Solskjær: Man on Wire


Man United @ 2/1
Liverpool @ 5/4
Draw @ 13/5
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Another week, another Cristiano Ronaldo highlight…hotly followed by another Robbie Savage lowlight.

Professional sportsmen and women are, by definition, incredibly competitive – always trying to go that little bit further for the sake of their craft – but I’m beginning to be concerned about the health of Savage if he continues to exert himself in such a manner.  He is consistently out-doing himself, this week plumbing Mariana Trench-like depths of decorum and acceptability.  And very little can survive for long at such inhospitable fathoms.

At times he’s like Deontay Wilder in the 11th round against Tyson Fury: perished, punch-drunk, flailing haphazardly, and thoroughly incoherent.

And, quite frankly, I believe his colleagues should do more to protect him.  Someone really should be there, ready to throw in the towel for Savage; to disconnect his microphone; to usher him surreptitiously into a quiet side-room; to be on standby with a full roll of parcel tape in order to gag him whenever he succumbs to hysteria and the inevitable, tragic, diarrhetic glossolalia.

I’m not someone who obsesses about changing the game of football, but I do think subscription paying viewers should be charged less if they choose not to listen to the commentary.  I do not want the fees that I pay to watch the sport that I love to go towards covering Robbie Savage’s monthly hair-care bill.

This has been a party political broadcast for the Bring Back John Motson Alliance.

Manchester United under Solskjær this season are a high-wire act.  They are reckless, they are frequently shambolic, they are gold-plated but nougat-centred.  One minute they can barely complete a 3 yard pass, the next they have turned a zero into 3 precious potential points.  And the minute after that, Harry Maguire has fired a spectacular, top-corner bicycle-kick from the edge of the D…right into his own net.

But you can’t deny there have been moments of supreme elation along the way.  Times like this Wednesday, for example, where, when Ronaldo scored, 50000+ people were suddenly united in a moment of unbridled joy: an enormous, spontaneous, collective release.  Those rapturous feelings, when you involuntarily eject yourself from your seat, are the kind you cherish for a lifetime.

And during his tenure Solskjær has overseen several.

Is that hard-to-describe but oh-so-special feeling not more important than a cold, inanimate, shiny cup?  Euphoria may only be a metaphorical trophy, but as metaphorical trophies go, it has got to be one of the best.

For the mega clubs, the aim at the beginning of a season is to strive to provide both the ecstasy and the glory.  But if it becomes an either/or situation, which would you choose?

For fans of traditionally less-successful clubs the answer is more straightforward – the season is almost entirely about the moments.  The late goals, the great goals, the great escapes, the full-blooded last-ditch tackles.  Those are your trophies.  And presumably that is enough, otherwise the grounds would be empty.

Perhaps, in the clamour for trinkets and baubles, fans of the elite outfits lose sight of the importance of sheer joy; of the moments that make your heart pound; and, yes, even the occasions that almost turn you into a blathering Robbie Savage.

Almost, I said.  Almost.  Never go full Savage.

This weekend’s final game is also its biggest as the oscillating Manchester United host Liverpool, who come to Old Trafford equipped with the Premier League’s most in-form star, Mo Salah.  The Egyptian will be looking to entomb and mummify Luke Shaw, in what could be a pivotal, match-deciding battle out on the flank.

A defeat for United would already put them 7 points adrift of Liverpool.  A poor start indeed for a club who were hoping to mount a serious title challenge at the start of the season.  But in the apparent absence of a detailed plan of action, Solskjær will once again tentatively tip-toe his team out onto the highest of wires.  How can you not get a thrill from that?

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