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Season 2013/14

City Blogger: Simon Curtis previews the derby

  • 19 September 2013 11:16
  • Posted by @bifana_bifana

Following the recent announcement of the team of eight City Bloggers from around the world who will be writing for us this season, it's time for the next piece courtesy of Simon Curtis...

Denis Law back-heels a scruffy goal into the net at Old Trafford. It is April  27th 1974. A small bomb goes off in my head. Denis holds on to the hem of his sleeve as the ball trickles apologetically over the line. Not as apologetically as Law’s acknowledgement of it, but still, it is certainly no 30-yard howitzer. It reaches the netting at the back of the goal and nestles there gently, as if not sure whether it is in the right place.

law relegates

It is in the right place. And so am i. I just know I am in the right place.

The drama this simple act has created has me completely transfixed. It is about to get better. So much better.

Onto the pitch run hundreds of young men with half-mast flared trousers, checkered tanktops, humungous doc martens and red and white scarves tied around their wrists. It is like the day of the Triffids only they are moving faster than plants and are covered in hair. City have just sealed United’s ticket (a second class return rather than the one-way we had ordered) to Oxford, Hull and York, a cultural charabanc for which our neighbours have to this day never uttered a word of gratitude.

It is all beguilingly beautiful, all so sexily symmetrical. Alex Stepney on his knees in the rutted penalty area surrounded by literally thousands of Bay City Rollers clones. A lethargic sun-drenched day at the football has suddenly stung everyone on the backside. It is alive and the air crackles with the threat of violent outrage.

Law immediately takes his final steps in league football, forlornly substituted as the profundity of his deed seeps into every space in his brain. Despite our generosity, United only spend a single season downstairs, caning the living daylights out of almost everyone they face, before coming back to the top flight as cocky as you like under Tommy Docherty.

Little do I know it but I have had my very first successful encounter with what we all now readily recognise is the DNA of this daft old club of ours. It was as absurd as it was picturesque. The Blues had sent the red menace down, only for it to return twice as strong a year later. What marvelous irony. What delicious bad luck. What an absolute joke.

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And how time flies. Forty years later, we are all still at it. Blue meets red and locks into that gaze, different from the usual half-interested malevolance. No hands across the divide. No shared drinks in the pub. No jokes about Macheda or Mark Halsey, no backslaps about Ashley Young and the law of diminishing gravity.

City’s relationship with United is changing. Where once every minor success in blue was trumped in an instant, these days our red cousins are suddenly finding things a little hard to chew on. The Typical City that brought Andre Kancheslkis and David Brightwell together one cold evening, that made Martin Atkinson blow his whistle seven minutes into 5 minutes of added time, is still with us and is what binds us all together, for we know not when or how it will strike next.  

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With both Manchester giants searching for form, feeling their way, listening for the motor to fire up good and strong, this has been a period of hectic realignment for the new men in charge. How do they exert that calm authority that everyone is looking out for, when one is missing a stopwatch and the other lacks a foppishly curled scarf? David Moyes tapping his timex just does not have the same effect and Señor Pellegrini, at 60, is past the days when he feels the need to spend an hour or two appreciating himself in the mirror. But, if the image is different, the theme remains the same: beat the neighbours, claim the city, stride out into the sunlight.with a spring in your step. And if you are tempted at any point to relax and think the job is done, think again.

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