In every race, there's a winner and a loser. The wondrous human mind is as fickle as it is fascinating. We'll leave the wondrous bit to the adoring I-need-to-know faithful of the Discovery Channel. Fickle because, despite it's mammoth capabilities, leans only to remember the winners. No matter what a great loser you are, history favours the winners. The losers are chucked into the dark dungeons of failure. But there is a small loyal population who remembers the losers and even sits depressed and forlorn for weeks, the ever faithful, the fans.
Manchester United is everybody's favourites to win the Premier League. The people, who used to cuss at the very mention of Manchester United, embrace them now! Liverpool fans are probably digging out their hockey sticks to have a real go at me right now, but the truth is you would any day take the Red Devils to the rejuvenated Chelsea. Anyone who is a neutral prefers United to Chelsea, solely because many feel that United played the better football. Chelsea have ridden their luck so many times, you suspect Avram Grant sleeps with Lady Luck herself!
There is a stark difference in culture between Chelsea and Manchester United. Despite the fact that Chelsea boast a sea of international superstars, they play a rather laboured style of football. They'd rather play a lone striker to lead the line and flood the midfield to cut short both central and wing attacks. They huff long balls forward to the dramatic yet magnificent Didier Drogba, who is the brilliant player he is due to Chelsea's system of play. You put Drogba in a classic 4-4-2 formation and he won't be as much a threat. Further back they have an excellent defence which is also blessed in depth of squad. Their midfield is workmanlike and operates like clockwork. There is no fuss about these guys. They get the ball and either pump it up or use the ball efficiently. It is a meticulous system that has served them wonderfully over the years and pioneered by the charming Mourinho. This is the Chelsea culture. They have had many a continental manager over the decades and their style varies depending on the man in charge. Their culture is rather cosmopolitan and chameleon-like.
Manchester United is a whole different proposition. They believe that the boring football should be played by the blue half of Manchester. Even when do play a single man up front, the goal-scoring threat is from all fronts. In Ronaldo, they are blessed with a man in the form of his life and who has thus far plummeted close to 40 goals. That too from the wing! In Sir Alex Ferguson, they have a manager who has managed them for more than two decades. Their cosmopolitan culture is derived from the many legends that have graced the luscious greens of the Theatre of Dreams. They have a culture to always attack. They are successful and to a certain degree short ended because of this culture to play swash-buckling football. Sir Alex has always remained loyal to tradition that is Manchester United, to attack.
That is, until now. In a space of a week, he has demonstrated that the many failures after his maiden European title, he has embraced caution. Caution is actually a good thing, because you can get carried away with the euphoria of the chase and end up empty handed. Arsenal are closest example to playing absolutely breath-taking football, yet having nothing to show for their efforts. Maybe playing Barcelona in cauldron that is the Camp Nou is intimidating even to the likes of the lion-hearted Rooney. Maybe playing going for a draw is throwing caution to the wind. Maybe risking a half-fit Rooney in a defensive formation is Fergie's idea of intimidating the opponents. Maybe Ronaldo isn't superhuman after all. Maybe from where Carlos Quieroz comes from, the men wear the skirts! A scoreless stalemate is the worst kind of result to bring back to Old Trafford! Barcelona are the gods of attacking football, and their arsenal is way way prettier, fancier and more lethal than the best on the planet. They may be having an off season, but they aren't going down quietly!
Many amongst the United faithful were aghast at the display and tactics that was put forward by the genius that is Sir Alex Ferguson. Credit where credit is due, the man is the reference text for success and reinvention. But for once, he shrunk at the possibility of grabbing the bull by its horns. Their display was pathetic! Carrick, Park, Rooney and Tevez appeared lost every time they touched the ball! Carrick's distribution, in particular, kept feeding the ball back to the hungry Catalan wolves. Park looked like a small kid lost amongst grown men. Tevez and Rooney, who should not have been risked with his damaged hip, seemed to be stuck in their own half. Ferdinand and Scholes had an absolutely stellar game. Ronaldo was unlucky but ever enterprising.
If that wasn't depressing enough, Saturday happened! In every United fans' hearts, they knew that the kill was there for the taking and what pride they wore their bedevilled colours! When the team sheet came out even dumbfounded were dumbfounded! On the day when United could put lay to rest that they are the best in the land and do it on the very ground Chelsea call home, Sir Alex dug the burrow of caution. Of course, United lost and now Chelsea have gained all the momentum to go on an grab the league title from under United's noses. United were out-played and out-fought by a very efficient and courageous Chelsea team. The fact that Rooney scored was due to an uncharacteristic blunder from Carvallo. Their goal was coming and for all Sir Alex's arguments, it was a clear handball from the idiot that is Michael Carrick! Carrick had a howler of a game against Barcelona, yet his just reward was a place in the starting eleven for probably the biggest game in the Premier League calendar for United. The fantastic Evra, superhuman Ronaldo and growling Tevez were sat out of this monumental game. In all fairness, Darren Fletcher, as much as he is maligned, had a stellar game. There were two fundamentally shocking decisions that must have left even an idiot pondering, what exactly was going on! The first was the fact that Nani actually lasted beyond half-time and the second was United's non-chalant attitude at risking Wayne Rooney. He is now a serious doubt for the Champions League encounter with Barcelona as is the stellar Vidic.
These men will now head into the most crucial phase of the season with their spirit battered. When the time calls for the brave to stand, this team were ready to play everyday if they had to. They were ready to play through pain and with their heart on their sleeves immaterial how bloody the war gets. They were ready to be counted on. They were ready to be crowned champions as John Terry wept his heart out. He now sits smirking, at the change in culture. Arsenal's fate is creeping up Manchester United's shoulder…