Saturday 24 October 2009

"Au revoir Cantona, come back when you've got 18 titles"

1994 was an important year for United fans.

The team was finally in a silverware ascent after decades in the doldrums. Liverpool's grip of all things trophy-like was slipping, but there was no doubt as to who still held the bragging rights. As United experienced relegation in the 70s, the Scousers were going out in their own merry way winning multiple European Cups and any other competition they played in. They were the best. Were.

In 1994, Liverpool still felt they were the best. The cabinet was packed full of their glory. They felt that it would only be a short time that they would be on top again. We had Eric Cantona, but they had the 'Spice Boys'...Fowler, Redknapp. McManaman et al. They had also nabbed a certain young teenage talent, who had trained with United's youth academy...his name was Michael Owen. The future looked bright. So in good football tradition, they unveiled a makeshift banner to 'rub it in' a bit more. All that needed to be added was a pound of salt to the open wound.

The banner unveiled by Kopites that day is the stuff of legend to the Faithful now. It read the immortal phrase:

"Au revoir Cantona, come back when you've got 18 titles".

Well now its time to come back.

2009 is as equally important to us Red Devils as 1994 was. It has taken a mere 15 seasons to catch up with a record that, as a child i was told, would never be caught. United now have parity with Liverpool. Now the challenge is for who can get to number nineteen first.

Inspite of Liverpool's shocking destruction of us at Old Trafford last year, the fact is we still won the league. We can never irradicate that defeat. Many thought it was the turning of the tide..the passing of the baton back along the M62 motorway. The day that Liverpool turned up in United's backyard, to stomp their old, nearly forgotten authority on us...Rafa wasn't crazy at all..he was a genius!

Only a few months on since that day United have indeed claimed title 18, and have been to a second consecutive Champions League final. Liverpool totter on the brink of disaster after a string of defeats. They have an uphill task to qualify out of the Euro group stages, and sit below Sunderland in the league table. Benitez has stuck a noose around his neck, and has asked Sir Alex if he has got the skill to be the final executioner. Sounds all very dramatic? But it really is of the Spaniard's making. This is his screenplay. He wrote his fate.

A win for United would be a huge step toward title number 19. It may only be October and there will still be so much football to play. But would a crushing defeat be the final straw for Gilette and Hicks?

Tomorrow marks the day when we can return to Anfield to answer that banner of 1994. There will be no beachballs from us. However, there will be a cacophony of masks worn in honour of that banner. And those masks will be of one man:

The genius French Number 7 they left an open invitation for to return when his club met their challenge.

We still sing Eric's songs today. And that FACT is the biggest answer we can give the Scouse in response to their hollow bragging back in the 90's. We stepped up to the impossible challenge. Eric started the (beach)ball rolling.

So lets all become Eric for this game. It is a historic day that nobody in football thought would be possible back in 1994..certainly not me! We may win, lose or draw at Anfield on Sunday, but we should still celebrate the fact about how far the modern day Manchester United has come.

Now where's my mask?