Soccer Satiredays

Long John Mourinho, Captain Flint, Moon Landings and Moon River

The late, great Stephen Hawking once said:

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see …”

As a child growing up in the 1960s, Manchester United were undoubtedly the team with the real stars – Best, Charlton, Law – and, love them or loathe them, we all tried to be them in the playground.

It was easy to understand why: league champions in 1967, they were the first English club to win the European Cup; George Best had been dribbling since he was in a high chair at the bar; Denis Law would always score, and Bobby Charlton could hit a football really, really, hard, despite his lack of hair.

It all made sense, not complicated at all and certainly not rocket science.

That bit came on the birthday of my late, great mother, in 1969, when two men landed on the moon. We all left James Burke to explain the complicated bits to himself and a TV audience of three, while millions of us simply marvelled that, from the key vantage points of back gardens everywhere, we could now look up to that ball of light and, if you were especially patient or your bike had a flat tyre, see real faces for the first time.

Life wasn’t just a non-fiction of course. Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island kept us grounded in fantasy and our budgerigar could have been Captain Flint if he had been able to speak and, well, a parrot.

I recalled these days after Manchester City had won the Castrol-GTX-All-You-Can-Eat-Premier-League title again because Manchester United were no longer the stars in the galaxy – and one or two West Brom players had finally realised that getting new jobs in the summer might be tricky.

Inevitably, Jose Mourinho came out to face the press, leaning on his orthopaedic wooden leg – also known as Phil Jones – as though it would help to defend the indefensible.

In 1969 Manchester United were just two years into their new project: to not win the league title for 24 consecutive years. Jose clearly recognises the simple fact that his team are now five years into a similar phase in their football history. It isn’t difficult to see how Manchester City could dominate the Premier League as their neighbours once did, or that other teams – such as Burnley – will be close by.

Except that Jose doesn’t do simple. He was obviously thinking about Galaxies, Milky Ways and so on when he seemed to suggest that:

“It would ‘not be fair’ to say Manchester City won the title because Manchester United lost to West Brom.”

Actually, that is exactly what happened because of a thing called mathematics, points totals and remaining matches to play. You don’t have to be a famous astrophysicist to know that this is no black hole, rather the white light of illumination.

Jose then clarified his thought process, which, as usual, only served to send clouds rolling across the sun:

“I won eight titles and I am not on the moon because I won against Manchester City. I saw lots of people in the moon.”

Just as I was about to think that Jose and I were on the same page with those celestial sights, I was awoken from my reverie by what can only be described as a Guinea fowl with multicoloured feathers spreading diagonally across its head, perched on Jose’s shoulders. When it spoke, I heard the voice of Paul Pogba:

“Pieces of eight trophies are buried on the spot marked ‘X’, where Michael Oliver once stood – before he and his wife opened a rubbish recycling plant in Ashington, and from where Bobby Charlton once showed us how to measure the simple value of treasure.

In 1969 Andy Williams reckoned that Moon River was wider than a mile. Whether it will divide a city for years or just the present from the past, only time will tell. Simple really.