The rising December sun genuinely struggled to infiltrate the blinds shading the sooty and somber bedroom I woke up in this morning. I pleaded with my better judgment to call it a wrap on this already beleaguered Monday, but I was defeated, soundly. Those blinds were drawn and the light shone on me as if saved. It is time to progress forward. To forget this dilapidated weekend, in spite of the mountain of mental gymnastics it will require to do so.
Certainly, all is not lost, but rest assured, it bloody feels like it.
The Manchester derby has left me depleted. The millisecond Romelu Lukaku scuffed a nervy clearance off I don’t even care to remember whom into the path of a suddenly exuberant and more useful than is normally expected Nicolás Otamendi, my Sunday turned into the murkiest of blacks. The shot, I feared, was going in. The result, I knew, was turning sky blue.
This is not going to be much of a recap of that mostly dour match, but merely a reflection. If anything, a musing of what is to come. To the victors go their due. Manchester City attacked away from home and got a deserved three points en route to a deserved title. Manchester United struck me as afraid to concede, which led to a sloppiness resembling a school ground five-a-side. The absence of Paul Pogba was telling. It was the death knell. United cannot link the back four and boss the midfield going forward without said Guinean*. Ander Herrera cannot attack like he does. Nemanja Matić is not paid to do so. That allowed City Frederick Law Olmsted designed park-sized acres in the middle to splay passes about and dominate possession. I was not wowed by the champions-elect. I was, however; stunned by United’s almost insistence on not playing football until they were a goal behind. The performance by those in red was not impressive and did not merit a result.
*calm down, I know he’s French
Manchester City are getting the luck that follows about champions. To win this league it is imperative you remain consistent and lucky. City are the best team in Britain, with the best start to a Prem anyone has ever witnessed. They have combined their play with the favorable whistles and the fortuitous bounces on the pitch. That perfect storm that gets you the gong at the end of May.
With that said, they remain objectively unlikeable to me. Their players spend considerable amounts of time on the floor writhing as if we all suddenly moved to Spain. Pep Guardiola and his CV keep him protected as a darling to the world’s eyes. His sideline antics and overall carrying on are tiresome (I have similar distaste for the gimmicks of Antonio Conte and Jürgen Klopp). The post-match histrionics at Southampton and now yesterday at Old Trafford from coaches and players is simply unnecessary. It reeks of a classlessness usually prescribed to say…Manchester City. I have no problems with celebrating victories. But it’s December, bruvs. Mario Götze didn’t celebrate scoring the 2014 World Cup final winner as much as City celebrated this derby. The scuffle (dare I say, brawl?) that ensued in the tunnel after the final whistle is in step with the aforementioned class levels expected of everybody’s new favorite team. Not just the league is watching and dreaming of derailing this City warpath to trophies, but now the whole continent is united in wanting to rain on their inevitable parade. Manchester City have painted the bullseye on their back and we will see how good they really are.
And they are quite exceptional, mind you. City have a depth consisting of world class talent in case any number of their irresistible starters is off the boil. David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne are in Ballon d’Or form. Vincent Kompany is back to shore up an initially leaky but now quite resolute defensive line. The stage is set.
For Manchester United and the rest of the Premier League it now comes down to being professional and not giving up on the season. The race for a top 4 spot will be tight. United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham will all be at each other’s throats. There is the FA Cup to chase and for all those teams, besides Arsenal, the Champions League is still very much in play. With the transfer window about to reopen, there is still much to be hopeful of. Teams now see what they have, their weaknesses, what they’re up against and will attempt to reinforce with whatever funds remain available in the chest.
Luckily, it is the festive period and the matches will be coming thick and fast. Players won’t have too much time to dwell on recent results (Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool also dropped vital points over the weekend and Tottenham are trying to rectify their November to forget) as fixtures classically pile up towards the year’s end. The manner in which Manchester City are pulling away is undoubtedly leaving its mark on the way teams prepare for matches (just wait until players get rested before massive cup ties) and react to unfavorable results. A loss or draw isn’t quite as painful, or frankly, significant, and top tier matches will be absent their usual maximum anticipation. That is to City’s credit.
So, let’s breathe and keep things moving. There is plenty good football to come. The Premier League is never straight forward. I’ve watched every single iteration of it and the Hollywood worthy twists and turns will unquestionably rear their beautiful heads. For this exact moment though, I will need as much sunshine as is on offer.