It is probably a very bad idea to write about all this just 15 hours after it’s all just happened.
I thought going to bed, trying to attain a few hours kip, and starting a fresh in the new morning…would work. It normally works every time.
Manchester City are the newly crowned champions of this country. And being honest…worthy champions. After our miserable defeat to them at the Etihad, I hadn’t expected anything else. But just for a few seconds yesterday we had won the league. It would have been the sweetest of titles. But just as we were about to sip that gorgeous elixir, it was ripped from our hands by a pesky Argentine genius.
It’s easy to reflect on 6-1’s; on allowing Evertonians to mug you off; on tactical failures at crucial times…but I want to focus on the last five minutes of this most brilliant of Premier League seasons…cos frankly I can’t stop thinking about it.
I had a feeling QPR might pull off something. Especially when at 1-0 down the Bolton news had filtered through. The reason why we love football is because anything can happen. I felt they could equalise but I had no intention with flirting with the idea. Before you know it, they’ve nailed two and they are leading at Eastlands. Even then…no chance…Im not thinking about this in terms of being successful. I proceeded to watch the clock like i have never done before. In my head I thought ‘I wonder how long it will be before City turn this around? I wonder how long we could say..well we were champions with fifteen minutes to go…with eight minutes to go…with four minutes to go’
Still I refused to believe. A pessimist is never disappointed.
As the clock hit 90 I sat on the edge of my seat. My City loving wife across the room from me looking ash white and resigned. When Dzeko scored I had that same thought I have in every tight match:
‘They will get one more chance to win this’…its a United fans mantra.
Those next 120 seconds will live in my memory for all the wrong reasons for the rest of my life.
As United’s stoppage time expired and the whistle blew, I suddenly believed. I believed that this could be the most amazing title id ever seen. I sat with my head in my hands…still transfixed on the clock.
On minute ninety four when Balotelli toed the ball into the path of Aguero, everything stopped in my world.
This is the moment of ‘football totality’…the second where the Sun of reality is eclipsed by a Moon of a future event that will create history…awaiting to be written in the next moment. As Aguero took his first touch I already began to feel vital organs fail. I stopped breathing. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t speak.
As he put his foot through the ball, all I could think was ‘I wish it wasnt Paddy Kenny in goal. I really really wish.’ In these situations the human being tries to attribute useless blame..but its just that….useless.
As the ball hit the net I stood to my feet. Bolted upright. I felt like I had just witnessed a huge car crash. You’re helpless as the cars smash and flip on to their roofs. All you can do is watch…and fall into shock.
My kids were in the room, and they watched their father then fall to his knees. Crumbled. Deconstructed. I started to sob. I laid down on the cold hard floor face down, with the noise of Martin Tyler in my ears. I knew it was done. I do not ever react to football in this manner in victory or defeat. It was a moment of temporary insanity and abject destruction. I lost the control I so very much take for granted. My intelligence just stopped working.
There was never really a problem with City winning the title…for they have a £900m squad! The day we signed Berbatov…the same day that City won the Middle East lottery…I predicted that they would win the league within five seasons. That prophecy came true…as I knew it would. The problem was the manner. The acute timing that only football seems to be able to produce. If City had destroyed QPR in normal fashion I think I could have stood and clapped…dusted off and got on with things. But the way it happened…it was crushing
I’ve never experienced emotion like this because of football. Yes it is all very melodramatic I know. Some fans automatically just become defensive on defeat. Some well-aimed profanity and lets bottle this emotion up in a vault. I never cry about football, because I know it’s just a game. But yesterday I lost control. And I don’t like it. I didn’t like it. It was like an outpouring of momentary grief. The last time I fell to my knees in such a manner was when Giggs beat the whole Arsenal defence and scored his wonder goal in 1999. But that time I fell because the tsunami of emotion that washed over and floored me was joyful…
Yesterday was the polar opposite. I drowned.
Overall I don’t begrudge City anything. They have a great team. All football fans deserve their moments in the sun and City fans have waited a lifetime for this. But just hours after the event, I feel more bruised and battered that I ever have from watching the game I so passionately love. I have watched football non stop since 1985. So that is twenty seven years to feel this version of pain.
I know time is a healer. I have faith in this current squad of ours. I know we will come again, and there will be a day we can reflect on the Aguero moment with respect for what it was….a truly magnificent and historic piece of football theatre. But for now…it is a funeral march…through as Gary Neville described..”A summer of pain”
I watched Michael Thomas do this to Liverpool in 1989 as a boy…and I always thanked my lucky stars that I was not on the end of it, like the Scousers were on that day.
We have now had our Michael Thomas moment.
The next week or two will undoubtably be the worst. The transfer gossip will take over and we will think of future days. But I think this wound will leave a scar on my body permanently. And everytime United win something..and I want to explode into orbit..I will ground myself with a quick peak of where this wound once was. Success and defeat should always be treated in the same manner I have always believed…because that is the tonic to stay a winner…and not fall into the delusion that being drunk on success brings.
Well done City. We will see you same place, same time…next season. And you know full well what we will bring to the table. No era began or ended yesterday. But history was written with the blood of the Manchester United Faithful. We will rectify that as soon as we can.