The ongoing 2013-14 season has been the worst in recent memory for defending Barclays Premier League champs Manchester United. As a lifelong fan of “The Red Devils”, it’s been excruciatingly painful to tune in week after week to witness another tale of woe unfold right in front of my (almost) tear-filled eyes. Seeing the many-time English champions languishing outside the top three positions in the Barclays Premier League table is extremely hard to swallow. However, as my eyes drift down the standings, the sensation of déjà vu invariably drifts over me. Somehow, I get the feeling that I’ve been here before.
“Here” being that place where a diehard fan is forced to watch the seemingly interminable decline of a once great team, club, or organization. The last time I went to that desolate place, I had the comforting eureka moment that probably shouldn’t have taken so long to come my way. I began to accept, once again, that sporting dominance is a cyclical thing. You’ve got to be prepared to take the heady highs with the depressing lows. It’s all part of the game.
Manchester United and the diehard West Indies cricket fan
As an ardent supporter of West Indies cricket, I know what it is to watch your favorite team lurch from one inglorious campaign to another inglorious campaign. I’ve seen the Caribbean men plummet into an abyss of mediocrity since relinquishing the unofficial title of the world’s best Test playing nation to Australia in 1995. Every time a glimmer of hope is ignited with a win, a deluge of soul-crushing losses quickly extinguishes it. Every time you figure that they’re on the verge of “turning the corner”, you quickly come to realize that the road down which they’re journeying is as straight as a die. Nonetheless, and maybe foolhardily so, the hope of a return to the glory days of the late 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s still flutters in the heart whenever they pull off a great result. I’ve gotten the same sensation on the rare occasions during this season when Manchester United F.C. has managed to channel the greatness of seasons past.
Salvaging something from this season
There aren’t many people who would look at the current state of the Barclays Premier League table and suggest that Manchester United will rally to retain their crown. There simply are just too many good teams lying between ourselves and the number one spot. However, there is well-founded optimism that we’ll be able to turn things around sufficiently to at least salvage a berth in next year’s UEFA Champions League. (Yep, there is good reason to believe that we can at least make it to fourth position in the standings by season’s end.) This positive outcome, of course, is dependent on a number of factors. These include a speedy return to full or, at least, functional fitness for the first-choice strike partnership of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. It’s also imperative that we strengthen the squad by bringing in a few more quality players to don the Manchester United shirt. The most glaring need exists in midfield, where the creative dynamism has been missing for some time now. Finally, manager David Moyes needs to shed the spirit of timidity that gives many of the “lesser” teams confidence that they can live with Manchester United – even if they’re playing at Old Trafford.
Getting back to where we belong
The upcoming Barclays Premier League fixtures present a number of golden opportunities for the team to secure the big win that could serve as the catalyst to the turnaround on which its millions of fans around the world are desperately waiting. We’ve got strong title contenders Chelsea away in just over a week. A big win at Stamford Bridge could set us up to make a strong surge up the table with positive results against the likes of Cardiff City, Stoke City, and Fulham F.C. Thereafter, we’ve got a clash with current table toppers Arsenal. Another win against them could propel us squarely back into Champions League contention. There’s no need to despair. No team can win ‘em all. However, the spirit of a true champion, which Manchester United is, is indomitable. We’ve still got the organizational infrastructure in place to develop world-class players. (Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for my beloved West Indies.) We also still have the cash and cachet required to attract the established stars that can help us back to the pinnacle.
The Benchwarmer’s Point of View
I’m quite amused by the angry backlash that current Paris Saint-German and former Chelsea centre-half Alex has been subjected to since he reportedly told a French TV station that “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Yves”. Alex was responding to a question regarding the recent announcement by former German international Thomas Hitzlsperger that he’s gay. It strikes me as strange that those who support homosexuality are so intolerant of the views of people who don’t support the lifestyle. Yet, many of them are the same ones who clamor loudest for tolerance of the lifestyle that they endorse. To the best of my knowledge, Alex said nothing that advocated violence against Hitzlsperger or anyone else who’s of the homosexual persuasion. Why should he be castigated for expressing his opinion? Isn’t he entitled to one? Isn’t that what tolerance is all about?