Somewhere in the corridors beneath the gargantuan Mecchano set that is Old Trafford, there is an insignificant noticeboard. made of faded cork. It is, my mole insists, dotted with coloured drawing pins and pocked with little holes. On it linger various bits of paper: A please wash your hands memo for the Two Hobbits; an exhaustive timetable for David de Gea's thrice-weekly motor reflex sessions (Ball Catching Monday, Moving left and right Thursday, Dropping Bollocks Saturday/Sunday); Wayne Rooney's Burger king menu and other bits and pieces. Apparently, at its centre is a coloured sheet with hand written boxes and lines. Someone has written at the top in bright red felt pen, "Press Interview Schedule" and listed below every single player and ex-player, plus assorted coaching staff and The One and Only Mick Hucknall. The idea, my informant assures me, is to wheel out one or, in times of great desperation, more individuals to drop a few handy, user-friendly and not-at-all-transparent quotes for the energetic and upstanding men of the press to deal with.
This morning, it was the turn of what might be called "The Heavy Cavalry" or "The Special Shock Troops" to turn out and do its bit for the cause. Rio Ferdinand. Bryan Robson. The grand old men of Manchester United. The Mainstays. The Pillars. The Columns. The Posts. Wit, intellect, eloquence, logic, lucidity, gravitas. None of this matters when you front up the junior reporter from the Mirror. I once saw these guys in action after City's win in Porto and, let me tell you, the phrase "leave no stone uncovered" was not invented for these chaps. Give them a lazy lie or a banal bit of banta and the notepads flip shut as sure as someone shouting Bacardi Breezers! All Free!! Served by the pool!! Kerry Katona!! The stampede produces a Tunisian sandstorm from the carpet.
When Hansen's pet project, the laughably over-hyped Liverpool of Kenny Dalglish, went from 2-up to 3-2 down in the final ten minutes at Fortress Loftus Road, this was considered "nothing to be worried about". No capitulation though, please remember that. Capitulation is losing at Swansea and winning 20 consecutive home games. This new Premier League record was lost to the High Wire Performers on Match of the Day, as they worried themselves sick about Balotelli missing a one-on-one with Peter Cech instead.
But I digress. Once again my paranoia is getting the better of me and I am letting myself think that the world doesn't like me, or indeed you, or any of the other meagre hundreds climbing out of the woodwork this morning to hunt for glory in a sky blue shirt..
For, as Rio says, there are many of us coming out of cupboards and closets, ambling out from behind bushes and trees, climbing down from hiding places in lofts and disused cement mixers, to straighten our hair, try to look normal and pretend we have been "City all along". He even calls us "plums" for reacting to his well aimed drivel, as if all this golden banta is so sacrosanct, it smells of purest musk glands and shimmers like the golden fleece itself. However, maybe we are being hard on him. And on Captain Marvel too, with his Solid Words of Wisdom ("You can never do anything by looking down a fixtures list but..." - *glances down a handily placed fixture list* - "City do have the harder run in". Kerboom! Kerrrang! Kerplunk).
For, if we return to that little coloured chart on the corkboard deep in the sweet-smelling intestines of that venerable old stadium, we can see that, far over to the left, is another column marked "suggestions". Here are the topics to be planted by the day's special forces for good. "Plastic Fans" says one. "Out of the Woodwork" comes another. Under Wayne Rooney, it says, tellingly "UNITED BETTER LIKE". Further down, though, in Paddy Crerand's column (he is due to be wheeled out next Tuesday, just after Ryan Once Again Giggs) it says "Wife-beaters", "Ugly Stains" and "Romanian Mafia". So hold onto your hats, good folks, because the Old Trafford Propaganda Truck, all 56 tonnes of it, is rolling towards us all on big over-inflated tyres and it won't stop until we are all as flat as the proverbial pancake.
|City get lucky in front of 47,000 woodwork students|