Do you have something of an extra spring in your step this week? A little joie de vivre? Specifically a wiggle in the walk and a giggle in the talk? Are you full of spunk? I certainly am. The downstairs staff are a touch more relaxed since last Monday evening. Beatings have become noticeably less frequent. I have had to lock far fewer first footmen in the coal bunker. The stable lad has not been thrashed for several days. I find myself laughing gaily at the birds in the sky and stroking the blades of grass on the south lawns like a simpleton at a country fair.
Normally such good humour is down to the under butler slipping one or two of his ‘special aspirins’, those powerful little tonic pills with the image of the little dove on them, into one’s Pina Colada. Those little fellows keep one nodding at the gramophone until the sun comes up. Yet my mood this fine week has a much more natural cause: The elimination of Newton Heath from the Football Association Challenge Cup and therefore the de facto destruction of their last chance of silverware this season. And not just elimination; complete discombobulation, annihilation and mastication.
This heady mood was further enhanced this last Wednesday evening, the events to which we shall turn in a few moments time. For now, let us recline on the balmy beach of our victory. Thither Old Trafford then: Heretofore, or at least for the last eight long years a venue so awful and unpleasant that defeat at the hands of ‘Sir’ Alex and his band of oiks was expected. The Theatre of Cheats. A palace of humiliation.
On occasion there were thrashings so severe that the only recourse of a reasonable man was to delve into his monogrammed pharmaceutical attaché for some medicinal LSD and allow one’s psyche to fly off to the land of leaping unicorns and shimmering waterfalls for a few blessed hours. Yet on Monday evening this horrible place became a kind of Butlins holiday camp for the chaps.
The pattern was set when after just two minutes Rojo sent a 60 yarder up to that upturned lavatory brush Fellaini. The club of Best, Law & Cantona were set up like the Wimbledon side of the nineteen eighties. Couple of minutes later, Valencia, whom I suspect was wearing incontinence pads to prepare him for the bowel-loosening effects of facing Saunders running at him like a goat on crystal meth, panicked, allowing Saunders to enter the box and switch the ball from ‘SPLENDID’ (his left foot, for he has those letters tattooed on his eight toes) to SPIFFING (his right foot, again, with that legend inked upon his digits). His sixteen toes are the reason he is able to control the ball at such high speed. On this occasion his shot was blocked by Mr. Smalling, our twelfth man in the night. The poor chap really couldn’t pass go on a Monopoly board.
Mr. Bell needs to mature a little psychologically. Who amongst us, and I include the kingdom of the birds in this question, when faced with the opportunity to cause Ashley Young discomfort, would pass up the chance? Yet he could not restrain himself, dumping the vile lad onto the turf and gaining a Mustard from Mr. Oliver.
It was 25 minutes before Woolwich’s first. Mr. Orwell breathed life into the move, supported generously by United’s complete lack of any appetite to close him down. Over to Master Oxlade-Chamberlain, who exhibited that rare beauty, the Land Mine Foxtrot. Named for a somewhat dangerous game played on new recruits to infantry divisions in hostile territory, when they are dressed in white tie and tails and told to foxtrot across a known minefield. Whilst this might seem harsh by today’s standards, and has been banned by the army, it was excellent training for Oxlade-Chamberlain’s exhilarating dribble past the defenders of Newton Heath. He popped it over to Nobby Mandeville, whose cry of “thanks old chap!” could be heard above the noise of 60,000 prawn sandwiches being munched, and was duly dispatched past poor De Gea.
The reply was immediate. Gallumphing monstrosity Di Maria, a man brought low by the horror of playing for Manchester United, swung a cross on it and wouldn’t you just ruddy well know who was on the end of it? Wayne Bloody Rooney, that’s who. Looking increasingly like a child’s drawing of Wayne Rooney. The lumpish little Joithead. Yet his cries of joy were to be silenced on the hour mark when our Brazilian Wonderboy, Danielsan Arantes do Dat Guy Nascimento Santos Welvalho, or ‘Welé’, metaphorically took a photograph of Herr Van Gaal, printed it onto a roll of lavatory paper and used it for its metaphorical purpose. A wonderful moment.
Other things to note were the pathetic and villainous cheating of United’s players, who dived like a fleet of German U Boats, and the spectacle of feared strike force Chris Smalling and the aforementioned Marouane Fellaini up front. As a striking pair. At Old Trafford. What a delightful, soul-lifting shambles.
On Wednesday, Chelsea lifted the spirits further by exiting Big Cup, something we have to wait at least a week for. Did you notice the banner? “We are all blue”? I doubt that all those claiming that have represented either Oxford or Cambridge at any sports discipline and I am sure that the relevant authorities will be in touch.
Tomorrow we await the visit of Thames Ironworks, where we face much the similar tactics to that of Manchester United – long ball, big lad up top, aerial bombardment delivered in the hope of knockdowns for onrushing midfielders. The only potential hazard here is that Allardyce does this kind of thing a lot better than gorbellied puttock Van Gaal.
Now I’m off to The Garrick for a half-dozen Bowmores. Cheers, Woolwich!