Is it not amazing how football has reacted to the death of one of the most well-known British prime ministers of our generation, Baroness Margaret Thatcher? As a Liverpool fan, I was aware that she was one of the most hated people by Kopites because of her role in aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster on April 15 1989, but I did not know how widespread the resentment to her was within the game.
So, while her family and those who supported her were mourning her passing, there were people who were holding street parties to celebrate. Football, on its part, decided to exact its revenge by foregoing the one-minute silence that has been observed in honour of other fallen public personalities, including Princess Diana, in the past. She is seen as having been anti-football and the game has chosen to hit back in her death.
There was no place where this public snub was more pronounced than at Old Trafford where Manchester United were hosting neighbours and rivals Manchester City in the English Premier League within hours of the death announcement on Monday. It was business as usual and there was no attempt at all to even take notice of the bereavement that had been visited on the nation.
What mattered on the night was the title race. A win for the hosts would have meant that the record 20th league title would be confirmed as early as this weekend depending on how other results were to go. Any other result would only have delayed what almost everybody believes is the inevitable although mathematically everything is still possible.
For City, this was a match they had to win at any cost even though the title is way beyond their reach. This was not only about the city’s bragging rights but also making a statement after manager Roberto Mancini had indicated that the 15-point gap was not a true reflection of the gulf in class between the two sides. It was clear from the off that his men would do anything to claim victory and they were deserving winners in the end.
Coming exactly a week after losing to another big rival, Rafa Benitez’s Chelsea, in the FA Cup, this loss may have hurt the Old Trafford faithful really hard. It has shown that while Sir Alex Ferguson’s side always finds a way of getting a result against average sides, they fall short when pitted against the big boys. That started to show against Real Madrid in the Uefa Champions League.
With a visit to an inform Arsenal still to come and the Blues to visit Old Trafford again there are fears already that the march to the title, which is still United’s to lose it must be emphasised, will not be as straightforward as it seemed not long ago. The Red Devils will need to raise their game because most of the sides they are yet to meet have their own targets to pursue. We may still be in for an interesting end to the season after all.
Of course, all of England will be more worried to have been mere spectators as the Champions League quarter-finals were being played this week. We now have a semi-final line-up that has featured two sides apiece from the Spanish and German leagues. England may have a team in the semi-finals of the Europa League, but that will not adequately compensate for the failure to be part of the big one that really matters in many respects.