We all fancy ourselves armchair managers or voyeurs who can predict a line-up or substitution or a transfer. We sit at home, pint in hand, and we figure that we know what’s best for our club. And a few weeks ago when the rumor mill was churning about the end of the transfer window and who would/wouldn’t be leaving their clubs, all of our eyes shifted to the rumors about our Ravel Morrison. The enigmatic player who had only made 3 League Cup appearances was suddenly the talk of the United Kingdom. The buzz about this player was a mix of the good and the bad. The best academy player since Scholes mixed with the attitude of someone like Balotelli. In his limited appearances for the club, he had become a cult legend. If he made the bench, Twitter exploded. If he made it on the pitch, Twitter imploded. The only thing that was for certain was that all Reds wanted him to come through the ranks and live up to the billing he brought with him. As of January 31st, that door closed with the closing of the transfer window.
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I remember when I was still playing football on a regular and competitive basis. One weekend our team traveled to Olney, Maryland to play against their travel team. Here in the States, we don’t have academies, really; we have what we call “select” or “travel.” Aside from ODP (Olympic Development Program), it’s the closest we have to competitive youth football.
So, we get there and the atmosphere is pretty typical. Olney was known for being a dirty team. Even the parents were dirty – yelling at the opposing team’s kids, swearing, threatening, etc. We never ever liked playing them. From the get-go, their kids are acting like total heathens. It quickly turns into a battle. As the game got into the last few minutes, one of their players slides in studs up – from behind – and takes down our sweeper. In the heat of the moment, I chase him down, a la Wayne Rooney, and absolutely take him out. The play was dead. Everyone saw it. Ref shows me red. I knew it was coming. I storm off the pitch, more upset at how out of hand the game had gotten than actually getting the red. My coach grabs my arm, looks at me, and reprimands me for stooping to their level. I didn’t want to hear him, so I grabbed my bag and stormed off to the car to wait, a la Balotelli. He was old and he didn’t get it. He was out of touch with the game. I was 13 and that’s exactly what I was thinking at that exact moment. In that instance, I had no desire to listen to anyone. I was above it all. I was right; I was defending my player; I wasn’t going to be told otherwise. Sound familiar?
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The exit from last night’s Champions League Group Stage came long before the referee blew the final whistle. Some will say that it was when we failed to win home matches against Basel and Benefica. Some will say that it came when we made so many changes to the side that faced Benefica. Some will even say that it was when Hernandez went down injured against Villa this past Saturday. I’m going to say that it came back on August 31st, 2011 – the day we failed to secure a CM that we’ve desperately needed. Sure, sure, that may sound a bit harsh, but it’s really not if you think about it.
It’s one of my favorite things to say about our noisy neighbors, but “Let’s all laugh at City” could soon be shelved, right next to the “35 Years” banner we literally held over their heads for the last 3.5 decades. With an FA Cup in their desolate trophy cabinet, City have started this league season with more than just a few pipe dreams. As I type this, they are 5 pts clear of us and a week off a 6-1 thumping of a United team that was a miniscule shadow of our early season form. We have some fickle fans, but even the most grounded United fans can share in some trepidation when it comes to this year’s City team. The real question is: Are they better than United? Let’s find out.