Sunday, February 19, 2012

Renewing Old Rivalries

So here we are again at the business end of the season. The time of year that gets the juices flowing and the nerves tingling.
And let’s face it, this has been no ordinary season. Already it will go down as one of the most bizarre PL season in its 20 year history, and indeed on its 20th anniversary. Only this season could throw out such oddities as an 8-2 home win followed so closely by a 1-6 home reverse. Tight, tactically fraught contests in the pasts have been played out in defensive calamity and attacking gusto simply never encountered. It’s been so unpredictable, the bookies must have made a mint.
And so reads the season report. Man City are in dreamland. Even the Sheikh must have expected a further year of stealthy growth as part of his 5 year plan but they sit rather handsomely at the summit. Man U are somehow hanging in there. Only two points separate the Manchester clubs but the much greater authority has been shown by City and the only plaudits you can pay United are that they simply never give up. City really should be much further clear by now and it is still not inconceivable that Man U will win that 20th title and also the Europa League with this team which would be amazing really. Despite my well documented disdain for the current first choice midfield, I do think Fergie only needs 2 midfield players of genuine quality to make United impregnable again. Spurs have all but nailed down 3rd place. This is a great achievement for a club used to scrapping away for a European place and yet they are now easily the best club in London and deservedly so playing arguably the most attractive football in England. Shrewd signings and under-rated man management have seen them reach this pinnacle but it is also partly down to an implosion down the King’s Road and across North London with both Chelsea and Arsenal horribly inconsistent and for different reasons a distinct lack of faith in the managers and their tactics. In reality they have also been badly let down by their players.
And so what of Liverpool? Believe it or not I’m quite pleased to see them progressing so well in the cups. It cannot make up for yet another hopeless attempt at the title which was all but over by mid October – again. Yet it will provide some momentum and feel-good factor to an embattled club whose heritage and fan base should see them performing at the top table on a regular basis.
Let’s move quickly past the Suarez factor. It annoyed me intensely that so much was made of the Liverpool vs. United connection. Frankly it had nothing to do with that. It was actually more black and white. Yet this rivalry was stoked by the media who could not resist stirring up tensions and the undoubted ‘fix’ of the FA Cup draw drew attention away from the seriousness of the allegation and made it personal between the players and clubs.
So there’s no love lost but I am yearning for this rivalry to mean something again. When Fergie came in vowing to ‘knock them off their perch’ even he must have hoped that United would generate their successes at the direct expense of Liverpool. The fact that Liverpool have only really challenged for the title once in the last 20 years will have filled him with no great satisfaction, and that’s the same for me. I want United winning titles in a tough battle against Liverpool. Honestly, I’m not being disingenuous. Of course I want United to prevail but it is getting quite dull to send my customary piss-take to all my Scouser- supporting mates before I’ve even tucked into my Christmas turkey.
So come on Liverpool. Show some fight and go on and win the odd cup. Go ahead and attract some proper players to the club, worthy of wearing the shirt and let’s have a proper battle at the summit. Until you do, the rivalry remains somewhat devalued.

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