By Alex Netherton
There are six-pointers, and then there are six-pointers. It’s not really ever been necessary to check what a-six pointer is, because it’s an irrelevant word-jazz bebopped into the mics attached to the oversized, shiny lapels of football-chatting idiots. Football-chatting idiots like Jamie Redknapp, Harry Redknapp, Louise Redknapp, you and, of course, as the quality of the work demonstrates, this author. But what a six-pointer the Manchester United – Chelsea match is. It’s a veritable six-pointer. A real six-pointer. It is a real shame, then, that it will remind us of everything that is wrong with a certain strand of feminist blogging. Hang on, this introduction has come across all Helen Lewis. Let’s get it right – it will be everything that is wrong with some aspects of football.
This is it. This will have all the tired journalistic clichés you could hope to find. Will it have narratives? Will it have tropes? Will there be intriguing and ironic subplots, that are neither intriguing nor ironic? Will a certain writer make the same jokes he does on Twitter throughout the match, all in the dead-eyed chase for more followers to peddle his ever more prevalent guff? Yes, yes, yes and yes, but Ethan Dean-Richards refuses to stop, no matter how much money and threats are alternately offered and promised.
This match sets the standard. The Gold Top of unwarranted fervour and anger. It has so much riding on it, none of which matters. This could be the first chance to put clear distance between the teams. It doesn’t make a jot of difference, it’s so early in the season. While it it will be said that these performances are shows of strength, laying down a marker or psychological dominance, they don’t really. These players have done this hundreds of times before, and if it really affected them that much, they’d be playing for Arsenal.
Chelsea have won the Champions League through sheer personality. Jose Mourinho drove Barca to distraction and intimidated Alex Ferguson. United have extracted the most from their abilities and relatively limited finances in the face of ever increasing demands from fans and other, richer teams. For all concerned, this is not a time they’ll crack for good, but just wait til you hear the papers talking about it. They’ll have to imbue it with meaning, because writers at broadsheets need something to be sesquipedalian about. They need something to render hackles raised.
There will be references to the Wayne Rooney story promising insight and delivering no insight. We’re all aware what will happen. Chelsea won’t bid until after the game, then he’ll either go, or not go. If he stays he’ll continue to under-perform and look resentful, scoring about 20 goals a season but doing little else. He’ll probably get a new contract for his trouble, and football will be just as fetid as ever. If he goes to Chelsea, he’ll have a spark of enjoyment and will become fitter under Mourinho. Just as things are looking exciting, he’ll injure himself again, or self-sabotage with another piece of off-field indiscipline, and he’ll under-perform and look resentful. Exciting? No. Inevitable? Yes. The future is mapped out in a very limited array for this man, yet the indignation keeps frothing.
[Discussion of relative merits of Mourinho and Moyes goes here, and how Moyes is working in both the shadow of Ferguson and of Mourinho’s obvious desire for the job. You can feel the life sapping out of the writer and supporters as they read on. For that reason it has not been written, merely implied in these parentheses.]
And the fans of course will need something to be furious about. It’ll be the journalists, obviously (and please do say hi in the comments) and the events of the game, which will be dealt with in the same irrational manner. There’s nothing like the joy of a big match to be so quickly reminded of just what we were all missing from the partisan amongst us. Typical ABU journalists and typical anti-Chelsea “bias [sic] journos”, all with their minds shot from years of writing the same thing and asking the same questions, far too jaded to summon up any kind of passion, let alone some cock-eyed bias favouring one team or another.
The referee will make a huge mess of something, and instead of treating it as a simple reminder that we all fallible, like a Roman mosaic with a deliberate mistake to assuage the gods, it’ll be all pumps on the radge deck, flinging handfuls of their own anger shit at each other.
As it is, the world will be treated to the #MUFCfamily proclaiming the team is the strongest it’s ever been, and that Michael Carrick is world class. Similarly, the Chelsea massive will be booing Rio Ferdinand for… it’s never clear what, exactly, beyond the fact that some Chelsea fans possibly quite like racism. If they didn’t, after all, they would stridently encourage authorities to tackle it and victims to report it, even if they weren’t John Obi Mikel. An edifying discussion will follow from parties relevant and irrelevant.
All this does a disservice to what might actually be the most interesting thing happening on Monday night. That is a match involving players like Robin Van Persie and Eden Hazard. There will be the excellent David De Gea and the infuriatingly reliable Frank Lampard. On Monday, let’s remember that. This should still be a time of jaunty relaxation. Keep it in mind. It’s still August, the sun is still out and we’re already on the verge of nervous breakdowns and death threats. There’s a place for both psychological disintegration and wishing end times on other people, and that’s April and May.