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A heart-wrenching, numbing and disappointing end to the Barclays Premier League Season 2011-12 and that is what anyone connected to Manchester United in one way or another felt. We ended last season experiencing the high of having won another title and not just any title, it was THE title that edged us beyond arch-rivals and enemies Liverpool in the overall English league title stakes. We started this season bouncing on the high of that achievement but ended it with utter disappointment.
Pre-kick off I had thought of writing an article but what do I say in it? Only thing that was on my mind was: “We Believe” which was how United fans all over approached this game. It was more in hope rather than expectation as the odds were stacked heavily against us. City had to draw or lose and we had to win or we had to win by a 9 goal margin away from home to win the title. City have had a fantastic home record all season, only dropping points once against United’s opponents on Sunday, Sunderland in a come-from-behind 3-3 draw. They were playing against Queen’s Park Rangers who were fighting to stave off relegation and needed a point at least. The only hope we had was that QPR had something to play for and their manager, Mark Hughes, a legend in the United ranks, a hero and saviour many times in his playing career in the red of United would love to put one over the club which he was so acrimoniously dumped from as a manager. These were the straws we were clutching on. Sir Alex Ferguson even went as far as to suggest that Hughes should don the playing kit one last time just for this match. Laughable but it was a thought shared by many United fans who are old enough to remember the exploits of Hughes and his heroics in his playing days.
At kick-off both matches started at 0-0. United took the lead through Wayne Rooney to put some pressure and add some anxiety to the blue half of Manchester from the North East of England. However, both sides went into the half-time break as they were; City had also taken the lead in their match. With Bolton Wanderers in the lead at half-time against Stoke City, it meant that QPR needed to score to at least draw their match and not get relegated. It gave United some hope that QPR still had something to play for in the second half. Early in the second half, a huge cheer went out among the United fans when news came through that QPR had equalized through ex-Liverpool striker, Djibril Cisse. The identity of the scorer was ironic but it didn’t matter. As United hardly attacked with much gusto and the home side started asking more questions of the United backline, in came another cheer and with it news that QPR had taken the lead. As the match wore on, the improbable dream started becoming more probable. All of a sudden, we were close to the title again. Three minutes of injury time were being played at the Stadium of Light while five were being played at the Etihad Stadium. In the first minute of injury time, news came through that City had got an equaliser but still it wouldn’t be enough for them to win the title.
Could this be the greatest of all chokes? Could this be a day of tears for the City fans? Were City again failing to deliver when the pressure was on them? Final whistle blew in Sunderland. United had eked out a 1-0 win like they have done many times in the season. The players headed to the away section, the manager headed over applauding them. They probably sensed that the one final twist in the title could be in United’s favour. The victory was near but 5 minutes is a long time to play and no club would know that better than United. Famously, United only needed 3 minutes to score 2 goals against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final of 1999. The players were probably anxious as were the fans but inside there was an eruption of joy and pandemonium waiting to explode and just then a few seconds later, City got the third and the winner. Unbridled joy and crazy scenes of jubilation were seen but not where we wanted it to be. City were champions and we had the title so cruelly snatched from our grasp just as we were able to touch and feel it. Heart-break, disappointment, tears, anger and frustration are just some of the emotions felt by the United faithful and the players alike.
Congratulations to Manchester City for winning their first English league title since 1968. If they have won it, it means they have deserved it and over the course of 38 league games, the table doesn’t tell lies. My thoughts go out to Manchester United fans that would now have to put up with the fans of the noisy neighbours as they live in Manchester where it is all happening right now. The Red Devils has such worldwide appeal that they have fans all over but in other parts of the world, fans of other clubs are rejoicing in City’s title triumph which is annoying as they are just jumping on the bandwagon of a club that denied United another title triumph. Their clubs weren’t good enough to do it themselves so they take comfort in City’s triumph making it their own. I personally can’t feel any worse right now and I just hope these weeks wind down and a new season approaches soon enough so that we can start again. Maybe this was the wake-up call the club needed and there was perhaps no better club to deliver it other than our hated noisy, annoying neighbours. If it’s not them then it has to be our enemies from Merseyside, Liverpool. First time ever, we are feeling the hurt of watching a side that we so dearly hate win the title.