Friday, 15 January 2010
The Most Important Manchester Derby In A Generation
I remember my fleeting phonecall to my Manchester City supporting wife the day it broke that her team had just become the richest on earth.
"oh have they?" she said with little interest.
See, City fans are used to having their confidence built up for it only to blow up in a dirty great big blue mess, in their faces. My missus has seen it all, so this for her was just another false dawn. Id been sat with her the day The Bitters were relegated to Division Three. I remember the tears in her eyes as i refrained myself from dropping to my knees in some sort of silent emphatic delight. It was run of the mill for her to hear of something as preposterous that City were now richer than any other..it couldn't really be true....later that day the club bought Robinho and her ears pricked up.
Despite this next Manchester derby 'only' being the Mickey Mouse Carling Beer Cup it is without doubt for me the most important derby game in memory. Not because of what is at stake..a place at Wembley. To be frank, i couldn't give two craps about that. What is important is its significance and that its played over two legs.
Manchester City are now officially 'Players'.. Yeah i know they have still won sweet FA, but its clear to see that the recent change in manager has cranked things up another notch. And as we enter a transfer window in which we will never EVER be able to compete with them in, its evident that we are now the poorer brother in bank balance, but also in form on the pitch.
With Tevez on fire, Petrov injury free and a supporting cast of impressive proportions, this derby could well be the litmus test of who goes on to dominate this next decade, from a Manchester perspective. The mess with the Glazers doesn't help things, but there is a real feeling with fans that we are walking some sort of footballing tightrope.
A two legged affair allows us to take away the old adage that "well you were at home..course you shoulda won" It gives you 180 minutes of aggregate scoring to see who is the best. As things stand, United lack the engine of inspiration that has carried us through choppy seas before. Confidence is an issue, and despite us still keeping possession of the ball well in a statistical capacity, its what you do with it in the last third that counts.
So will Fergie stick with the kids? I get the feeling he might. Is it worth playing your strongest team with a mounting fixture list, the restart of the Champions league and a worrying treatment room packed to the rafters? Im sure City will go for it. A win in this competition will give them the first bit of silverware they are craving. And if they can say they've slayed United on the way...well, what could be better.
Its not really in my nature to worry about things that haven't yet happened in football. However i can see a big Blue Monster on the horizon and its sharpening its teeth. Never could any of us have imagined (and i include City fans on this) that one day we would be living out this scenario. One where a derby match was more than just bragging rights..but is a watermark on defining and shaping the future footballing landscape. Call me dramatic..but i like my football dramatic!!
So in true supporter style..this is a call to arms. It feels like yesterday that United were the underdogs in almost every big match. And as supporters we loved it. Everytime we played Liverpool back in the day we were underdogs. Everytime we came across a European giant like Barca or Juve we were underdogs. And we would sing 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life' in their supporters faces, as we bucked the trend and ripped up the form book time after time. It was part of our fabric...before we started winning absolutely everything from 1993 onwards.
So lets rediscover some of that! We are Manchester United. Both loved and hated in equal measures. Lets stare into the faces of our Blue neighbours and not budge an inch. Yeah, they may wipe the floor with us in this tie, but they will never ever BE US. As every gallon of oil that gets pumped out of the ground in the Middle East makes them stronger, it is our history which makes us unique. A uniqueness that money cannot buy. Roberto Mancini described us as "immortal" this week and he was one hundred percent correct.
We'll never die we'll never die. We'll keep the red flag flying high, cos Man United will never die.
Bring it on City.