Our game is not the story. We pressed hard from the beginning but were wasteful for a half hour while the Blades tried repeatedly to gift us a goal. Bale’s first half dozen touches ranged from poor to horrendous. We did not seem to have much idea how to link up in their end, not surprising given that the likes of Bale, Dele and Lo Celso have rarely played together. And then it turned. Serge Aurier—my MOTM in a wistful performance that makes one wonder just how good he could be/have been without the killer mistakes every few games—lifted a perfect chipped ball over the defence and there was Bale to flick it in.
Then in the second half runs by Son and Bale, some nice passing by both Aurier and Toby Alderweireld, and even a Dele sighting that featured some pretty darn good football busted the game open. Gio was our weakest player but after the stomping by Fleck that should have been judged worthy of a red, I don’t think we can be too harsh on him. The key thing was the floodgates opened—against the worst team in the league, to be sure—and for once our attack force ruled the day. We now have drawn level with the two teams ahead of us in the race for the top four on goal difference—keep on winning and hope one or both stumble against a tougher run-in and hope still lives.
But let’s face it. We were an afterthought yesterday as much as the Gooners were in their 2-0 win at Newcastle—the real story took place at Old Trafford. Let me be clear- I have no warmth of feeling for the Glazers (or Kroenke, or the Abu Dhabi royal family, or John Henry, or Roman Abramovich. And a reduced amount for our ownership and President). The Super League was a monstrosity, made worse by ridiculous public relations in three different countries. But the scenes I witnessed—including now reports of more violence than was first believed—could only bring one thing to mind for me sitting her across the pond—the events of January 6th at the U.S. Capitol. Somehow Manchester United security was either unprepared or willing to wink as these thugs jumped the fence and took over the ground.
Somehow Gary Neville—playing the role of Donald Trump to Roy Keane’s Tucker Carlson—managed to toss away most of his recent credibility with a bizarre defence—no, make that praise—of the “protesters”. As if this type of disorder is going to solve anything. Even before we heard reports of a serious injury to a policeman and how the mob was hardly totally peaceful. All it did was screw up a compressed schedule even more in ways that could or not be beneficial to Liverpool or the quartet of teams, including Spurs, battling them for Top Four status (remember that? The mechanism by which one qualifies for European competition?). Will it have any impact on the “evil” Glazers? Of course not. If anything it may cause them to dig in further against this challenge to their authority and power.
Listen, this is all a sign of the times. None of this occurs without the pandemic and the absence of fans from games for more than a year. There is a historical correlation between pandemics and the subsequent widening of inequality that often leads to social unrest and even revolution when the dying is done. Sport is a microcosm—perhaps the tip of this iceberg. There will be many more examples of people taking action across the globe—going to the streets, as it were—against authority and wealth. There is a fair case to be made to change the way English football works. But actions like yesterday risk hurting the movement more than helping it. The mob will never be allowed to rule—not in the past, not now, not ten years from now. They may have moments that call attention to their grievances—but if their tactics are poorly designed and executed, they risk a setback that could produce an even worse outcome than the ones they are angry about. And when will the likes of Neville—hypocrisy glistening with every word he utters—realize that they might just have too much power than they bargained for? That their holier-than-thou stands can produce a less than angelic reaction?
Maybe next autumn as the gates open for real fans to enter our hallowed grounds we will see some cooling of feelings. Maybe even some constructive attempts to resolve what are some serious ills plaguing this sport, and not just the greed of the few biggest clubs. Maybe the events of Old Trafford yesterday afternoon which I can’t help believing were the wrong people protesting the wrong actions in a wrong fashion—will cause people to reflect and perhaps calm down. But it might go the other way, in which case this was just the beginning. The barricades are a romantic notion until people start getting hurt. I truly hope it doesn’t get to that point, yesterday was not a cause for celebration, or exultation—it was a window into our entire condition. Which isn’t good.
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