Usually when I see Satan, it’s an alcohol-induced hallucination. And the Lord of the Flies, shapeshifter that he is, doesn’t always come in his true form. At times he’s been my girlfriend, my girlfriend’s best friend’s ass, or simply that voice that keeps me from writing or encourages me to grab another Spaten Optimator (but let’s make it clear that God/L Ron/Buddha are responsible for gifting us with beer).
But hey, we had to stay classy and display quizzical animosity against a world class opponent we were basically paying to play.
But there he was yesterday at the Linc, where mediocrity is valued as much as a championship trophy. He taunted me. Me, specifically. Even that hump the air routine directed at fans two sections over was somehow meant for me. Was my future ex-girlfriend/his next form sitting over there? SOB!!
And he even did the finger wave taunt. Wait, that’s our bullshit taunt, our clever way of telling teams with 100 plus years of history and rows upon rows of silverware that you indeed do “suck, asshole.” It’s especially brilliant when considering how we once again turned our backs as another storied team’s starting lineup was introduced, a team that won the Champions League in ’08 and ’99. But hey, we had to stay classy and display quizzical animosity against a world class opponent we were basically paying to play.
Perhaps the greatest illustration of that divide relates to just how either side comes about its young players.
But maybe instead of just needing to act like a misguided Philly fan, some of that behavior was fueled by the glaring divide between the two sides (and maybe, some alcohol as well, but that’s been covered since I already said ‘Philly fan’).
Perhaps the greatest illustration of that divide relates to just how either side comes about its young players. Whereas the Reds can look to Nani and Federico Macheda, we can offer up Roger Torres and Danny Mwanga. While there’s definitely more experience with Macheda and Nani—18 and 23, respectively—only Nani, who should have a breakout year with United, has some distance on the Union’s pair of teenagers, or trio if you include Union Jack McInerney who needs to continue to help push the play up through mid on the attack. Indeed, against United, he continued to show that he’s maturing quickly, with strong play on the ball against much more experienced defenders, along with decisive takes on net not too far off the mark.
As for United, Macheda, like Berbatov, is looking for regular time, but from a much different position. Having pulled a Danny Mwanga in back to back matches—a la Danny Mwanga—after coming on even later in his respective games, Macheda pretty much ensured United of the title two seasons ago. But the ‘all Rooney’ show ensued and he hardly got more than a sniff, having featured to any major degree only in cup competition.
So all the more reason he seemed keen from the outset last night to run at Union defenders, showing off just why United plucked him from Lazio’s youth development program, much as they grabbed Nani from the same Sporting Lisbon side they snatched Cristiano Rinaldo away from.
Of course the other dirty little issue here… is that we’re bound to lose some, if not all, of our top young talent before they even begin to take off fully.
The Union, on the other hand, were set to pick from America de Cali of Colombia for Roger Torres, while Mwanga came out of a U.S. collegiate program that’s definitely not on level with one of the best sides in Portugal. And McInerney, like Mwanga, was also grabbed in the MLS Superdraft, his U-17 experience making him a standout selection.
Mwanga particularly shows a strong upside. He’s strong on the ball, can deliver crucial goals, can help move the ball up-field, and can equally confound and dazzle opposing defenders. While Torres, who didn’t feature at all against United, doesn’t seem to have the same upside, he’s not that far behind with an amazing ability to cross the ball and serve up forwards—Le Toux particularly owes him a few beers—let alone a keenness to check back and win the ball, something McInerney is also beginning to take to with alacrity, but then again, it’s obvious that this is something Petr Nowak is preaching to his entire bench.
Of course the other dirty little issue here in diving deeper into the all too obvious gulf between these two sides—and this is where Satan comes back into it—is that we’re bound to lose some, if not all, of our top young talent before they even begin to take off fully. And we’re not going to stop being a stepping stone anytime soon. It’s inevitable. It’s sad. It’s an unfortunate reality that can only change some day, if, in the words of Rocky, if I can change and if you can change (those of you who just started loving the beautiful game), then perhaps everyone can change.
Until then, we’re not even going to be Sporting Lisbon or Lazio. Sure, 44,213 at The Linc is great, but how many of those mostly red clad fans will actually come down to Chester for a game at PPL Park? How many would have cheered if Mwanga would have put one away? At least without thoughts of him in red?
No doubt there were many locally based United supporters at the game, supporters who chose the big EPL team over the nascent home team. I can’t be too judgmental since I was up in the air as to whether or not I should wear my favorite non-scouse red shirt. While I think going with the home squad was the better move, I couldn’t help but cheer for Ryan Giggs and Scholes, while shaking my head at the nonsense spewed the Welshman’s way every time he took a corner.
…until the game becomes ingrained in the culture to the extent that the market and level of competition entices top young players to stay stateside, there will always be a red devil waving its fingers at MLS fans.
And then to all those taunts, but to me specifically, Satan waved his fingers. Because after all, how can we keep Mwanga, a player who only entered the MLS draft since an early trip to Europe would equate to copious time on the bench at first rather than quickly growing into a starter’s role? How can we prevent stars like him from leaving when games such as yesterday’s match draw more fans decked out in opposing colors than the home blue and gold? Until that situation changes in every MLS city, the migration will continue.
We’re open to solutions, but perhaps the most glaring problem is that the poor in this country, unlike others around the world, don’t play soccer, thus preventing us from having a deeper talent pool that would enable the game to transcend social strata. The World Cup and ESPNs continued interest in raising the profile of the game—they finally recognize the profit in it—should help, but until the game becomes ingrained in the culture to the extent that the market and level of competition entices top young players to stay stateside, there will always be a red devil waving its fingers at MLS fans.
(Photo: Paul Rudderow)