With Manchester United followers supporting their neighbours City in their clash with Everton, and Everton fans willing their team to lose in the same game, it was actually the penultimate weekend of the 2013/14 campaign that summed up a bizarre turn of events in the Premier League this season.
Both sets of supporters got their wish that Saturday evening and Manchester City are now champions of England for the second time in three seasons, comfortably earning the result they required against West Ham on the final day.
But the writing was on the wall on May 3, when City worked their way towards a 3-2 win at Goodison Park, one of the toughest grounds to visit in the league.
As Jose Mourinho’s "little horse" that ran under the huge name of Chelsea tailed off in the race, just two teams were in the title hunt by the final day—and few would disagree that Man City and Liverpool were the best teams in the division this season.
For Manchester United fans, that’s a bitter pill to swallow. Indeed, club legend Gary Neville compared the title race dilemma to "having a choice between two blokes who’ve nicked your wife."
In the end, the richer "bloke" who made his millions from a lottery win prevailed over the more successful, institutionalised man. Manchester City’s top-tier title tally increased to four on Sunday, while Liverpool’s remains at 18, as it has done since 1990.
One wonders if the desperately coveted 19th title will ever arrive at Anfield, which suits United fans just fine. A quick scan through social media reflects the viewpoint that most United supporters are actually relieved their neighbours won the title at Liverpool’s expense.
Why? Because of the comparable history of success United and Liverpool have enjoyed. These days, armchair football fans are all too eager to taunt counterparts for clinging on to past glories, with Liverpool supporters bearing most of the brunt for constant references to their five European Cups.
Their 20 years of domestic and European success throughout the 1970s and 1980s was proceeded by Alex Ferguson spending over two decades knocking Liverpool “off their perch."
For all that to be undone just one season into the former United manager’s retirement was unthinkable. For the fans, City winning the league was easier to accept, easier to digest and much, much easier to predict.
Incidentally, the plane over Anfield prank carried out by United supporters on Sunday was nothing short of embarrassing, even more so than the club’s season as a whole. Why compare one man’s achievement, or rather lack of it, to that of an entire club?
Anyway, it will take a 20-year period of sustained success in the Premier League and the odd European triumph for City to be considered a fiercer rival of United’s than Liverpool currently are.
The Reds blew the league title charge and David Moyes finished the season unemployed—United fans are still getting what they want. Yet with City now champions for the second time in three years, perhaps they should be careful what they wish for.
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