In ten years time, in the North Didsbury Sunshine Home for the Bewildered, a tottering Arsene Wenger will nudge his zimmer frame over to the grumpy bastard in the armchair.
“You’re Alex Ferguson”, he will say.
“Yes. And you’re Arsene Wenger!”
“Aye” says the purple Scot, “I remember names – I just cannae remember how tae defend!”
After Arsenal’s 8-2 mauling at Old Trafford, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that the Premier League’s arse-spanking event of the year had been seen and done. There was something about City’s demolition derby victory that may even have left United botties rawer still.
First of all, Fergie managed to suggest his team had met all the big sides in the League last weekend. City were absent from the list. He’s the master of the tactical omission. Secondly, there’s that ‘noisy neighbours’ tag – which is Fergie’s bit of football snobbery, as if Citeh are some chav family with nothing more than a Euromillions win to go with their string of ASBOs. Well they’re not so much noisy now as so downright ear-splitting it makes your hairdryer sound like little more than a housefly’s fart.
From Cornwall to Kuala Lumpur, there’ll be wanting answers from Fergie. Citeh, five points clear and with a squad with more depth than the Marianas Trench, look pretty unbeatable. There is still one ugly blot on the Eastlands landscape but the greedy little Argie will be whisked off to a new address in January – I hear it’s called Joorabchian’s Cut – and Mancini’s grip will have tightened considerably.
And it’s Roberto who’s looking like the bee’s knees at the mo. I thought Citeh would lose patience with the bloke, assuming as I did that billionaires have attention span of a three-year-old toddler. But then not all billionaires are Russian oligarchs. Mancini’s had 100 games in charge now and finally the stroppy buggers are being weeded out and a team is emerging.
Of course Balotelli, possibly forced into service by the couch potato-faced Carlos, has been a revelation. He’s managed to combine exquisite finishing with tremendous eccentricity. Ken Loach is currently making a film called Looking for Mario, in which a United fan gets kept awake day and night by a bloke playing Italian hiphop and setting off fireworks in his bathroom.
Who said Balotelli was a bit of a cock?
That T-shirt with the slogan ‘Why Always Me?’ showed a fine line in self-awareness. I know the lad’s got a couple of rashers short of the full English but I’m starting to like the lad.
Whether this is a changing of guard in Manchester remains to be seen, say all but the most reckless of pundits. Me, I know it is. Sure, Ferguson has this magic touch, can turn average Englishness into a force to be reckoned with, but frankly he doesn’t have anything like the same weapons at his disposal. Citeh’s tanks rolled into the Theatre of Dreams and United had nowt but cotton-buds with which to protect themselves.
At times Ferdinand appeared to wave them through with grim-faced resignation like a bystander at Royal Wootton Basset.
Fergie can compete against naked wealth when it’s a band of self-interested mercenaries – not that I’m suggesting that United are poor; compared to Shane McGowan, Shaun Ryder is coherent. But if that wealth is organised into a team culture by a suave greying Mediterranean smoothie with a potty streak then Fergie has to stand aside and let that money talk, be it in roubles or dirhams.
Chelsea have yet to recover the pomp of the Mourinho years. I think the phrase is ‘in transition’. Which is football-speak for ‘some good young-uns, some good old-uns who are getting past it and some rich middle-uns who don’t quite know what they’re supposed to be doing yet.’
The defeat at QPR led to Villas-Boas’s first resort to ref-bashing. Unfairly, I reckon. The red cards were right. The penalty was right. Drogba looked like he was jumping into a puddle rather than Adel Taarabt. (Even so, I can imagine a bit of Neil Warnock wishing that he could attack Adel in the same way. Tarrabt makes Mario Balotelli look like he’s walked out of an ashram.
Rangers spent the second half doing their best All Black impression and choking like a thirteen-year-old after his first toke but in the end Anelka and co couldn’t get back into it. And Chelsea sit six points behind this season’s Premier League Champions. Or do I mean leaders? No I mean Champions.
Citeh’ll still struggle in Europe but that’ll only strengthen their hold in England.
Meanwhile the rest of the North-West are looking a bit grim. Well Wigan, Bolton and Blackburn always look a bit grim but so do their football clubs now. (Yep, I know, this coming from a citizen of Middlesbrough – but I think that qualifies me to pass judgement).
Blackburn fans seem to be the readiest to roast their manager. Not quite sure why the chicken-vendors are hesitating. Kean looks oven-ready. Not that his team have played that bad, they just haven’t had the luck. Not that Blackburn fans will forgive the manager or owners.
Steve Kean prowls the touchline.
It’s a footballing paradox that you could almost hear rolling out of the slightly slurred lips of Alan Hansen: ‘In football, luck doesn’t change by accident’.
And whichever way you look at it, you’ve got to sell a lot of flaming chickens before you can start competing against the oil and gas magnates of this world.
A final word on the Rugby World Cup. Thank God that’s over. Were it not for the romance of a nation plagued by adversity claiming the trophy it would go down as one of the grimmest tournaments in living memory.
The final was one for the connoisseurs I’m told. Which basically means it was like a food flight in an abattoir. There are better ways to spend a Sunday and Man City and QPR proved that later in the day. Football is quite simply a much much better game.