Monday, May 23, 2005

Final analysis

Publicly at least, the Manchester United players were gracious in their Cup Final defeat on Saturday. This is despite all the TV pundits’ protestations that they had been robbed, having dominated throughout. The players themselves realise that there are two key elements to football, scoring goals and not letting them in. At no point did United have any disallowed goals which should have stood nor did Arsenal defend in any way illegally. In truth, Arsenal were better at not letting in goals than United were scoring them. Manchester United were unlucky if football is all about scoring goals, but that’s a big ‘if’.

The mooted protests from United fans over the Glazer take-over didn’t materialise because of, um, rain. Apparently about 100 fans marched towards the Millennium Stadium in protest, fractionally more than the number of Arsenal fans who dressed up as 1979 Cup Final hero Alan Sunderland. Unfortunately despite the hullabaloo it seems most United fans care as much about who owns the club as people who download Crazy Frog ring tones worry about the state of the British music industry.

The Not4Sale coalition, who have taken the fan responsible for resisting the take-over have been brilliantly blinkered in their approach to all this. For one, they are fourteen years too late, United have been for sale ever since they floated on the stock exchange… in fact many of the Not4Sale Coalition have taken full advantage of the fact that United are 4sale. They also think this is an issue of national importance. One claimed that all football fans should rally in support of United’s plight. Why, exactly? United have been an integral part, and beneficiary of, the Premiership, the Champions League, the European superclub alliance G14, snubbing, and therefore downgrading the FA Cup, belittling the League Cup by playing youth team players. Football competitions are now valued in money-terms. It’s made them a lot of money. This has not only made themselves very attractive to external investors in the club but they have raised the bar to the extent that in order to get in the Premiership/Champions League winning game you have to invest somewhere in the region of half a billion pounds to stand a chance of competing, for this read: Chelsea. In short they’ve deliberately polarised football, and now they’re upset about it.

Then there’s the tactical ineptitude in their protest. The plan was for fans to wear black at the Cup Final to signal the death of their club. The same colour the team wore on the pitch (United are innovators in global brand developing shirts which can be worn as fashion garments). Even if fans did fall in line, it wouldn’t have looked like a protest, it would simply have looked like thousands of fans supporting their team. It’s not a bad idea marking your feelings through thousands of people wearing a particular colour; a few years ago Rangers fans all wore orange to thank their Dutch contingent for a great season. It was so bright and obvious that they weren’t wearing their traditional blue; TV had to comment on it. If United fans really wanted to mark their anger at the situation, they should have worn sky blue, the colour of their arch Manchester rival City. Now that would have caused a stir.


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