For a number of years now, Sir Alex Ferguson has not paid derby day with the respect it deserves. Whilst he may feel the club has bigger fish to fry, he doesn’t have to drink in Manchester’s locals, hearing those bitters drone on and on. We were fortunate that we won the Double last season, otherwise the bluenose mindset would have been they enjoyed a more successful season than us, with a double of their own.
Of course I’d fancy a good result against Villarreal, but we can afford a draw tomorrow and still go on to win the group. Our goal difference is already better than theirs, so a point away there means a win against Aalborg would be enough to confirm our top spot, assuming Villarreal didn’t totally batter Celtic in Scotland, which would be unlikely.
“The derby doesn’t come into it at this moment simply because I have got five days and I need to play a team to win. I want to win the group and winning does that,” said Ferguson. “It was different from the last time when we played Celtic in Glasgow because we had a lunchtime game against Arsenal so my thinking was completely different. Wednesday to Saturday lunchtime is different from Tuesday to Sunday lunchtime.”
Whilst I understand Ferguson’s thinking and agree that any team we put out tonight should be able to feature on Sunday, unless we have fresh injuries, I want to see our manager showing he is up for derby day. He’s seemed too passive for too long where this fixture is concerned and this needs to change.
Last season’s meeting of the two clubs at Old Trafford was a truly painful experience. The Munich memorial was moving and even the fact the bluenoses managed not to fuck it up made it all the more powerful. Yet our team failed to show up and we had to watch their fans celebrating like they’d won the title, beating us for the first time at home since 1974. On all the days for that record to go, did it have to be then and did it have to be lost without any fight?
Did Ferguson lay in to them after the game? Did he make them aware of how painful their performance had been for the fans? Did he remind them of what an important fixture derby day is? Did he fuck. He was out of the ground as fast as those wasters who leave 5 minutes before the final whistle, on his way to the airport for a trip to South Africa to promote our summer tour.
When Ferguson did speak to the press, he was full of excuses, claiming the occasion was too much for them. Excuse me? What about the lads who turned out to play against Sheffield Wednesday in United’s first game since the disaster? Made up mainly of Reserves, our lads won 3-0, playing their hearts out for their team mates who’d lost their lives, with their manager being read his last rights in a German hospital. If the occasion wasn’t too big for them, then 50 years on it should be no different.
So, fine, play a good team against Villarreal and let’s go there and get a result. But don’t put derby day on the backburner again and don’t allow our players to become complacent where this fixture is concerned. It’s one of the biggest days on our calendar and I hope our manager remembers this!