haven’t romped to the title with 8 games to spare and a record number of points.
I’m not saying that this team represents the best that United have ever assembled. It doesn’t stand up against the squad of 99, or the 2008 European Cup winning side that did all a United team could to honour the 50th anniversary of Munich, and the glory that those who died would have gone on to achieve.
But if you gave any team in the top flight the injury problems that United have faced then they’d struggle. In fact, that’s exactly what has happened. Arsenal have lost key personnel and lost games, Chelsea have lost key personnel and lost games, Liverpool lost key personnel and worried that they’d get relegated, whilst City spend another £200m and still won one in seven against teams from the top 5 last year.
So, we come to one of my favourite words, perspective. Being a football fan isn’t necessarily about seeing things with perspective or objectivity, at least not in the heat of the moment. But when words so quickly become “facts” it’s important to try and give it a go. Having played a game more than their rivals United are 5 points clear, have a goal difference 4 better than that of 2nd placed Arsenal and have won 43 out of 45 points at home. Hardly the stuff of nightmares, the season of transitional failure, or even the underachieving melancholy that some would have you believe. This is after narrowly missing out on a fourth title in a row last year. United could be about to win a fourth title in five years. That’s incredible. That’s not the stuff of nightmares. That’s incredible.
United aren’t perfect right now. When Giggs and Scholes leave there are going to be two massive, massive gaps, not just in levels of performance but in the hearts of the fans. But all the doom and glooming about what happens next is hardly living in the moment. United are going to need to do something about it, sure. But no matter who they sign, they’ll never mean as much as Giggs and Scholes, they came through the academy and have spent the last two decades doing not much other than winning things. And I think it’s the near constant winning of things that’s maybe made United fans a bit too complacent, and, dare I say it ungrateful. Now I’m guilty of it too.
Continued on page two.