BETWEEN THE RED DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA

“Incredible! But next time, not like this. Please!”

VINCENT KOMPANY, Manchester City captain

 

You’ll remember where you were.

Mario Balotelli receives the ball. He forces it through to Sergio Aguero. Aguero beats his man, and then lashes it past Paddy Kenny.

Kun Kun has just ensured that Manchester City, are champions.

And  it doesn’t matter who you are. Or who you support. That, right there is the moment that has taken your breathe away.

It is moments like these that make the beautiful game, beautiful. Moments that have you on the edge of your seat. Whether you tip over and fall, doesn’t really matter. Whether it was the result you wanted is inconsequential. You’d made proclamations that you now have to withdraw. You’d had hopes that have now been completely altered. You are gasping for air. You are exasperated. You are speechless.

You have just witnessed a magical moment in football history.

But the moment would not exist without the context. It’s the 90th minute at the Etihad Stadium. Manchester City are losing to Queens Park Rangers 2-1. It’s unbelievable. The team with the best home record is losing to the team with the worst away record. Manchester City fans are blue. Over at the North-East, The Stadium of Light is not particularly illuminated, but Manchester United lead Sunderland 1-0.  United fans are hopeful. As it stands, United are Barclays Premier League champions.

The script though, has not yet reached its conclusion. Corner to City. David Silva swings it in. Onto the head of Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian restores parity. There is belief. The Etihad is bouncing. Awaiting a hero. But there is not long left. They need another. Meanwhile, at the Stadium of Light, the game is over. The players are still on the pitch. The fans wish they can join them. Not yet though. They still have to await the score from the blue side of Manchester. They wait with baited breathe.

They need not wait long. In these dying minutes, the United dream, dies. Time seems to stop. Stop for Aguero. Stop as he shimmies past the QPR defender.  Stop as he strikes it. Stop as it hits the back of the net. Then, bedlam. His shirt off his chest. Wheeling away in celebration. Nine others in blue are right behind him. They form a heap of blue on top of El Diego’s son-in-law.  Almost 70 yards away, the man in green is running around in circles, arms widespread. On the touchline, Roberto Mancini jumps into Brian Kidd’s arms. In the stands, Liam Gallagher holds aloft the scarf that declares it all.

Manchester City. Champions.

For the fifth time in the Premier League era, the ribbons on the Barclays Premier League trophy are blue. For the first time in the Premier League era, the inscription is Manchester City. And deservedly so. More goals scored than any other. Unbeaten at home with just two points dropped. Clean sheets galore.

And not to mention the character. Character not to give up. When Mikel Arteta scored, it seemed over. Arsenal’s number 8 had left them 8 points behind Manchester United. “It is finished,” Mancini had said. It wasn’t. They did the job. They even had to host their illustrious neighbours. They dealt with that with relative ease. They marched on. Nobody was going to stop them.

That character followed through. Combined with the mentality, it made them unconquerable beasts. Even when they seemed to have stumbled at the final hurdle, they still had that last jot of energy to see them past the finish line. Ironically, it was decided in ‘Fergie time.’ Ironically, it was done much in the same manner United had done it to Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou in 1999. Ironically, Sir Alex Ferguson’s assertion in 1999, still aptly applies, even now.

“Football ! Bloody hell !!”

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