Monday, July 19, 2010

For Manchester United fans this season stays as the darkest ever. Finishing second to last and good bye First Division. Relegation! The name of the enemy is engraved in the minds of the fans for ever – Tommy Docherty. The louse! Of course, hardly anybody counts that Docherty saved United from relegation the year before. Dark years… only 5 years after winning the European Champions Cup – down to the nobodies. Bobby Charlton gone, Dennis Law gone, George Best gone, Matt Busby gone… and First Division gone.

Going down…
Top, left to right: Arnold Sidebottom, Steve James, Alex Stepney, Jimmy Rimer, Jim Holton, Peter Fletcher.
Middle: Sammy McIlroy, Ian Storey-Moore, Trevor Anderson, Alex Forsyth, Mick Martin, Martin Buchan.
Bottom: Willie Morgan, Tony Young, Lou Macari, George Graham, Gerry Daly, Brian Kidd, Ray O’Brien.
How bad was this team? Well, by the names here, it was better than most English clubs. Having Stepney, Kidd; having bunch of Scots, all national players, and going to the World Cup right after the season ended – Morgan, Macari, Buchan, Forsyth, Holton, Graham; having Northern Irish national players like McIlroy and Anderson; having Eyre national player – O’Brien. May be not a great squad by United’s standards, may be transitional one, but impressive nevertheless… certainly better than what most clubs had. Except for Docherty… must be him, right? True, he failed to produce results. There was one big mistake – telling one too, for it is extremely rare in the history of Manchester United – a transfer mistake. Ian Storey-Moore was bought after fierce and back stabbing battle with Derby County. Storey-Moore was much praised in 1973 as a very promising player, a future big star certainly… Brian Clough wanted him. Why ManUnited fell for inflated player is mind boggling. It was not wise move. Storey-Moore produced exactly nothing for United and is perhaps the best symbol of the weak season. Storey-Moore did not fit the traditional profile of ManUnited player and, to my mind, was more Brian Clough’s type. Perhaps going to United was Storey-Moore’s undoing, but he was symbolic for this team – inflated, underperforming, chaotic and plain lazy. Forget about Storey-Moore – Brian Kidd did not play well! Forget about Graham and Docherty too. Where were Stepney, Morgan, and Kidd this season? They were to provide leadership and seemingly the shoes left by Charlton and Law were too big for them. No character.
Sadness apart, the relegation of Manchester United at least confirmed why English championship was the most exciting one in the world – nowhere else was possible a leading club to be relegated. The big clubs were either capable to sustain strong enough squads or were artificially kept in the top division. In England it was possible any club to win or to be relegated. Fair, if nothing else.