There’s something peculiarly evil about agreeing with an opposition fan over a moment of controversy affecting their team. You can see it getting under their skin and undermining their world view.
My ex-team boss is a Liverpool fan and he was on our floor this afternoon to speak to someone. Naturally, he couldn’t resist the chance to have a gloat over me for last Thursday’s Europa League tie, not to mention the return leg coming up in a couple of days. It didn’t half take the wind out of his sails when I cheerfully described out performance as ‘crap’.
We had more of a serious argument about the return leg, especially when I said I could see us turning them over 3-0. He just rejected it as a possibility at all. Mind you, I said I could also see us being hammered again, which he naturally agreed with. I don’t take his opinion seriously, anyway. There are some Liverpool fans you can have a serious conversation with, and then there’s the majority, like my ex-Team leader.
But the thing is that I genuinely don’t know what to expect from United when I sit down to watch a match this season. Most of the time, no expectation has been the order of things: no goals, no chances, no creation, no expectation.
Yet there is another United, one that comes out unexpectedly, plays serious, purposeful, exciting football, wins and wins in style. It’s like the anti-van Gaal United, the one that rejects utterly everything he tells them and instead plays unlike a Manchester United team, indeed makes a mockery of him and his ‘three-year-plan-is-exactly-on-track’ (insert ironic link to Talking Heads’ ‘Road to Nowhere’ at this point).
If they play on Thursday, I can see us overcoming the scousers and going through. And I may be dropping down to the floor on which my ex-Team Leader works on the Friday, if that should come to pass.
Everybody’s still arguing about who should manage United next season. There’s an overwhelming consensus among the ABUs of the entire country that it should still be van Gaal, and there are still a sizable number of people I work with who would commit at least Grievous Bodily Harm to secure Mourinho. I think they’re short-sighted. I keep saying that we might have two years of success with him, and then we’d be worse off than we are now.
Even the Guardian seemed to have cooled on their endless campaign to force Mourinho into the hot seat at Old Trafford, if nothing else out of sheer horrified embarrassment at coming out with an article (by the otherwise usually intelligent Barney Ronay) pushing the case for van Gaal and Mourinho to work together, with Jose as the junior partner.
Let’s be honest, I’m in the vast majority that wants van Gaal out. It is clear beyond measure that he hasn’t the faintest idea what to do and he cannot establish United as a successful club again, least of all attractive. But I would take him as manager again next season in one circumstance only: to keep Mourinho out.
Though the FA Cup is still within United’s possibilities (I have a quiet suspicion that we will make West Ham’s last ever cup tie at Upton Park into a miserable affair for them), I’ve long since written off this season. It’s great to see so many youngsters coming through and the unexpected bonus of Rooney’s injury this last month has demonstrated clearly that we do not relay on him anything remotely like as much as van Gaal imagines: ‘he is the captain, he will always play when he is fit’: what manager with any brains makes that kind of promise? (Lionel Messi’s, that’s who).
But this is a nowhere year. A new United is required next season, ideally with a new manager. Laurent Blanc is in the frame. Bryan Robson says Giggsy is ready now. The current United isn’t fit for purpose. Support is a habit, a loyalty born of decades.
I’ll still get more pleasure out of Leicester city winning the Premier League than anything else this season.