People across the world, and one or two in Manchester, are in despair. The greatest football manager in history has lost it. Two defeats in a row can pretty much tell you that. That’s right. Two. They’re three whole points behind the leaders. Shocking.
Man United are in meltdown. That’s according to the fair-weather fatheads who don’t really have a Red Devil running through their veins, they’ve just overdosed on a little bit too much vicarious glory.
There’s no doubt that Fergie has problems, but these have been bubbling under for a while. His main problem – as with a lot of managers – is that he’s in charge of a club whose fans have come to treat victory as a divine right.
They’ll tell you that the Govan Beetroot needs to invest urgently in some top-class players, as if just the name of Manchester United means the man can peel a world-class midfielder from off the soles of his hushpuppies. It’s garbage. Not even the thrill of a Europa League campaign will be enough for the likes of Wesley Sneijder.
So, hopefully it is going to be a bit of a crappity old season for United. The signs are promising. Vidic’s absence has left a back four looking as sturdy as a newborn foal. With Fletcher out for the foreseeable the midfield looks as frail as Gillian Anderson’s Miss Haversham (and how that woman can still look bleeding gorgeous whilst dressed as a rotting ghost is beyond me), and upfront His Knightship can’t decide who to pair up with the Boozy Scouser.
For the rest of us, this is a happier time. Chances are that the title this year will be between Man City and Gawd ‘elp us, Spurs. The usual suspects have been relegated to the back of the queue.
Citeh will win it, even allowing for Dzeko’s reversion to the gambolling giraffe of last year. Given they’ve got a decent left-back doing fuck-all for £90K a week it’s the blinking least they should manage, to be frank. Bridge should quit whining. I’d very happily have his job.
The loss at Sunderland will be seen as a blip. Martin O’Neill has transformed the team and enhanced his semi-Messianic reputation. If you listen to Robbie Savage, which I appreciate is almost as painful as Jools Holland’s tedious Hootenanny tripe, he’ll tell you that O’Neill keeps it simple. And given that he's talking to footballers that's just as well.
The Black Cats have pressed high up the pitch, and got a couple of sneaky last-minute winners and Wearside is aglow. It also underlines summat I’ve always thought –that Steve Bruce couldn’t manage a tea bar, let alone a football club.
The Christmas period was delightfully topsy-turvy. Barely a result went the way you might have expected, and it was reassuring to have Wenger back in full bleat after the defeat at Fulham.
Liverpool will be hoping that the dust has settled on the case of Luis Suarez, but frankly the club have handled the whole thing with the sort of crassness that you wouldn’t even find at a Republican primary. The T-shirts supporting the bugsy Uruguayan were insane. The indignation has been absurd. The scramble to climb up the highest of horses has done the club no favours whatsoever.
If we want to kick racism out of football, an eight-week ban for someone racially abusing a fellow pro seems to be a good place to start. Anfield has been in denial. The fact that Evra can be a needly little bleeder is unfortunate, but irrelevant.
You do wonder if the player concerned was, say, Martin Skrtel, whether the club would have been quite so fervent in its ignorance. Suarez is a cracking little player and Skrtel would only appear on a piece of merchandise if it were a parody of Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
I mean I appreciate that the team ethic is important, and that managers, in public at least, tend towards tight-lipped support rather than damning the player outright. But that’s just not good enough in this case. I actually think Chelsea have handled the Terry case with a little more subtlety. At least their support has been guarded.
Suarez’s apology might just draw a line under things but the lament that the word ‘negro’ is commonplace in South America is disingenuous. The Black and White Minstrels were very popular in the 60s too, but now it makes us all feel a tad uneasy, Luis. If I snarl the word ‘black’ at someone seven times over in a couple of minutes (he says once but I think that’s almost certainly cack) then I think the bloke concerned might just think I’m accusing him of more than just possessing darker skin than mine.
The fact that Liverpool FC have a great tradition of community involvement, and have been at the wrong end of serious injustices in the not too distant past, makes the handling of all this even more difficult to fathom.
There are still the odd shit-headed knob-end who thinks that a player’s skin colour has owt to do with his contribution on a football field but one of the greatest advances in our national game is the fact that by and large a footballer is judged on whether he’s any good or not. Full stop.
There are more dimly lit corners of the continent where racism is rife – and I don’t doubt that Euro 2012 will unveil some shaven-headed tattooed pillocks, newly clambered out of the primordial soup, who treat football matches as an excuse to promote their illiteracy.
We can hardly condemn that sort of malice if we don’t clean the shit of our own doorstep.