“You know what I’d like now Stew? I’d like your lot to win the FA Cup and us to win the Europa. If nothing else it will annoy Spurs, City and of course spoil the party for Chelsea.” It was funny to be chatting amiably with my only Man United supporting mate the day before we were due to play one another.
Once upon a long long time ago this fixture was the big one. This could decide titles and would certainly be the clash of the titans. Steve and I would have struggled to wish one another well. Now we just hope for a good game and a poke in the eye for the upstart clubs who’ve come along and so upset the status quo.
I feel for Steve. Having to stomach his bête noire as manager of his club has not been easy for him, seeing players like Fellaini elbow their awful way into the first team, selling his favourite striker – to us of all people – have combined to stretch his positivity to the limit. But fair play to him he still supports through thick and thin.
He was also generous enough to say he hopes Arsène signs for another couple of seasons and wins the league, so much does he, a Man United fan since birth, despise the anti Arsenal idiots in the media and in our fan base.
Still, it feels strange going into this match of all matches as two bridesmaids, neither side the bride. Let’s be frank we’re not even bridesmaids, more like boyfriends to the bridesmaids best mates, at least where the league is concerned. Both clubs could still come out of the season with a trophy and European competition next time around, but so bloated is the expectation surrounding these giants of English football that such an outcome won’t be seen as good enough.
It’s odd how the perceptions of certain club’s status differs from others in the Premier League. Spurs failed for over two decades to finish above Arsenal and yet the experts decided some time ago that the power in North London had shifted to White Hart Lane. Now they will finish above us confirming their pre-eminence and yet a second place finish for them is we’re reliably informed, a success while it was a failure for Arsenal last year. Surely if Spurs are now a bigger, more powerful side than Arsenal then they must be the ones who have failed while we must have over achieved. You can’t have it both ways.
Anyway today isn’t about a resurgent cockerel, it’s about a match between the fifth and sixth placed sides. This is territory more familiar to Man United than it is to us, which is simple testimony to how well Arsène Wenger has done for so very long. This was always going to be a tough season and so it has proved, we can have no complaints – after all it only hurts so much because we’ve been treated to an unprecedented run of twenty consecutive top four finishes. The exception has proved the rule.
My hopes for the final games of this season are exactly the same as they were before ever a ball was kicked. I want us to win as many matches as possible and finish as high up the league as possible. That never changes regardless of where we are in the table. You may say I’m wringing out a bone dry dishcloth in the hope of a few drops of consolation but I’m not. I’m doing what all fans do. Hope we’ll win our division and once that ceases to be possible hope we do as well as we can.
I only have to look to my mate Steve and see what he has endured since Ferguson left his club to realise how fortunate we have been. At least I still love the manager, can see this season as a one off rather than another in a series of decline and stagnation and at least my side has a chance to prevent John Terry from changing out of his suit to celebrate the double.
Anyway I must leave you now, I’m off to work again so I’ll have to catch the game online somewhere. For those able to watch it I say this: It may not be for high stakes but it’s still Arsenal v Man United and that always counts – regardless of where we are in the league. So keep your heads and chins up and enjoy the game wherever you may be.