Sunday, April 11, 2010

What a difference ten days makes.

One happy-as-larry Blue stepdad, a giant sigh of resigned acknowledgement across the Red side of Manchester as the final whistle blew on United’s Ewood Park clash, and I found myself observing the effective end of a season which had once appeared so bright.

United fans, so often jeered at and slated in indignation over our decision to follow a successful club, will I think fear that there is little way for us to spin this. We won the league Cup – it’s a Mickey Mouse trophy not worthy of praise. We were unlucky against Bayern – that’s the way the cookie crumbles my friend. We really think we have a divine right to win all the trophies in the world while simultaneously fielding a team of pre-pubescents – hang on, that one isn’t our’s.

My point is simply that we can’t win (metaphorically speaking). We’re expected to do well and when we do everyone rolls their eyes. When we don’t, it seems like a legion of groups from around the world from supporters of Caledonian & Thistle to the Taliban, unite in their hatred of a club which has really done very little wrong besides win stuff.

But perhaps I’m being a little unfair with this. Perhaps it is in fact a uniquely British thing, where success – be it in sport, literature, music, whatever – is so often ridiculed rather than revered. We don’t like arrogance here do we? And arrogant is exactly the word I hear bandied about the most often when I speak to many Unitedhaters.

What ought we to do hey? I consider Man United as a club, and Old Trafford in general, to be a significant part of my identity. I remember drawing banners hailing Ryan Giggs to take to my first visit to O.T as a teenager, and freezing cold Champions’ League nights against the likes of Rotor Volgograd, with school the next morning. However many more important things are going on in the world at the moment, I still feel the lows and highs of a United season as if they were my very own – and I suspect this will always be so.

Suffice to say, come the 9th of May I’ll be shedding an inward tear or two over chances missed and trophies lost. But I can also (for the most part) look at our season objectively and acknowledge the many achievements: the fight in us against City in the League Cup semi-final to see us qualify and go on to lift the Cup, our remarkable first-half performance in the O.T leg against Bayern…there is much to be thankful for.

But I fear that little Rafael The Lost Hobbit may as yet be too inexperienced to play in some of the crunch games. In the immortal words of Saboo, I fear he knows nothing of the crunch. As yet, anyway. Perhaps until he’s had a bit more experience of the key matches, we should just keep him on the sidelines with a coke and a packet of crisps. I suspect this will keep him happy for some time.