Friday, March 18, 2011

Blast from the Past: This Week in United History

He's Baaaaaack!  It's Columnist Ed with his semi-famous, semi-regular, and semi-funny report on a "classic" Manchester United game from the past, probably shown on FSC here in the States.  It's funny how much has changed with the team, and yet how much still remains the same over the past 14 years:

It’s been a slow, slow week.  So slow that I couldn’t even get up enough pulse to put together a column last week.  So slow it would make even Cesc Fabregas’ performance against Barca last week look kinda sorta of fast-ish (well, maybe not).  And so slow that instead of fighting back the sleep for 90 minutes of Manchester City v. Reading (ugh), or watching a beat up, exhausted, and defeated Gunners' squad try to make a go against Manchester United  (seriously, Arsenal needs some rest), I thought I’d finally tackle my “This Week In United History” column, something that the bossman decided to require of each of us after it occurred to him that we weren’t covering quite enough of United if we focused only on the present.

So the year is now 1997 -- Boom:  I just did that – and here we are taking a quick look at the FA Cup match between Manchester United and Wimbledon FC.  These were better days for the Wimbledon (see "To The Ends of the Earth"), coming off an FA cup championship only a few years before, and with none other than Vinnie Jones playing midfield and captaining the squad.  In fact, Vinnie was perhaps the most enjoyable part of the game, foreshadowing his berating of LA teens with literally dozens of extemporaneous shots at his teammates that feature a word that sounds something like “flock.” 

United’s side looked very much like they do today except for some nasty oversized jerseys made of a “fabric” that only Umbro could have thought was a good idea.  Paul Scholes was in the center of the field, just as petulant as he is today, only sporting a hairstyle that came dangerously close to a Mary Stuart Masterson wedge.  Gary Neville was out there as well, and the 1997 version could actually keep up with some of the players on the other team.  Ryan Giggs was also running around out there sporting his 1980-something John Oates hairdo (or was it Daryl Hall?  Hard to say, really).  Floppy good times were these.
Wimbledon dominated the first half, with the only serious attempt coming from a Ryan Giggs' cross to a tall, ugly Frenchman named Eric Cantona who quickly pounded it over the top.  United’s goalie Peter Schmeichel, wearing a hideous checkered purple shirt tucked into what appeared to be my 1997 girlfriend’s “I’ve lost all interest” nighttime sweatpants, was called upon a few times to keep Wimbledon at bay.  And unfortunately, the half ended without a goal and without even the slightest (physical) bludgeoning by Mr. Jones.

The second half saw United dominate play, with Scholes taking and missing a good opportunity.  United was getting all the calls, and dominating the play; I think you know the story.  It wasn't until about  the 88th minute of a zero-zero tie that I started to wondering how someone could possibly call this match a classic.  And then I said aloud (to myself, really, though in earshot of my spouse, who was suited up in some 1997 goalkeeper sweats, feverishly typing some kind of endless list of tasks for the “Ladies of the Lago Charitable Bazaar”): “Seriously, only in football could a zero-zero tie be considered a classic??!!!  For flock’s sake!”

This generated no immediate response from my spouse, but it did seem to perk up 1997 Paul Scholes, who almost immediately raised his game and put a diving header into the Wimbledon net.  Sadly, I caught myself reacting to this goal with despair, because despite the fact that this game occurred 14 years ago, I still couldn’t help myself but to cheer against United and their awful flipped up collars.

Fortunately for me, only a few minutes later Wimbledon put in their own header from a set piece, tying the game, and forcing a replay back in Wimbledon -- a game I will thankfully miss.  In fact, I don’t ever want to know the result.   I’d prefer to spend the rest of this column just floating somewhere between those two weeks in 1997, slowly looking around, drifting, imagining, and letting my eyes close in gentle . . . . soothing . . . . zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

This is farlieonfootie for March 18.

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