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United are top, but City are favourites

Sport
Cinderella men are top


Paul Flynn
Red Devil


WHAT of the Cinderella Men of Manchester United? Top of the league, yet playing like disinterested fops. It’s a good job we’re bribing all those referees, eh?
Saturday evening’s antics at the Villa were an example of our season in microcosm. For the eighth time this season, United have had to win from a losing position. We’re like a complacent boxer, showboating to his bird at ringside, who doesn’t go to work until he gets a thud in the cobblers. And for 55 minutes, a young and zippy Aston Villa had us on the ropes, with Rio Ferdinand and Chris Smalling performing an outstanding impersonation of a pair of throbbing plums.
Cue the Mexican bantamweight (and exit the boxing metaphors), who came to the rescue with two and a half goals to snatch victory. If only we’d bunged the referee a few more quid, he’d have awarded the match-ball to Javier Hernandez. Delighted as I am for the lad, I can’t see him being able to fill his boots against more canny and ruthless defences. The comparisons with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer aren’t wrong, but the lad has a way to go before he emulates the Scouse-busting pixie of the fjords.
Of course, nestling on our shoulder like a halitoxic parrot, squawks Manchester City; feathers freshly ruffled from another European scragging. Dickie Rock and his henchmen have their work cut out if they want to progress out of the group stage. Theirs is easily the toughest group and there ought not be cloud-rending vituperation from on high should they fall short, but this is City, so there will be. They don’t do perspective.
Fans who ten years ago were chewing on their ’taches every time Hartlepool bore down on their goal, are now  throwing their falafels at the dog because they can’t turn over Dortmund or Ajax Amsterdam. All because an Arab billionaire couldn’t read his Manchester A to Z properly and bought them instead of Stockport County.
That said, they are my favourites for the title if they can keep a lid on the squabbling players and the squirming maggots in the boardroom. United just don’t have the juice in midfield to compete.
However, this week saw Alex Ferguson’s 26th anniversary and a skyscraper of newsprint has been devoted to his jaw-dropping achievement at United. All I will say is this: Mancunians of my stripe have nothing much good to say of the club’s chairmen.
The dynasties of Edwards and Glazer are a naked affront to us but I grudgingly salute their sagacity in giving Ferguson the time and freedom to work his magic. The airwaves warble with stale pieties such as ‘a manager needs time’. But a manager also needs the freedom to manage. No ‘Director of Football’. No ‘Chief Football Administration Officer’ sniffing around the corridors looking to make a name for himself. At least United have the balls to say: “This is our boss, and if you dick about, you’re out the door, mate”.
Food for thought, as the shin-pad of Damocles hovers over the head of the greatest manager Arsenal ever had, and with City’s Mancini being one badly-digested sheep’s eye from the sack. Bit of heat from Outraged of Hereford on a radio phone-in? Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho or Chris Kamara are just a phone-call away. I’ll leave it there, I’ve got referees to bribe. Enjoy your football. Try anyway.

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