Sunday, May 22, 2011

Are you listening Merseyside..?

This is my first post in almost a year. The fact is that I was too tensed to write anything and jinx United’s chanced of winning the 19th title! Yeah, you read it right. There is a connection between a want-to-be-software-engineer (even after 6 years, that is!) in Bangalore and a millions-earning Wayne Rooney scoring goals in Manchester! Call this fan’s fanatical crap, and you can’t be far from truth! I wrote a post at the start of the season and Rooney almost quit Old Trafford!

Now with the title in bag, the Scousers beyond horizon in the points table, Stamford Bridge in absolute chaos, Eastlands learning that it is more difficult to handle success than failure, what better time to start writing again. It is a prelude to tonight’s title party, when the number 19 starts reverberating around the hallowed turf of Old Trafford.

It wasn’t an easy title to win by any means. The start of the season saw Chelsea pulling ahead of the pack, carrying the same form which saw them winning the title in the previous season while United were struggling to put a series of results, throwing leads at Fulham and Everton. As many as 4 teams were fighting for the title, although Manchester City were always going to be outsiders with a defensive manager at the helm. Chelsea were banging goals (and John Terry still banging team mates’ wives) when the biggest news of the season broke out, that Wayne Rooney wants to leave Manchester United because he thought United were lacking ambition to win trophies. Being in software industry, I have seen many tricks to get a pay hike, but this was beyond me too. Lack of ambition in a team which is winning titles for fun with the best manager in the world? You must have had a big hard hangover Wayne! Fans were understandably livid, the manager appeared down-cast and the club image in tatters. Then, even before I could collect all the dirty jokes about Rooney and publish in Facebook, he did a U-turn and signed a 5-year deal. Very good crisis management from Wayne Rooney.

From there onwards, United’s season took off. Slowly but steadily they got their aura back, despite a poor away record. They did just what is needed to win matches. No flamboyance, no bulldozing, just efficient heads-down-and-get-3-points attitude. Meantime Chelsea went into a winter slumber, Rooney’s moment of genius killed City’s fading title hopes and Arsenal’s bubble was always expected to implode when the ‘squeaky bum time’ arrives. There were moments when United looked down and out, at Blackpool and West Ham. But something is their DNA just won’t allow them to accept defeat when that appears the obvious outcome. Berbatov and Rooney got them out of trouble almost always, but they also had a lethal weapon in Hernandez. The little Mexican’s first season in England was nothing short of sensational. He popped up with important goals, whenever called upon. Fergie, the magician, has un-earthed one more gem, out of thin air.

“We will be just fine” was Fergie's response when the team dropped points at Newcasle, which showed his immense faith in the team and he believed that only an almighty muck up will prevent his side lift the trophy for a record 19th time. Chelsea’s late season form meant that it all came down to their showdown at Old Trafford. Fergie’s fledglings chose that game to produce their most assured performance of the season and Chelsea were blown away in the first half itself in magnificent fashion so much so that, even after three days, John Terry was unable to fathom what hit them. Fergie’s salute to the Stretford End at the end of the game showed that the title is coming back home and what it means for the head honcho.

It will be a carnival atmosphere tonight at Old Trafford and I just can’t wait to see Vidic lifting the coveted trophy. “To knock Liverpool of their fucking perch” announced a younger and fierier Ferguson 25 years ago and finally they have been well and truly knocked off. What better song than “Are you listening Merseyside..?” to sing tonight. It is going to be a truly memorable occasion.

Epilogue: Anyone who believes that winning the 19th title will make Sir Alex Ferguson’s to think about retirement is an idiot and doesn’t know how success is viewed at this club. At Manchester United success is a passing moment which is enjoyed for the shortest of time. The moment the trophy is put in the cabinet, the journey of excellence towards the next destination begins. There is a beautiful story in the book ‘Manchester United: The Biography’ by Jim White. The next morning after United won the Champions League, defeating Chelsea, in 2008 , Danny Welback, a 17 year member of United youth team slept through the alarm and missed the team bus, exhausted by the morning exertions. He had to scramble his way into a cab to meet up with the rest of the team at the airport. Just as they touched down in England, Welback was summoned to Sir Alex Ferguson’s office in Carrington to explain. At Manchester United, it never stops. Ever.