I got back to the local ten minutes in to the Chelsea vs Arsenal game on “Grand Slam Sunday”, after returning from Old Trafford to see our lads do over the scousers again. Whilst there were mixed feelings amongst the people in the pub over who they wanted to win, it essentially didn’t matter a great deal to us. A draw would have been preferable. A victory for Arsenal may have reignited the spirit which had kept them top of the table for the majority of the season, whereas a Chelsea win could mean an extra three points they collected before our trip to Stamford Bridge, where seemingly no team can win.
After knowing United had easily beaten Liverpool, both Arsenal and Chelsea will have felt the pressure. Both of them will have felt they needed a win to keep up with us and it was enjoyable seeing their desperation. However, whilst the fans will have been nervous, they both had something to lighten the mood. A former player who they hated was now wearing the shirt of the opposition.
In the blue corner, there’s Ashley Cole, a product from Arsenal’s youth team, supposedly a Gunner through and through. For the sake of £5k a week, he sold out the team that brought him through, meeting with Jose Mourinho and Peter Kenyon behind his club’s back. After signing for Chelsea, he brought out a book full of sulking and criticism of his former club. He is one of the handful of players in the Premiership who is universally considered to be a total wanker.
In the red corner, there’s William Gallas who spent five years at Chelsea, winning two league titles as part of the impressive defence Mourinho created. Another sulker, who complained about being played out of position whenever the press pointed a microphone in his direction. Before leaving, the club claimed that Gallas had threatened to score own goals if he wasn’t granted a transfer away from Chelsea (a claim Gallas has always denied).
I was rather jealous of the fans of these London clubs because the pantomime that comes with being a football supporter is most enjoyable. The boos and whistles and chants directed at these hated players can often be the highlight of the game. Despite only a few hours before singing of transfer requests to one of my most hated players, Steven Gerrard, and shouting “Chelsea rent boy” whenever he stepped up to take a corner, it can never have the same venom singing about a former player brings. Particularly a player who you feel has wronged your club in some way.
As I was walking past a badge seller on the way in to Old Trafford, I spotted several badges of red shirts with names and numbers on the back. I was taken aback to see a “Heinze 4” badge, clearly left over from his time as a loved player of our team. It got me thinking what that day would have been like if Heinze had been granted his wish and joined the dippers last summer.
When news first broke Gabriel Heinze was looking at a move away from the club in preference for signing with Liverpool, I couldn’t quite believe my ears. United had just won the league and he had lead our team out as captain in that meaningless game at Stamford Bridge where the Chelsea players gave us the Guard of Honour. He was a player our following adored. He was hard as nails, played with passion and ability, and seemingly loved our club. At the end of his first season at United, he was voted Fans’ Player of the Year.
We had looked over his decision to play for Argentina on a number of occasions, leaving him injury ravaged for some time when he should have been playing for us. United usually demand a club over country attitude, but Heinze was forgiven for not taking this on board, because of our strong feelings for him.
But our feelings mattered little to Heinze who was prepared to give up on the adoration he received from United fans, chanting “Argentina!” for him every time he completed a tackle or scored a goal, and he wanted to leave. Not only did he want to leave, but he had his heart set on the most detestable and sickening thing to United fans. Liverpool Football Club.
Sir Alex Ferguson was of course not going to be the first manager in donkey’s years to allow one of our players make the United to Liverpool switch, and made sure Liverpool’s bid was rejected. Heinze was one of the best left backs in the World, but was unfortunate to be currently missing out on a starting place thanks to Patrice Evra. Rather than stay and fight, he chose to try and leave us for our most hateful rivals though.
Despite appeals from Liverpool and weekly whinges from Rafa Benitez in the press, the Premier League panel rejected Heinze’s belief he had a right to join whichever club he wanted, regardless of what the club owning his contract wanted.
“For me it is bad because my hope was to negotiate my transfer to Liverpool,” Heinze said, upon finding out he could not join Liverpool. “But unfortunately the Premier League decided in favour of United. This is not a war and I am not being anti-United. I only wanted to defend my right to search for another club without restriction. But I have to consider that my stay at United is finished. But to leave for another European club? I am tired about rumours linking me with France, Italy and Spain. I have never spoken with clubs in these countries, because in my head the only option has been Liverpool. The decision reached by the Premier League is a painful one.”
Gabriel Heinze was shipped off as soon as possible to Real Madrid, with United even making a profit on the wantaway tosser. He has spoken out about United several times since completing the move, all of it negative. He has played just a handful of times for the Spanish Champions thanks to injuries and lack of form.
Now, the victory over the dippers on Sunday was close to perfect. It was a convincing win, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres went AWOL following all the hype revolving around them in the week, Wes Brown scored, there was a Liverpool sending off, Ronaldo showed again he is capable of being a big game player despite claims of the contrary, and essentially, it was a win over the dippers. What more could you need?
Well, just imagine how much sweeter it would have been if Gabriel Heinze trotted out wearing a Liverpool shirt? Beating the team he was so desperate to sign for with ease, putting the dippers some 14 points behind us in the league. Booing him every time he went near the ball, laughing at him as he walked off the pitch demoralised, and I can only imagine what chants would have been created for him.
Oh well, you can’t have it all, and I’ll happily take a 3-0 victory against Liverpool, completing the double over them. But I can’t help but think how sweet it would have been if Heinze was a dipper on Sunday afternoon…