Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Manchester United !!! Football freaks Read On

Chanced upon this article. This was written by someone just after Man United won the UCL finals against Chelsea last year. It’s a good read, irrespective of the club you support. Enjoy.

Yesterday I saw Man United win the 2nd UCL final in my life. I did not believe it when they won it the first time. Neither did I believe it when they won it again yesterday.

I have been following United from my school days. Although United hadn’t won a major title post-’68, they were still rated as the most famous club in the world! They were famous as George Best (the only player – allegedly – whom Pele rated higher than himself) played at Old Trafford for 11 years. They became the first English club to win the UCL. They were the first English club to have three European Footballers of the Year (’64, ‘66’, ’68 – Law, Charlton, Best). They were the most well known brand in the world!

My friends (in the late eighties) used to support Tottenham (they were good those days), Everton (they won the league once in the eighties) and Liverpool (they towered with 10 titles between ’76 and ’90). Doordarshan did not use to telecast live European soccer matches. But we used to sometime capture live feeds from Bangladesh TV using something called abooster (can you believe it – soccer matches being telecast not in India but in BangladeshJ) and see them. I used to read paper clippings from The Telegraph (Calcutta) and find out about United’s performances.

United had their issues. They were reluctant to play non-British/non-Isles players and were focussed on playing the players of their academy. While Keegan, Platini, Rummenigge, Rossi, Matthaeus, Voller and Klinsmann dominated European club football, I kept on seeing United losing in crucial matches. There were times when I felt that I was let down by United. I lost my face to my friends at school (I used to study in a school run by Irish Catholics and was therefore privy to a lot of sports that dominated the Anglosphere). My friends (in the late eighties) used to support Tottenham (they were good those days), Everton (they won the league twice in the eighties) and Liverpool (they towered with 10 titles between ’76 and ’90). My friends jeered me about United and said that Best was passé and that United were not the best!

In the nineties, something changed. Despite losing a nail-biting season to Leads United in ’91-‘92, I saw United spark. Ferguson not only instilled a sense of belief in them but also strategically acquired Eric Cantona from Leads United. In ’92-‘93 (when I moved out of school) United won their first title after 26 years. Young guns such as Giggs, Scholes, the two Nevilles and Beckham fired. And Cantona ruled. I could not believe that they had finally won. I wished that my school friends were around!

Cantona mesmerised me (in his 5 years at United he won 4 EPLs and 2 FA Cups). I remember that on many occasions United used to win 1-0. A moment of brilliance from Cantona - and they used to go 1-0 up. And then they used to shut the opposition out. They became so good at this that they kept on winning EPLs with effortless ease! Except for Blackburn in ’95 and Arsenal in ’98 no one challenged them in the nineties. Cantona instilled a sense of self-belief in long-time United supporters such as myself. When Cantona left United in ’97, the year I joined Infosys, I was aghast and shocked. I felt that the definitely needed him to win the UCL (United had messed up against Dortmund in the UCL semis). But he had done the trick. Keane and company took over. United were the most famous and the richest club in the world for long. Now, they took a step towards becoming the best.

I saw United beat Munich in ‘99 (after trailing for 91 minutes) in injury time by virtue of goals from Sheringham (the blond bloke in the Ten Sports commentary Box yesterday) and Solkskjaer in the 91st and 93rd minute. I think that was one of most heart-breaking losses for any major team (even the ’70 World Cup semi-final between Italy and West Germany would pale to insignificance). Even after the match I failed to discern the truth from the make-believe. I could not believe that United had become the best in Europe.

Time passed by. I went out of the country for nearly 7 years and saw United lose two more titles to Arsenal in ’02 and ’04. And then the Abhramovic-powered Chelsea took over. They grabbed United by the scruff of their necks and hurled them to the corner of a boxing ring. Chelsea’s power and wealth dominated the proceedings. Suddenly, a club, that hadn’t had a title in 50 years, won two back-to-back EPLs and almost won the UCL twice. Football became demonic and clinical. I was scared. United kept on playing their youngsters and allowed Nistelrooy to leave. United did not even finish second! Chelsea’s stars outshone everyone. Truly, Mourinho was the special one. He delivered a style of football in which you won by playing with surgical precision and using the mind of a strategy consultant! Football became formula-based and a power-game. Maradona, Cruyff, Pele and Best would not survive in that mode of football.

But I did not see United changing their style of functioning. They could not match Chelsea and Arsenal in those two years. They relied on their academy-based players and kept on recruiting and targetting the English and Isles players. And they kept on losing! And I used to get easily frustrated with Ferguson’s tactics in those years. I felt that United could never stop the Chelsea juggernaut. Chelsea were richer and had better players. In short Chelsea had everything that United lacked. And funds were scarce at United as the Glazers performed a leveraged buy-out to take control. Like most United fans, I was shocked! But I kept on being optimistic. I hoped that Ferguson would deliver as he did so in the nineties. Keep the Faith – I told myself.

United played well - at times Ronaldo played with bewildering guile. At times, I detested him. But come ’07, United started pushing things. As their young team matured, they started calling the shots. I think that United believed for the first time that they could win the EPL despite Abrahamovic, Mourinho and the Chelsea superstars. I did not believe it myself. But I felt that United did. As they delivered the killing blow on Chelsea’s dreams by winning it in ’07 in Mourinho’s tenure, I was convinced about football again. And I realised that they would do well in Europe despite their injured team losing to Milan in the UCL semis.

United became confident. They played brilliantly at times and yet won matches even when they played ordinarily. I think that that is the hallmark of a great team. Of course Chelsea’s internal turmoil and uncanny focus on the UCL and Arsenal’s insistence on playing super-attractive soccer and failure to deliver in the finishing third superbly helped United’s cause! But I was reassured of something that became evident when United won the UCL yesterday.

You can still play with your heart and win in life. United did not win this season because of their tactics. They won it because of their heart. United may not win the UCL again in the coming 21 years. I don’t care. They may never break Liverpool’s record in the EPL or Madrid’s record in the UCL. It does not matter to me. My club is the best in the world again. But most importantly, they became so by not compromising on their tradition, philosophy, attitude or flair. In days of extreme depression, I felt that my club’s football lifted my spirits. In days of lost causes, a United victory helped me stave off the vagaries of life. At crucial moments of my life, my club helped me live. I hope supporters of all clubs have such sterling moments in their lives. My club inspired me to aspire for the extraordinary. My club taught me to be optimistic in the lowest ebbs of my life. My club told me that there was still hope for the regular Joe in the world. Yesterday, I became a bit hopeful about life again!

I love Manchester United. I salute Manchester United. I live for Manchester United.

- From a Manchester United supporter of more than twenty years! We are not blue-blooded. The colour of our blood is RED.

Great Article. Not all people would agree here. But a treat to all Manchester United Fans nevertheless...


P.S : Post forwarded by Prashant Sahu (Indeed a RED!!!)

No comments: