Watching the Manchester derby at lunchtime was a surreal experience. On the one hand, I can’t stand the thought of Chelsea reclaiming the Premiership, with John Terry perhaps lifting the trophy as part of a double. So in theory, I wanted United to win. But that in itself feels entirely alien, especially as it would allow Spurs back into Champions League contention, which no doubt would result in another small-minded DVD.
So when Scholes’ goal defeated City in injury time, part of me celebrated. And then part of me felt hideously dirty.
That gave Spurs a great incentive to defeat Chelsea, and they duly obliged, opening up the league once again. Sadly, following our midweek defeat, we will be unable to capitalise. When you consider the goal difference gulf, United have to drop three points and Chelsea four before the end of the season – the latter have a trip to Liverpool left, but their other two games are bankers, while United’s run-in looks fairly simple from here.
So while United’s win was good for anyone who considers them a lesser evil than Chelsea, it does probably render our challenge for either of the top two spots futile, even with four wins out of four. Still, it must be taken into account that third is far beyond the predictions of many at the start of the season, and it allows us to avoid carrying a game in hand for half of next season due to Champions League qualifiers.
In some ways, our season feels over, but in recent years, we’ve actually played pretty well once that has been confirmed. The down side is that the pitch at the JJB will prevent us playing any kind of football tomorrow, and as we saw at Birmingham we can struggle under those circumstances. Throw in fresh injuries to Vermaelen and Denilson and it will be a tough ask.
But every time we’ve been written off this season, we’ve bounced back. Even though the fat lady probably has sung, the players won’t give in, and I see a narrow victory tomorrow. You can get 15/2 on a 2-1 victory at Sportingbet, and that is my bet of the day.
Elsewhere, much of the talk is inevitably about transfers. The summer is long and painful enough without extending it, but that doesn’t seem to stop people turning their minds to that tedious subject now that our season is fizzling out. In reality, not much is being said – Wenger would not confirm who will be our number one keeper next season (but is not ruling Almunia out), says we need to improve our defending, and has repeated his claim that Cesc will stay.
Frankly, I don’t see where the stories are, and I have absolutely no interest in joining in the speculation at this stage. We have three months of that to come.
There are still points to be won, and even though it would take a monumental collapse from our rivals to let us back in, neither of them look convincing, so you just never know. The feeling of what might have been is strong enough already without adding to it by blowing another chance.
So forget transfers, forget analysing the strengths and weaknesses of our squad, and think about the football. Starting with Wigan.