Rather than despair and anger, a feeling of resignation has set in at Manchester United and Jose Mourinho after the weekend’s defeat at Liverpool
Roy Keane was in a mood. So what? He’s always in a mood. Before, during and after Sunday’s derby he was angry. There’s no point in being Roy Keane: he hates football, footballers, football fans and is apparently trapped in a permanent state of misery for which the only release is death.
Before kick-off he had advice for Manchester United’s players.
“People say you should have other stuff outside of football, but I disagree… Don’t hide behind your tattoos, cars, or girlfriends.”
Translation: I’ve devoted my entire life to something I hate and I believe you should be just as miserable as I am.
Keane didn’t even enjoy winning trophies for long, famously saying that after the initial euphoria wore off he was left with a feeling of emptiness. This, admittedly, is unlikely to be much of a problem for the current Manchester United squad, who now find themselves 19 points behind Liverpool after Sunday’s 3-1 defeat.
Similarly the fans who buy merchandise saying “United, Kids, Wife in that order” are in for a rough winter, especially given that their wives, if sentient, will presumably have left them by now and that the parentage of the kids referred to is probably open to question.
Keane wasn’t the only one dishing out advice before kick-off. Manchester United took the unprecedented step of texting all ticket holders, to warn them against “racist and discriminatory” behaviour.
It’s been decades since United have had any serious problems with racism, but perhaps wary of the songs some of their more unhinged fans sing about the Hillsborough disaster they probably felt the need to act, given the scenes that happened last week at Stamford Bridge, when a semantic argument about whether an adjective “Manc” or “black” had been used by a Chelsea fan abusing Raheem Sterling missed the wider point about the insanity that breaks out in football stadia.
The consensus about the game itself is that United were lucky they only lost 3-1. The scoreline was probably fair, although that itself is an indictment on their current position, given their record at Old Trafford over the last quarter of a century.
Amid the cries of “don’t sack Mourinho” from the home fans it was easy to forget United might have held out for a point, aided by an error from Allison, the £67 million goalkeeper who caused certain members of the British press corp to lose touch with reality by getting in the way of a stoppage time shot the previous Tuesday.
It was 1-1 until the 73rd minute and a sense of exasperation was growing among the home fans until Xherdan Shaqiri’s shot deflected in off Ashley Young.
In the eyes of their fans however, United aren’t supposed to merely “hold out.” This is what lower mid-table teams do when they visit Anfield.
Defeatist Mourinho can’t live with Liverpool
Jose Mourinho even sounded gracious in defeat, saying: “They play 200 miles per hour with and without the ball. I am still tired just looking at (Andy) Robertson. He makes 100-metre sprints every minute, absolutely incredible, and these are qualities.”
If Jose isn’t complaining about a grievance, real or manufactured, then it really is the end of days.
It’s still a bit early to suggest, as some British journalists are, that a sea change has taken place and that after 25 years of subjugation, United are now under Liverpool’s heel again, but for this season at least their ambitions are limited.
“They have to reinvest, have to get to the summer, try and get fourth, try and be a decent cup team,” Keane said. “But then we’re talking about Man United of the 80s, being a decent cup team, and Man United deserve better than that.” Yet why he thinks they “deserve” it any more than any other club isn’t clear. And even if they get what he thinks they deserve, he won’t enjoy it.