“You can have too much of a good thing”: a lie frequently propagated by joyless authority to limit the pleasure of kids having a better time than them. We knew it then, we sure as fuck know it now, and we also know it because of 2009/10.
Back in those days United were boring and shit, going for a fourth title in a row. All we had for our entertainment was peak Rooney, Berbatov, Evra, Ferdinand, Carrick and Vidic, along with doting Scholes, Giggs and Van der Sar; you can only wonder how we coped. Fergie out.
At the same time, City were emerging from a generation of misery, thanks to riches presented by a feudal, human rights-abusing plutocracy eager to whitewash its appalling behaviour with the incredible PR that only football can provide. It’s the feel-good tale of the decade!
But, if we forget all that for a second, we can acknowledge what it’s done for our derby games. Beating City doesn’t mean more than it used to, but it is more significant.
2009/10 was probably the first time they felt able to compete. Ronaldo had gone, to be replaced by Valencia, Obertan, Owen, and – eventually – “the boy Mame Diouf”, while Carlos Tevez had moved across the city to be closer to his daughter in Buenos Aries, losing half his bodyweight with the exertion.
The first derby of the season, United were careless, forcing a bemused Old Trafford to celebrate a late winner scored by Michael Owen; like finding a man in bed with your wife, only to shake him warmly by the penis upon discovering that their liaison has somehow brought about world peace. The particular beauty of this goal was that it came immediately after their game-saving equaliser.
A few months later came the League Cup semi-final. United played reasonably well in losing the first leg and very nicely in winning the second, only to lose focus and allow Tevez an equaliser that looked set to force extra-time – until Rooney stepped in. The particular beauty of this goal was that it added another year to the ticker which, by this stage, was on its last legs.
And then, halfway through April, came the return league game, with United going through a bad run. Rooney had, again, got injured when he looked about to do something epochal and United subsequently lost in Munich, to Chelsea at home, went out of Europe to Munich and drew at Blackburn; if they left the Etihad without a win, the title was near enough gone.
In the event, they played well but not very well, unable to find the breakthrough until Evra went down the left in the final seconds. His cross was perfect, but still required all manner of ridiculous work from Scholes send it past Given and ignite perhaps the most absurd goon of which it has been my privilege to partake. The particular beauty of this goal was that it was the third sickening last-minuter of the season, this time at their ground, and the season was saved. It came to fuckall in the end, but it didn’t matter in the slightest then and it still doesn’t matter in the slightest now. More than the slow burn of success, football is about glorious moments, and the memory of that one will have me standing on my chair, clenching my fist and punching the air until the day that I die. And you can’t ask for more than that.