Showdown of the century!
It’s an intriguing subject. How your football team fares doesn’t change who you are or what you have. But it overrides whatever else is happening in your life.
That type of emotion has fallen on a whole city, Manchester, in anticipation of one massive game of football in the English Premier League.
Manchester City and Manchester United face off at 5am Sydney time tomorrow morning. To the winner, so much more than a regular feel-good moment. So much more than getting one over your nearest rivals. This time, every part of the world will be watching; 650 million people, give or take a few. Sky Sports in the UK are expecting their biggest audience for a premier league fixture.
The equation is simple. This is the third last game of the season for each team. United lead City at the top by 3 points. If City win, they overtake United, thanks to a superior goal difference. If United win, they are six points clear and it’s all just a bit of history repeating.
Manchester United are used to big occasions. The monolith of English football, winner of 19 championships – more than any other – and glorified the world over, a global machine whose success timeline has coincided with the Premier League’s formation (in 1992) and push into uncharted TV territory (Asia).
But this is different. They are used to being challenged. But not by them, not by the neighbours.
Manchester City haven’t just been in the shadow of United, but in a total solar eclipse. Save for a couple of exceptions to the rule, they have struggled. Just over a decade ago, they were in the third tier of English football.
Then, late in the summer of 2008 it changed, overnight, when the football-mad rulers of Abu Dhabi decided they wanted to pump their petro-dollars into a Premier League club, and plumped for City.
Since then City have splashed over half a billion dollars on flash new players and it’s worked. Money does buy success, especially in football (unless you spend it unwisely. See: Palmer, Clive)
I recently quizzed a mate, a City fan: “Yeah, but is it not a little hollow, buying a title?”
The stare back indicated I require a mental health evaluation, pronto. They have been humiliated too many times, derided once too often, especially by United fans, to care about how they got to this point.
The buzz in Manchester right now would be like Melbourne Cup day. AFL Grand Final day. State of Origin nights. Not as separate events – put together.
Because everyone in Manchester has something riding on this. The match doesn’t start until 8pm locally, so radio’s will be tuned for the latest news, while TV sets will be locked on Sky Sports News for regular updates from outside an empty ground by a reporter who has to somehow collaborate hours worth of chatter when nothing is actually happening.
The workplace banter will be sky high, productivity perhaps, not so. Despite United’s worldwide fan base, the Manchester itself is split. Many are Reds, many are Blues. For days, weeks, months to come, mates will be giving each other fearful ear-bashings over the 90 minutes that await. There will be no talkies at tea-times in countless households over the result.
Tickets are impossible to get. Forty seven thousand will get into the ground, perhaps a few more. I’ve heard of one gent from here in Australia who can afford a ticket no problem – would pay 500 quid – but can’t get one.
So, he has a plan. Due to fire regulations, they leave the fire exits open during the game. He’s hoping the stewards on the door are too focused on the game, and he hopes to sneak in.
One round the world ticket on the off-chance of sneaking in. That’s how much it means.
The Fox Sports coverage starts at 4.45am EST on Fox Sports 3 – Robbie Slater and Mark Bosnich join Adam on the panel.
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