Monday, 14 March 2011

Been There, Read That, Bought The Narrative

In football there are some certainties that crop up as sure as night follows day. Sepp Blatter will continue to act like a complete clown, guzzling free champagne while bringing the game into disrepute through his disgusting incompetence and corruption do a sterling job to promote the beautiful game in all countries, working hard for the betterment of mankind through football. Referees will continue to be insulted and attacked despite doing a very necessary and important job by managers seeking an easy target. The duopoly in Spain will continue to grow until the entire planet serves as the footballing equivalent of salt mines for our new Iberian overlords.

The latest addition to these certainties is that any tie between Manchester United and Manchester City will be represented as a “potential shift in power in Manchester” by the media. Much like the other inevitabilities in football, forcing every Manchester derby into the same narrative is immensely tiresome and silly.

Manchester City are undeniably a club on the rise. Barring an extraordinary end to the season they will be in the Champions League next year. But a power shift is not something that happens on the basis of one game except in very unique circumstances. Beating United and then potentially Bolton or Stoke to win their first trophy in 35 years would be a big step forward for the Blues. Yes, United have vast mountains of debt and some key players on the verge of retirement, not to mention the inevitable retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson one day.

But the same United are top of the league, have just beaten their closest rivals in the FA Cup and are in a reasonably strong position to make it into the Champions League quarter-finals. So even if Manchester City rise to the point where they are serious title challengers year on year it doesn’t mean that they will actually supplant United merely that they will become rivals for trophies.

The problem is that all of this has been said before. Every single time the two clubs play these days the cliché about power shifting is trotted out as though it represents an analysis of what this game means. We know that Manchester City are on the rise. It doesn’t need to be said every single time they play United. Please, just give it a rest.

The fact is that the narrative is too good to be ignored because it fits any circumstance. If United dominate then they have “sent a message” but if their lucky then its “experience and the sign of champions”. Meanwhile any City victory will be greeted with “the real arrival of the Abu Dhabi revolution”. Whoever wins out of the pair, it doesn’t need to be played out as “a reassertion of dominance” or “uppity neighbours challenge status quo”. Sometimes a game is just a game and it would be nice to enjoy it without a tired and familiar media narrative being dusted off weeks in advance.


  1. Yep. Although for an aspiring football journalist to write an article criticising this kind of meaningless rhetoric is rather akin to a young Meleagris gallopavo deploring the modern tendency to celebrate Christ's mass with non-traditional fare.

  2. It was a very good post indeed. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it in my lunch time. Will surely come and visit this blog more often. Thanks for sharing.