The Beautiful Game

It was less a great game the other evening and more a beautiful one sided display of football. It would be a truism to say that the best team won, so it is more accurate to say the only team won. Barcelona’s 2-0 victory over Manchester United, dispossessing Alex Ferguson’s men of their Champion’s League trophy was a treat to watch. Lionel Messi and his colleagues were like dainty Spanish ballerinas up against the cumbersome pork pie eating champions of England. They passed the ball in front of their opponents' noses with exquisite skill. They pirouetted, danced and glided effortlessly past an opposition that seemed rooted to the spot. Every now and then I expected Ferguson to turn the handles like gamesters do when they are playing table football as a means to get his team moving. They exuded the appearance of traffic cones placed on the pitch for nothing other than allowing Barcelona to claim they at least had something to take the ball around.

Last year's European championships in Switzerland and Austria showed Spain to be the new force in European football. Barcelona issued a statement of intent that they intend to carry that flame for some time to come. Their destruction of Manchester United was so complete, causing us to feel that we were watching full time professionals against post men just out for the runabout when not on their day job.

Alex Ferguson is a brilliant manager, probably the best ever to have managed an English team. But in Rome he failed to manage brilliantly. The Stadio Olimpico was host to sheer exhibition football. The much anticipated battle between Ronaldo and Messi proved to be nothing of the sort. Watching it was like looking at Darcey Bussell dancing around a donkey; professionalism over petulance; silk over sulk.

As a Liverpool fan, I was hardly disconcerted or disconsolate at Manchester United’s defeat even if baffled by the paucity of their performance. It is just part of the rivalry that carried me through 17 years in prison – not once did I have to put up with United winning a league championship much to the chagrin of the Man U supporters who were pretty vociferous in the jail. I have a friend who, each time Liverpool lose or United win, sends me a text. When a goal is scored during the games by United or against Liverpool he sends me the name of the scorer. On Wednesday he seemed to have lost the dexterity of his fingers. I waited all night and nothing came through. I held off until a few minutes from the end, Barcelona were two in front and there was no way back for United before sending him a wind up text. I had learned my lesson from ten years ago when in the same competition United trailed Bayern Munich in injury time. I was sitting watching the game in Southampton and with only minutes remaining I sent a text to poke a friend in Belfast. It had hardly left the phone when United were leading 2-1. He never let me forget it. Trying to live that down made me determined not to repeat the same error.

It was a joy to get the latest friend's response. It can’t however be shared, not being suitable for public airing particularly if children are still up and about. Odd that they should take it so bad. And me, seeking to offer only commiseration, am baffled by his accusation that I was gloating. At Manchester United’s misfortune? Never.


  1. Tom Humphries would even be proud of that match report Mackers.... classic!

  2. Now, now Seán Mór - we don't want gloaters on this blog!!

  3. Enjoyed the game and enjoyed watching the "biggest, richest, best supported, most famous,blah blah blah" club in world football being taught a lesson by a first season manager.

    Regarding Ferguson being possibly the best ever manager of an english team, well it certainly helps when you have more money to spend, over a longer period, than anybody else in english football.

    This is not to say he hasn't been amazing and developed an incredible winning attitude at the club.

    Anyway as a Villa fan I hope O'Neill will show us in the coming years that he deserves the title you feel may well belong to Ferguson.

    One other point though is that for non lovers of football technique the match was pretty lifeless.

  4. Hi Anthony ,a cara I hope I may call you that even though we havent meet yet, anyway I almost always agree with your comments and opinions, but even though are right re.,Utd,s,performance ,please dont rub salt in the wounds, with yarns like the seven dwarfs were working down the mine when it collapsed.Snow Whitecalled down:can anyone hear me?avoice replied Man Utd are going to win the champions league.Snow White says:well at least Dopeys alive. keep up the good work and all the very best to all your clan. Marty F.

  5. Starry Plough, don't you come here trying to start trouble with those poor Manchester United fans. And them all so generous and impressed by the standard of Barca football that they could only stand, mouths open and watch Barca play

  6. Marty, Dopey - priceless. Loved it

  7. "My greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f***ing perch - and you can print that." - Sir Alex Ferguson.

    Obviously, one has to feel sorry for Liverpool fans, with United winning the Premiership for a third season in a row, thereby equalling Liverpool's total of 18 championships, a feat they said would never be matched.

    And next year their achievement will be surpassed and written out of the history books forever. It must be truly galling for them.
    Meanwhile, 19 years without winning the league, on and on they go in hot pursuit of United's one-time record of 26 years without being champions of England.

    Never mind, Anthony, you can always take comfort in the fact that Liverpool have a wonderful past to look forward to...

  8. Breandan, Snow White is looking for you!!