Friday, April 15, 2011

We Have Lift Off!

photo by Kenny Millervia PhotoRee

I find myself chortling (yes, chortling, and not chuckling) of late, amused at how the English press is suddenly "discovering" the team Sir Alex has fielded this year is not a bunch of bumbling, drooling, middle of the road footballers.  Amused because that's how it felt in the mainstream press when I wrote this column, at a time when United were widely deemed as "unworthy" of bearing the cross of being undefeated, and derided as the "crap invincibles" by their foes.  A team lambasted across the news media for being composed of old, past-their-prime retreads, and ultra-ordinary footballers, whose one true superstar was accurately perceived to be going through a tough patch.

But oh what a difference a few weeks makes.  Seven wins after a brief mid-season stumble (to Wolves, Chelsea, and worst of all, Liverpool), the famous Manchester United are back, causing fear in the hearts and minds of opponents both foreign and domestic, and the media are lining up to pay them homage, talking about the treble, and gushing wondrously about what a magical mixture of veteran and young blood Fergie has assembled this season.  As if they could fool us into believing they've felt this way all along.

But some of us aren't that naive.   We didn't just fall off the turnip truck.  We're not Johnny-come-latelies.  We're not bandwagon fans.

Some of us have always been true believers, who saw greatness in this current United squad even though it often appeared as if through a glass darkly.  Some of us saw long ago that a squad which spent much of the season decimated by injury and illness (Valencia, Rio, and Fletch, just to name a few of the many) hung in there through some very tough times this season and survived.  And in the process hardened themselves into a force, now glimmering like a piece of burnished metal, built through the single-minded mentality of a coaching genius, and possessing a critical amount of the mental toughness required to accomplish the great things they are capable of doing this season.

And along the way they picked up some momentum.  They caught some breaks.  They healed.  The hurt got better, and the sick got well.  They put a few wins together, some tougher than others.  They got lift off.  Capped off most recently by dominating a two-legged tie with Chelsea -- the current English holders, no less -- in which United appeared to win going away, controlling the tie over virtually the entire 180 minutes (with the notable exception of approximately 45 seconds, before Ji-Sung park restored calm to Old Trafford and stopped Roman's mini-celebration in its tracks).

And as Sir Alex himself acknowledged recently, momentum can be hard to control.  Once the rock starts rolling downhill, it can be difficult to stop.  And this United team has momentum.  It may not win out the rest of the season, but I have the sense that it's going to take alot more than a single setback to deny the current United squad from achieving its destiny. This team has momentum, and is going for it all.

This Manchester United team is destined for greatness, and some of us knew it all along.

This is farlieonfootie for April 15.

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