Russ Cowper on a derby that only one team wanted to win.
In the aftermath of this week’s derby, I have watched a fair few fan reactions on social media. One that stood out was a Manchester United fan on a fan’s Youtube channel. His passion and love for his club was laid bare and in his expletive-ridden diatribe he made a succinct point: “we are Manchester United, not ****** Stoke’.
United were mocked mercilessly by City fans for parking the bus Mourinho style at the theatre of dreams. It was a style of football I have never witnessed from any Manchester United side. Even in defeat the legacy of Sir Matt Busby was adhered too, polished by Ferguson and United are renowned world wide for playing in the time honoured fashion of the magnificent Busby Babes. Two wingers, two strikers, relentless attacking backed by a noisy vociferous Stretford End is United. So back to the fan on social media and his Stoke point. My thoughts are that his outburst was totally justified. Mourinho let him and his fellow fans down. He let their proud history down.
As a blue it is not my place to criticise Manchester United for their tactical approach to this week’s Manchester Derby, nor will I gloat in victory. In a fixture that is becoming one of the biggest in the Premier League and indeed on the planet I think Mourinho owed fans of both teams much, much more. Personally I wanted to see City tested to the limit by our near neighbours: they have the players, the history, the record and the passion to do so. A tv audience estimated at around a billion in over 100 different countries football fans will have watched in the expectation of seeing two clubs go toe to toe in an epic battle. Instead they were served up a disappointing damp squib, a lesson in defensive mindedness and to be honest if I was neutral I would have switched over to Escape to the Country or whatever the Chinese equivalent of that show is.
Admittedly this was a derby of yore, where City would turn up dutifully to perform their act of being the sacrificial lamb at the altar of Sir Matt, but even in those days we never surrendered so meekly in the face of the magnificent Ferguson machine. City knew they had pride to play for and honour to defend.
Some fans may disagree with this but I thought Mourinho showed a dereliction of duty to the great name of Manchester United. As one elderly red lady on social media pointed out so passionately and candidly how can he understand what the game means when he can’t even be bothered to live in our great City. Genuinely I feel the lady has a point, he simply cannot understand the significance of the game if he does not live amongst us.
Normally after a Derby game my phone is red hot with texts and calls. They fly back and forth and we expect it as it is part of our derby game history. We look forward to work on Monday morning if we win, dread it if we lose, we avoid friends, we avoid family and cross the street so we are not ridiculed by the bloke we know from the pub. Mancunian humour at its most cutting is witnessed just after derby days. We dissect the game, we discuss the minutiae, we argue over the decisions, its expected, it defines us as its important in our lives and it concretes our place within our communities. Since the game, I have received no texts, no calls; its quiet, the pub was deathly it appears part of our Mancunian soul has been rendered asunder. My god I wanted to gloat and bask in the glory but instead I felt bereft and empty. A game I have looked forward to all my life had been reduced to a match more at home in the era of Italian Catenaccio. This wasn’t a game of mid table disinterest, it was the top two teams in the land reduced to a game we expect from a Big Sam v Club Shop Pulis relegation battle desperately hoping to sneak a point.
As fans we hoped for more, personally I wanted a slugfest of rumble in the jungle proportions, a match to make our City proud, a game that highlighted why our City is so special. Instead we were served up a game of abject timidity; stifling ennui in front of a crowd that at times appeared half asleep.
I am a blue, I will gladly take the points of course but what is nagging at me is the thought of one simple notion. Manchester United fans deserve better than that, Manchester deserves better than that what was offered up to them. Our City deserves a game befitting of our status and instead of debating what did or did not happen in the tunnel after the game we should be revelling in a game where we saw two giants go head to head in an epic battle.