Thursday, December 8, 2005

It’s not just the ball

This post assumes that the readers are slightly acquainted with a certain Manchester United and a sport called football; and by football I mean club football.

Benfica 2-1 Man Utd.

That just about sums up last night's match in a characteristically cruel way. That is just the scoreline and most of us know that there is more to a match than the scoreline indicates. But just like democracy, it is the 'least bad way' of describing a result tersely. The point is that Man Utd just got knocked out of the champions' league in the group stages for the first time in a decade. Apart from its economic implications (as the club could lose close to a 15 million euros), following its expensive takeover by the American Glazers family, this result probably rounds off a full circle that great grand sire Alex Ferguson has come to in his illustrious career at Old Trafford, defiant though he might be about 're-building' the side for the future.

Sports, like life has its ups and downs and more significantly does the lifetime of a football club. But few clubs command an appeal that stretches beyond the English channel (or the Ural mountains for that matter) as Manchester United (Man U) does and its demise as the world's richest and one of the most successful clubs in club history has been nothing short of dramatic. The fact that I and many more who will write about this, even though they are second placed in the EPL (albeit 10 points away) and the only team to have beaten Chelsea, is in itself a remarkable proof of the high standards that the club has set over the past decade. Second best is as good as death.

This season for United has witnessed sentiments and drama following the exit of the influential Roy Keane and the death of another legend George Best. The club has always been greater than the players but some players manage to jump high enough to be noticed and remembered in the same breath as the club. And so has the Bests, the Charltons, the Cantonas, the Beckhams (though not in the same way as the others) and now more recently the Keanes. But all of them had something very common in them. They had the feeling of playing for a club and giving their all. No excuses if you lose giving only 90%. This feeling was epitomised in Keane's (supposed to be) televised damning tirade against some of the players in the current squad who according to him don't 'deserve the shirt'. Ironically it was this very burst of frustration from Keane that hastened his departure from the club as it was deemed unbroadcastable by MUTV. You play for the shirt or you can go home and play in your vest. Simple but poignant though that was how I would put it.

Ferguson, at the centre of this success story is wise enough to understand all that goes on around him. He intends to continue to fight on as is his wont, and make sure he builds a side that can dominate the next seven years. Maybe he will stay at the club for another season at the maximum. So his desire is to leave to the next manager, a young nucleus that can explode with an attacking flair that had been the talking point throughout their time at the top. Unfortunately Ferguson does not have the luxury of money as 1992, as the arrival of an Oil Tycoon and incredible manager at the helm of a cash rich rival which seems to eat up almost every single player that appeals to old Fergie. During this time of crisis Ferguson must trust his keen eye for talent and would do well to remember that one of the best money that he spent was the 3 million on Roy Keane which is chicken feed in modern football and must muster all his skills at what might be his one last shot at glory. One more time.

The Observer is a staunch follower of the football club Manchester United and is a keen student of the beautiful game. He has also been recently inducted into the Hall of Fame of all time great Football Managers in the award winning computer game 'Football Manager 2005'


  1. manchester united - ,ll,,
    dude EPL is always crap..spanish is faaaar better. But I agree abt doing justice to shirt..same story for Real.They got to realise its a team game..u need a good team, passionate players not names.

    "The Observer is a staunch follower of the football club Manchester ..>"....wat crap !!

    when r u coming bach ?

  2. This post has been removed by the author.

  3. dude if u observe carefully the spanish league is technically better it allows artistry to flourish... EPL on the other hand is more physical as that is the english game... the refereeing is more lenient in EPL not so in la liga... i agree that the spanish league is more attractive as they play a more attacking kind of football against the more organised english game which in that sense is more akin to the italian league...
    remember rivaldo had a really torrid time in AC Milan... and very few brazilians go to england because thay fear the kind of game they playthere

  4. Ha ha, nice one, I just noticed you were out of exile. As I was reading the post, I realized I was missing you already. Pray tell me what is your ten digit telepathic access code? I seem to have misplaced it, O berserk work, ummm, I mean... Observer. (And I had to type Tahxi to post this comment, this is like cosulting... you make a company so you can run other companies, some kind of vicious self-cycle or some bruhgrih)*

    *Bruhgrih: Something terse and difficult to explain.

  5. polo... even i had to type drtnhxut to post my comment... its this comment spam preventive mechanism.... i guess, to avoid one kind of an annoyance ull need to put up with another kind... rite now my contact no is non existent... wait till the 20th of this month...

  6. in short do u agree that EPL sucks ? its not real football..the art of football flourishes only in la liga..
    brazilians & argentinians r the GOD of football...all flourish in la liga..

  7. insane...
    u maybe rite about the god part but calling football an art cannot be enough excuse for restricting them to specific nations... the problem with la liga is the lack of consistency in clubs apart from madrid and barca (at the end of the season)... sociedad if u remember finished 2nd a few seasons back and then sank into obscurity... celta finished third and got relegated the next season... this seasons flop so far has been betis... just because u have ronaldinhos and messis dont make LALIGA better... lampard, gerrard may not be artistically pleasing but they are probably the rahul dravids of football... i think well discuss this when we meet in person

  8. Being a die-hard Madrid fan I can understand what u r feeling. Madrid v/s Manu in CL 2003 was the best soccer game I have seen. The downward spiral for both started after Beckham's transfer which wasn't required except for Ferguson's arrogance. Hope next season will be better for both
    Hala Madrid

  9. u c v have something in common...i am jerrymaguire.a sports agent.m looking out for u.

  10. maybe the manager deserves a lot of the blame, high time he is sacked. that wont help tho i am quite sure, rebuilding is a long process so u shudnt expect any major silverware in the next couple of seasons either.

  11. anon....
    well the rebuilding began last season so assuming that it takes atmost 3 season (which itself is a big number) probably the next to next season could be the one where they can be serious title challengers....... anyways this will be a discussion with no end in sight so we might have to carry on and support the team that we like....
    btw u cud drop in ur name ;)

  12. I hate manu and fergi!!!

    AC rule

    Ur truly from the tamizh nadu

  13. ok that was the no 1 Rajni fan (thailava ) btw.

  14. mr buddha...
    have a look at the Italian Serie A table ... (even inter seems to be better)... unfortunately just like Man U they r also coming to an end of their era (though smaller than that of Manu)

  15. Its ok Manu sucks- Btw give me FM 2k5 when u come

  16. i AM 'Here'... it depends on when u come

  17. Post up. Don't worry about the survey mail, it wasn't anything important. A (bit belated) very happy new year!

  18. Mrityunjaya has been translated into English, but I'm not sure if it's as popular or easily available in bookshops.
    Signing in with the blogger id doesn't take much time. I know, not everyone likes Delhi readily. Living for over a decade in its suburb (Faridabad), and studying in Delhi, I've gotten used to the pollution now, and the weather extremes, so am able to appreciate its beauty without discomfort.-->