Two words. Well deserved. Or as well deserved as it can be when you boast the best and costliest squad in English football and you leave it until deep into stoppage time before claiming what you believe is rightfully yours. It’s estimated that Manchester United were champions for precisely thirteen seconds until Sergio Aguero took advantage of some slack marking in the Q.P.R. defence to crash home the title winning goal and end 44 years of anguish for the blue quarter of Manchester.
Slackness in the Rangers rearguard? Two more words. Or rather a name. Kevin Hitchcock. With those additional minutes being played at the Etihad Stadium, the latter vacated the Q.P.R. dug-out to get the word out to the players that Bolton had been held at Stoke and they were safe from relegation. Cheers Kevin, you might just as well have joined City on their open-top bus parade to Albert Square on Monday evening.
A couple of more names to throw into the mix. Roberto Mancini. Have to say he deserved the title. At times during the season he out mind-gamed Alex Ferguson and he did so in charge of a team that undoubtedly played the better football over the course of the campaign and netted the most goals. You can’t argue with that.
And Vincent Kompany. Another candidate to richly merit a Premiership medal, a true hero who never shirked a challenge or gave up believing.
City’s fans? They’ve probably had a lot to listen to over the past couple of decades – and Ferguson was still playing the history card after the final whistle at both the Etihad and the Stadium of Light – and no doubt will believe that they are truly top dogs in Manchester now. And indeed England. But apart from those who leapt onto the bandwagon as the season progressed, at least those supporters are light blue to a man and a woman. And wherever City go in the future – and those banking billions suggest there’s more to come – they’ll remain so whatever happens.
But others you have to question. I remember back to the tail end of the season when United broke their own 25 year duck. Two late goals from Steve Bruce – so late they were almost scored in the following game – against Sheffield Wednesday in a crucial close to title decider at Old Trafford. And two figures leaping from the United bench and dancing onto the pitch at the joy of it all. Messrs. Ferguson and Brian Kidd. Who will ever forget that abiding image?
I remembered it again when Aguero knocked home the winner on Sunday and the City bench erupted and Kidd was again to the forefront in the celebrations. But that’s the way of the footballing world – being a manager or a coach or even a player is not like being a fan. Not even when you cross the great divide in Manchester or anywhere else.
Just ask Carol Tevez. The man who took a three month leave of absence from City – one instance where Mancini did slip up, allowing the Argentinian back into the fold after swearing he would never pull on the club jersey again – and now brandishing a winners’ medal. Close to sickening is what some label it. But not as ailment inducing as the sight of the little striker displaying his ‘R.I.P. Fergie’ placard from the open-top bus during the celebratory parade. Apologies have followed but too little, too late. It was as churlish a gesture as you can get and I’ll be surprised if he’s still being welcomed in Manchester come next season.
But whatever. City’s title and the celebration go on in blue heaven.
Oh, and did I mention another couple of names? Joey Barton. Plonker of This and Every Other Year. Another man for the open-top bus.
And then there’s the almost forgotten man. The man whose absence from the red rearguard did as much as anything in United throwing away that eight point advantage they held with just a handful of games to go.
For you can be sure had Nemanja Vidic been part of United’s defence, Everton would not have snatched four goals at Old Trafford and some of us wouldn’t be conceding with as much grace as we can possibly muster that the best team won in the end.
So now we know. I had questioned last week why Felix Healy hadn’t reacted with any degree of passion from the bench during Finn Harps loss to Athlone Town the previous weekend. Why he looked almost disinterested in the proceedings at Finn Park as the home side struggled to make any impact.
And now, like I say, we know. He informed the players after that equally disappointing 3-0 defeat at Wexford Youths – albeit not helped by two sendings-off – that other commitments were prompting him to quit the Harps post.
Peter Hutton is staying and it’s good to see Sean McGowan coming in as his right hand man. The latter knows the set-up and can help ignite a season that has been largely disappointing so far when we thought at the start of it that this could be a turning year.
Difficult to see, even with this new partnership in control, the team being able to overcome respective points deficits of sixteen and twelve, the tally that separates them from the top two, but at least they can begin to make inroads starting with tomorrow night’s home clash with Waterford United where the least we can expect is a fire in the belly approach from the off.
Roberto Mancini: “I still think United are the favourites…..”