“Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio,” the Old Trafford crowd jeered, waving John Obi Mikel off the pitch enthusiastically. Just days before, Jose Mourinho had been sacked and with half an hour played in to their first game without him, they were down to ten men.
Mikel had clattered in to Patrice Evra and Mike Dean showed no hesitation in sending him off. Studs showing, foot over the ball. Replays would suggest that whilst plausible, it was a rather harsh decision. However, following Dean’s reluctance to punish Joe Cole appropriately for bringing Evra down in the area, getting no contact on the ball, the decisions were evened out.
This suited United fans far better anyway. There’s nothing like getting the last laugh on a player who disrespected your club. See, Mikel signed a contract with United, then got his head turned by money and threats, which saw him joining Chelsea before he even played a game for us.
“I am pleased to get the chance to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world,” explained Mikel after signing for United. “I’m looking forward to it. I am surprised that a big club like Manchester United wanted me. I had a contract with Lyn and not with Chelsea. I read about it in the papers, but haven’t heard from them.”
After expressing his delight at signing for United, a few days later he was giving exclusives to Sky Sports, ridiculously claiming that he’d be forced in the deal, despite the happy pictures and press statements to the contrary.
“I signed a contract with Manchester United and I didn’t do that of my own free will,” Mikel claimed. “I was put under a lot of pressure to do that. I was denied advice from my agent and people I trust and I didn’t get much time to think about that. I did something I did not want to do.”
We certainly have had the last laugh since then though, several times over!
After losing out on the title to Manchester United, Chelsea were keen to redeem themselves with European success against us in the Champions League final.
“There is a sense of frustration but determination among everyone,” said Mikel before the trip to Moscow. “At the end of the day, we wouldn’t have won the title anyway. We wanted to win and we knew that three points was our only chance of beating Manchester United, but it wasn’t to be. We were saying to each other afterwards that we would put things right in Moscow. We will keep working hard until the final and make sure we win the Champions League. They’re a very good side, we all know that, but we have to focus on the day. I think we’re going to win it.”
It’s hilarious to think that Mikel was hell-bent on forcing a move to Chelsea, yet in his two years at the club, he has lost out to United for two league titles as well as the European Cup. Had he just stayed with us, he’d have a far more impressive medal collection…but that is his look out.
In his 87 league appearances for Chelsea, he has received an incredible 4 red cards. Phil Neville is amongst the midfielder’s critics, claiming that his stud showing tackles have to stop.
In Nigeria, Mikel’s home country, Sir Alex Ferguson has been asked about the young player who could have been his. Fergie believes we could have made him a better player than the one he has turned out to be.
“Because of his talent and his young age we thought we could have developed him [Mikel] the right way,” Ferguson said. “At the time we were disappointed because we thought that Mikel would be a Manchester United player. But he chose Chelsea in the real sense of the matter and there was nothing we could do about that. In the past we have witnessed circumstances like this but you have to forget everything and move on.”
Since Mikel turned us down, United have bulked up the central midfield with the signings of Hargreaves, Anderson and Carrick, all of whom I’d prefer in our team ahead of the Nigerian. However, when not making dangerous challenges, the lad has shown some potential and could have become a good player for us.
Do you wish we had managed to hold on to Mikel and blossom under Fergie’s guidance?