Growing up, I never thought I’d ever be faced with this.
Traditional rivals Liverpool, maybe, derby rivals City, never! But that was before football changed.
The money men have taken over and City have gone from being an ailing giant in the third tier of English football to top of the tree, thanks to the billions of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the Abu Dhabi United Group.
Now, City and Liverpool as a pair, run neck and neck for English football’s greatest prize. Growing up a United fan was difficult, watching superb Liverpool teams dominate English football, claiming title after title. The Liverpool-United rivalry grew forcibly in those years. The Scousers were great. We were jealous. City? Well, they never really counted, except for very few decent seasons in the early 70’s.
What’s happening now is the dilemma to end all dilemmas. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked who I want to win the title. But I’ve been asked almost as many times this week, who I want to win today’s match between United and City.
Of course I want United to prevail, unlike some fellow Reds I have spoken with lately. United have desperate need for the points. Champions League football next season is vitally important. And anyway, I couldn’t watch United while willing the other team to win, no matter the circumstance.
Before City went out of the Champions League I was undecided which team I wanted to win the Premier League. Was thinking Liverpool, but only because I couldn’t comprehend City matching United’s historic Treble in 1999. Or worse, making it a quadruple, including the already won League Cup in whatever sponsor’s guise it poses in these days.
Another thought suggested, at least if Liverpool prevails, it means a proper football club wins the day. A club that has achieved greatness organically, through the organization of the club, it’s values, traditions and the legions of fans it has attracted throughout many successful exploits down through the years in a time when a club would generate its own revenue and resources.
Very different is the ground that City’s current success is built upon. A club going nowhere fast, bought out by a wealthy family, possessing riches akin to those of a prosperous country.
At one time I never thought that one man could wield a stick and buy success in England’s top flight. Then Jack Walker upset the applecart, his pledging of millions taking his beloved and unfashionable Blackburn Rovers to the Premier League title in the mid-90’s.
Next came Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who took it to another level at Chelsea. But what’s happened at Manchester City trumps the lot! And then some.
Then again, after City were dumped from the Champions League - my highlight of this season, which says more about the state of Manchester United than anything else - and the Treble was no longer possible, I readjusted. Maybe it’s better City win the title after all.
I’m still not convinced though. Most United fans are totally behind City prevailing over Liverpool. They see Liverpool, not City, as their biggest rival and that is the thinking fuelling popular ‘Red’ sentiment. Almost to a man, they won’t want City to win tomorrow either, but they will want things to figure themselves out so that United do, and somehow other events transpire to prevent Liverpool from becoming champions.
I can live with this too, of course, but I am still hung-up by the ‘proper football club’ versus ‘rich man’s playground’ dilemma.
I’ll of course be watching, and of course I’ll love it should United win. But I still cannot work out clearly in my head, who I’d prefer to win the title.
Having to listen to the many Liverpool fans, lots of whom which haven’t yet witnessed a title-win in their adult life, hearing it from a Liverpool-supporting brother and niece (who serves drinks to the masses weekly, at Anfield) is not an encouraging or welcoming prospect.
But maybe even less enticing is to watch an obscenely, money-fuelled organization, despite the wonderful football it produces, continue to contribute significantly to the distortion and ruination of the game we love and cherish.
I really cannot decide.
Anyway, “C’mon United !!!!”