Be the Originator, Not the Imitator
All right, so I didn’t originate this week’s title. I heard it on the radio this morning and the DJ probably got it from some rap artist. But it sounded good so I’m using it. What has it got to do with this weeks game? Probably nothing except perhaps the fact that Manchester United have arrived at the final of the European Cup for the first time since 1968 and the present Old Trafford squad are no longer in the shadow of Best and Charlton or the Busby babes. Alex Ferguson sits on the unprecedented threshold of winning these three trophies we’ve been talking about the last few weeks and he has crept ever closer to fame beyond his present knowledge. This weeks gigantic test was once again in Italy, this time the Stadio Delle Alpi, and the threat to United’s history making took the form of the mighty Juventus, themselves trying to reach their fourth consecutive Champions final. What a scene.
This contest was worth waiting for. The game itself proved an incredible bonus drama. Nostradamus himself (herself) must have wondered after an amazing opening ten minutes saw Inzhagi score twice and “surely” put the game beyond the reach of human comeback. At this point, the soccer world including a majority of Mancunians must have thought the dream was over. Remember the dream was “surely over” a few days earlier when Bergkamp stepped up to his spotkick, only to see United survive and the dream live on. But that was then and this is now. This was different. At least two away goals would have to be scored – now or never. This was probably going to take the intervention of an Irishman to resolve satisfactorily, and as luck would have it, Roy Keane isn’t Irish for nothing. He is also captain for very good reasons.
He would believe. He would not go down without a fight. He was influential as usual, but he was also instrumental in turning this seemingly “impossible” situation around. Stunned silence greeted his gorgeous flick header which brought the game back to reality and set the tone for the next hour or so, the most important hour in United’s recent history. Keane would be booked and would miss Barcelona for the final. But to his credit he showed what true competitive spirit is and continued probing and passing and maintaining United’s composure in remarkable circumstances.
The old Andy Cole/Dwight Yorke trick worked to perfection and with less than half the contest over we were tied at 2-2. But with the dreaded away goals rule, the scenarios had evolved with each strike. Commentators and calculators were tested to the point where most people had just figured out that Juventus would now have to score and United would advance if the score remained as it was.
The halftime break allowed multi tasking computers, data processing and artificial intelligence software confirm the facts. Another goal for United (Impossible, I hear you say) would mean Juve needed two. But one goal for Juve would send United crashing. Simple really. The next 45 minutes would decide if the club that has dominated Europe for five years now would hand over its mantle to the pretenders to the throne.
Posts, penalty claims and passion followed in only the way soccer can. Both sides were great and the outcome was still in the balance. Jaap Stam proved to be a better tackler than Inzhagi is at acting and I can’t help wondering if Inzhagi might be a truly great player if only he stayed on his feet and stopped whining so much. Easy for me to say. Beautiful play on both sides was largely cancelling each other out although one chance could change things quickly. One mistake. One touch of brilliance. Time to come to the plate or step up to the dance or something like that.
If there is such a thing as a neutral point of view, (perhaps new North American audiences) the contest as a drama ended prematurely when Andy Cole accepted Yorke’s gift and put United one goal up on aggregate with probably ten to play. Juventus couldn’t score twice in ten minutes, could they? I mean do it again, twice in ten. Nah!
Now all roads lead to Barcelona where (once again incredibly) Bayern Munich also have the chance to complete their countries treble. Of course, both teams can’t achieve this but it does look more and more “possible” these days.