In The Pulpit: Grown Men Crying – The Manchester Derby should remind us all why we bother watching football

As you might all be aware, there was a pretty fantastic football game on Saturday. After a fairly underwhelming season, Manchester United managed an unprecedented win away at Manchester City. Not only that, they did it by coming back from 2-0 down to win 3-2.

Whether this goes down as a historic derby will be determined in time, but by God was it was exhilarating. Going into the game, I had basically resigned myself to watching a meek defeat. Despite City being torn apart for a half by Liverpool, I still felt our chances were rather slim. We had wilted against City at Old Trafford and the Gods seemed to have decided that not only would City win the title at a canter, they would get their big parade right in front of our faces in their silly airline sponsored stadium.

The first half started okay but quickly descended into a farce. Kompany easily lost Smalling from a corner then De Gea carelessly gave the ball away and we were 2-0 down. After that, United’s head’s seemed to go. City ran rampant, gliding through the centre of our midfield and creating chances at will. Sterling missed two absolute sitters. It felt hopeless. This would go down as one of the biggest maulings United had ever endured.

After half-time, everything changed.

Mourinho didn’t make any monumental changes, the team just came out and tried harder. They were first to every ball, they ran at the City players and they were brave in possession. The first goal wasn’t just a goal, it was a great goal, stylish even. Watching Herrera chest the ball down is definitely the most erotic thing involving a male chest I’ve ever seen. Pogba’s second was like a slow-mo version of Keane in Turin, leaping at the near post to head it home. We were level! But with so long left, surely Mourinho would pull back and hold for the draw?

He never did. United kept pushing, using the panicked silence of the home crowd as fuel to power their attacks. Then the winner came, Chris Smalling the lone red patch in the sea of green that was the City penalty area; the nightmare of the colour blind.

Redemption for Smalling, relief for the fans. I’ve never achieved a state of nirvana, but I think that moment I came pretty close. Until the realisation that I had to watch the rest of the game set in. Sweat, nerves, panic, fear. Aguero had a golden chance saved by the magnificent De Gea. Time seemed to stop as the ball hit Sterling and bounced onto the post. But City couldn’t score. United held on. The party was spoiled.

After the game, it transpired that at halftime, Mourinho hadn’t given any extra instructions. He simply informed the players that they didn’t want to be the ‘clowns’ in the stadium when City lifted the trophy. So, for all that modern football is about tactics, this game basically came down to who wanted it more. There wasn’t any fantastical tactical revolution, just eleven men running faster, tackling harder and breaking themselves to win.

Sure, City threw it away and this doesn’t change the big gap between the two teams in the league this season. But United have shown that they’re not far away from City on an individual level. There doesn’t need to be a huge squad overhaul, they just need to put this much effort in when it matters and crush the weaker teams in all the other fixtures.

More than anything, this game reminded me why I bother. Why we all bother. Not just to watch United, but football in general. The game had everything. Penalty claims incorrectly turned down. Yellow cards not given. Red cards not given. Chris Smalling’s redemption. Pogba’s redemption. City being brilliant. United being courageous. Herrera being a s***house. And by far my favourite thing in all of football: grown men crying. Bliss.

It was a thrilling game and barring something crazy happening in the FA Cup, the last proper thriller involving United this season. So rather than read too much into what happened and what the result means and what will happen next season, we should just sit back and enjoy it. Get in!

About the Author

Bob Priestley
Manchester United fan and writer of 'entertaining articles' or 'a collection of words' depending on who you listen to