There are few things more beautiful (or reassuring) than switching on the telly for the Premier League curtain raiser.
Having been deprived of competitive football for an insufferable twenty-nine days, the sight of Wembley’s green grass glistening in the sun, tiers of red seats occupied by excited fans who’ve shilled a month’s pay packet on a new club shirt for the occasion while members of the armed forces staring blankly at a Hype Man in an oversized t-shirt issuing directives about waving an oversize bedsheet around, is a much needed reminder of what we live for, if not why we live for it.
It’s not even as though it matters. Alright, it’s an opportunity for one team to do that now compulsory wobbly hand build up before the captain flings the trophy above his head, but as Arsenal fans will tell you between pushes of the F5 button on the BBC transfer gossip page, no one bothers to dust off the big plate at the end of the season.
It’s a testament to the increasing power of ‘The Narrative’ that we’re all there anyway, watching Robbie Savage, Michael Owen and Rio Ferdinand making sounds into a microphone and secretly hoping at least one of them is hit by a stray ball during the warm up. It’s been less than three months since Leicester City won the Premier League but instead of taking a step back and appreciating freedom from fixture congestion, complicated mathematical problems involving goal difference and what is rapidly becoming known as ‘The Michael Owen Drone’, we’re all gagging for a glimpse into the future, questions swarming like moths to a Ronaldo.
Will Jamie Vardy’s party continue into a second season (otherwise known Ronaldinho carnival territory?)
Will the Most Envied League in the World prove to be a step too far for Zlatan?
Why is Maroune Fellaini still disguised as Big Bird?
Could Mourinho be any more irritating and obstreperous than last season?
While it’ll take a few more games (and a statement from Sesame Street) to confirm the first three answers, Mourinho laid down a marker that cannot be ignored. Carneiro-gate stripped him of any claim to the irritating yet entertaining agent provocateur personality many of us grudgingly admired and if yesterday’s performance was any evidence, he’ll be in full panto villain make up for the duration.
Keeping Leicester City waiting in the tunnel was disrespectful, but could, if one was feeling generous, be forgiven. After all, it’s sunny outside and the football is on. But very publicly and pointedly humiliating Juan Mata by putting him on in the sixty-third minute, then hauling him off after half an hour because ‘he’s too small’ is about as classless as it’s possible to be without kicking the guy in the arse as he walks off.
Regardless of Mourinho’s feelings on the player, Mata is an exceptional professional and should be treated as such. Mourinho appears to have learned nothing from his ignominious exits from Real Madrid and Chelsea, and while Manchester United fans will be rightly be thrilled at the possibilities afforded to them by his leadership and experience, alarm bells should be ringing.
While Sir Alex Ferguson harnessed the twin missiles of ruthlessness and petulance whenever necessary, he respected their efficacy and rarely allowed his personal feelings to impair his judgement. His insistence upon mutual respect and never say die attitude permeated the DNA of Manchester United and arguably propelled his club to the title of Most Hated Club for the right reasons.
In nine months time, they may well have earned that title again. And the other, slightly more important one. But at what cost to their reputation?
We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?
By Kelly Welles
Sign up to receive all the latest news from Ramble HQ, including the inside track on live shows, new projects, and our now-famous specials!
The Football Ramble will never sell your details to a third party.