A potential moment of serious embarrassment


I am, as you should by now be well aware, a Manchester United, and one highly delighted at our victory over Everton yesterday to reach the FA Cup Final (what a winning goal by Anthony Martial!)

But it’s not of the Cup that I want to speak now. Everybody will also be aware that United have not played well this season and, with four League games remaining, lie fifth, with an outside chance of pipping Arsenal for the vital fourth place that will see us in the Champions League again next season.

Back in October of last year, the unlikely shape of Leicester City reached the top of the Premier League, and I decided to support them for the League this year. Part of it was a joke: as a United fan of nearly forty years standing, I have been accused on innumerable occasions of being a glory-hunter, so I felt perfectly entitled to actually be one for once.

No-one was taking Leicester seriously back then. They won’t last, they’ll burn out, they haven’t got the squad, these were the mantras. In vain I pointed out that I had heard every single one of these objections spoken about Nottingham Forest in 1977/78. No-one wanted to listen. No-one could believe Leicester could be taken seriously.

Even I didn’t really expect it to last. It would be glorious if it did, an absolutely brilliant demonstration that football wasn’t completely dead yet, that it hadn’t been bought and sold irrecoverably by the Big Four/Five. And it wasn’t really glory-hunting. That glory, that delirium attaches to the real Leicester fans, for whom this is life and death in a way that it can never be for me, who next year will be (hopefully) concentrating upon United.

But it has lasted, not just lasted but become and been deadly serious for far too long now. I’ve followed the results, I’ve even started watching the games. It still doesn’t make me a Foxes, just a mere hanger-on, ready to be thrilled and delighted by the glory that they will rightly savour. If it comes off.

And that’s the thing. As  of those moment, I’ve just enjoyed an open, flowing game that Leicester have won 4-0. That places them eight points clear, eight points, nearly three whole wins, at the top. With three games to play.

But in second place, Tottenham Hotspur, the only team that can now overhaul the Foxes, have four games to play. Speaking strictly mathematically, Spurs could end up on 80 points. Leicester are on 76 points: they need five from the last three games to secure the title.

Though if Spurs fail to win their game-in-hand, at home tomorrow night to West Bromwich Albion, which seems unlikely but hey, this is football, the equation will change dramatically. Even if Spurs only draw, Leicester could win the Premier League in their next match, next Sunday.

At Old Trafford. Against Manchester United.

Which leaves me in a bit of a quandary. I have never, ever gone into a United game wanting us to lose. Expecting to lose, maybe, but never, not for the most tactical of purposes wanting us to do anything other than win. But a win over Leicester might destroy this ridiculous dream of glory, this unimaginably v-signing, nose-thumbing, middle-finger raising claim upon something fundamental to football’s soul, or that part of it that is still not black and charred.

Especially if a win next Sunday might be the thing itself.

Next Sunday could be seriously embarrassing. Come on West Brom!

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