On the day United beat City in the last minute and Spurs beat Chelsea, I just tried to soak up the feeling as much as possible. Whilst our chances of winning the league had improved, we all knew that United had to claim maximum points in the remaining games and Chelsea still needed to slip up again. Some fans rarely, if ever, get days like that, where one afternoon means you’re in for a real shout of the title, following a painful defeat for your local rivals in the last seconds, so I wanted to just appreciate it and enjoy it as much as possible. If that was the day that meant we would win the league, then that would be bloody brilliant, but if we missed out, it was still a day to enjoy.
As we’ve repeatedly said on here, whatever we may like to think, the title is not our God-given right, and for us to win the league this year would mean we had achieved something no club in English history ever has – four titles in a row and a total of nineteen titles. Does it mean we’ve failed this season if we don’t manage to achieve something no other club ever has?
But that doesn’t mean that in the pit of your stomach you’re not already believing it’s going to happen. You might have tried to play down the events of today all week, claiming that Liverpool don’t have it in them to draw with or beat Chelsea, or that Sunderland are no push-overs and we shouldn’t take three points there for granted, but already you can imagine the feeling.
Today has the potential to be like derby day of a few weeks ago, but better. The results of that day put us in a better position to win the league, but we still weren’t favourites. If the results go our way today then we would be just 90 minutes away from being crowned champions again. However much you may tell yourself it’s not going to happen, your brain can’t help but tempt you with thoughts of how it would feel.
We first half to endure all of Liverpool vs Chelsea at Anfield. The scousers are mentally and physically drained after the two hours of football they played just three days ago, which resulted in seeing them knocked out of the Europa League in the semi-finals at the hands of a former Manchester United player. And we’re expecting them to go and take points off Chelsea, who have one hand on the trophy, and have had all week to rest and prepare?
Liverpool’s manager and captain insist they are up for this Chelsea game, with Stevie Me claiming that you can never wear their shirt without giving 100%. Brilliant. I’ll be urging Gerrard to dive in the box, I’ll be cheering on that Argie midget as he kicks lumps out Chelsea’s midfield, and I’ll celebrate like it was a goal of our own if Liverpool score. You can worry about feeling dirty afterwards because at the time we will be supporting the red shite.
If Liverpool can’t manage a draw or a win, our heads will be down for Sunderland. You imagine our players will be as well prepared as possible, with Sir Alex Ferguson already claiming that he just wants us to still be in for a chance of winning it on the last day, but the belief of the fans will start to fade. Wigan have picked up points in just five of their eighteen trips on the road, conceding an average of almost three goals a game away.
But if Liverpool do draw or win, it will be party time in Manchester and Sunderland. The belief will soar through the roof and you imagine every one of our travelling support today (expect to see green and gold all around the stadium, not just in the away end!) will pass that urgency and faith to our players. The thought of kicking off at Sunderland knowing that a win would take us top of the table is enough to make the skin tingle. But again, this is the result of our horrible brains letting us imagine a scenario created in our dreams.
Rio Ferdinand is expected to make a return to the back four alongside Nemanja Vidic, which will disappoint the Sunderland faithful who love Jonny Evans. Patrice Evra, who Ferguson was full of praise for in the week, will start at left back whilst Gary Neville, who has just signed on for another year, is a doubt with calf strain, meaning Rafael da Silva could start.
Antonio Valencia and Nani have to be favourites to start on the wings, although how the rest of the selection is picked depends on whether Fergie is going to go all out with a 442 or stick with his usual big game tactic of 451. With a 442 you would imagine Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes would start in midfield with Dimitar Berbatov accompanying Wayne Rooney, who is set to return today, up front. If it was 451, you imagine Ryan Giggs would take Berbatov’s spot in the starting line-up.
Owen Hargreaves was on the bench last weekend against Spurs, so it would be interesting to see if he could get a run out. His freekick against Arsenal towards the close of the 07-08 season made the Double appear to be reality, rather than a dream, and we would all love him to play a part in our success this season, if possible.
Michael Carrick, who hasn’t started in the league since our win over Liverpool in March, will be available, as will Wes Brown who has been missing through injury since the first weekend in March. Fergie will also fancy youngsters Darron Gibson and Federico Macheda on the bench, both of whom are capable of scoring.
So, swallow down that sick feeling and pull yourself together. Football fans up and down the country long for their club to be involved in days like today so appreciate every second of it.
Please forgive me for what I am about to say.
Come on Liverpool!
And more importantly, COME on United!