End of an empire

By Prestwich_Blue, Thu 27 October 2011 11:28

End of an empire

As World War 1 drew closer, Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey made his famous remark "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."

At 3:25pm BST on the 23rd October, the lamps started going out all over South & East Asia as many of the supposed 300m plus people that the rags class as "fans" went to bed despondent, having witnessed a humiliation for their team that they have probably not witnessed in their lifetimes. (Note to MUFC Marketing department: a "like" or comment on Facebook does not necessarily equal a "fan" and nor does a tweet with the #mufc hashtag).All day Friday, the #manchesterisred tweets had been coming through the Twitter-sphere, the irony completely lost on the senders with locations like Mumbai, Malaysia, East Anglia and Surrey. Surely #manchesteriswhere? would be more appropriate. Those fans were used to years of uninterrupted success, which is of course why they "support" a team they mostly have no connection to at all. They aren't used to seeing them humiliated by, of all teams, their local rivals.

No doubt like most of you, I scrutinised every TV programme, newspaper report, blog, forum and podcast I could after Sunday, from the Tierra del Fuego Times to the Ulan Bator Advertiser (honestly - the price of Yurts!!!). I even watched Eamonn Holmes on Sky News but 10 minutes of that was more than enough and I had to turn off before they got to the sports news. Comment ranged from "It's just three points when it comes down to it" to "The most stunning result in the history of the Premiership."

It even got a mention or two on here but that was only because it was a slow news day due to the fact that Bob's not had his hair cut for a while, Ono's love-life is pretty quiet and Liam has apparently been banned. Among the discussions was how this result compared to the 5-1 in 1989 and was it our best/most important derby result of all time. Good questions.

It certainly equalled the best result in numeric terms, duplicating a similar scoreline in January 1926. As regards the 5-1, which was the biggest score-line in most of our lifetimes before Sunday, the answer has to be that this one is better. It's better for a few reasons; firstly it was a bigger defeat but also achieved away from home in front of over 70,000 disbelieving rags. The sight of one of them, on TV, saying something like "That's it, we're off" when we went 3-0 up with 20 minutes still to play was joyous to behold.

In terms of cataclysms, it compares to Frodo entering Mordor and casting the One Ring into the Cracks of Doom. That (fictional) act destroyed the Dark Lord's iron will and toppled his evil empire and this one might well have the equivalent impact. That was never going to be the case after the 5-1. In fact it might even have spurred Govan's equivalent of Sauron to even greater efforts in his battle for world domination. Also, in 1989, the derby involved two average teams, both of which finished in the lower half of the table.

In 2011, it was between the top two, one of which has won umpteen titles and other trophies in the years since and hadn't been beaten at home for 18 months. The other was us, the new boys on the block looking to emulate that feat but with only a solitary FA Cup to show so far. So the 5-1 in 1989 was certainly a wonderful, if unexpected, result but this one was better because it wasn't quite so unexpected. The margin of victory might have been somewhat surprising but the manner wasn't. Most recent derby victories have seen us raise our game dramatically whereas in this one we merely played to our abilities, displaying our now trademark flowing movement, incisive passing and lethal finishing.

So was it our most important derby result ever? Well I'd say it was certainly up there, alongside the last Maine road Derby, the first couple at CoMS and the 2008 visit to the swamp but it's not number one. That honour has to go to the game played on 27 March 1968, also at the Theatre of Debt. That night, as the end of the season approached, there were four teams battling it out for the title; Leeds, them, us and Liverpool. We'd just lost to Leeds leaving us two points adrift of them and the rags and a loss that night might have finished our title hopes (it was 2 points for a win of course back then).

It didn't start well, with Tony Book making an uncharacteristic mistake to let in George Best to put them one up. But City rallied, upped their game and scored three in a storming match to draw level on points with them and Leeds, with goal average to the rags putting us in second place behind Leeds. The title wasn't finally confirmed until the nail-biting last day, with our 4-3 win at Newcastle but that night at the end of March played a huge part in it. We've still got another 29 games to play this season and lots can yet happen but the 27th of those games is the return match at The Etihad Stadium. Now that could just be a game that ranks as the best derby of all time.