A glimmer of gold shines brightest amongst the dirt.
“It was only Midtjylland”. “They lost the first leg”. “Rashford’s two goals could well turn into another “MACHEDAAAAAA” moment”. No-one cares.
What happened on a cool Thursday night in Manchester was a magical occasion. Not because of the win or Rashford’s fairytale story or Memphis’ lightning level performance. But because of the happiness it brought.
For a season now, United fans have not only been subjected to underperformance, disappointment, of their beloveds. That would be bad, almost just a saddening inconvenience. A few losses here and there, a few fights, would be easy to get over. But as well as all this, as well as the feeling that not just the team but the club itself is being mismanaged, is the ‘something else’ that’s been hanging over our heads. The thing that’s made this season even worse than the one under David Moyes.
It’s a lack of love. A lack of happiness. To say that this season has been a black hole would be to deny the sense of mystery, wonder, and potential of black holes. You could write poetry about black holes, beautiful and wondrous poetry. It would make your mind open and your eyes widen and make you believe in things you never thought you could ever believe in. It would touch your soul.
The only thing you could be inspired to write based on Manchester United’s 2015/16 season is a washing machine instruction manual.
And it wouldn’t be a good one.
What the win against FC Midtjylland brought back into the lives of Manchester United fans was a glimpse of the joys of football again, after such a long absence. Football seasons, like mere months on Twitter, are lifetimes and generations all of their own and this much time without happiness can suck life from your soul.
The last time that I felt as happy, related to football, as after the Midtjylland win was after Angel Di Maria’s goal against Leicester in the infamous 5-3 loss.
But at that moment he was making it 2-0. It was early in the season, we were recovering from our worst season in a long, long time (certainly the very worst in my memory) and things, with the genius of our new star signing, were looking good, memories of those 81 crosses dispelled to some distant filing cabinet of our minds.
Go on, watch it again. Revel in it. Look at the way that Schmeichel just puts his hands on his hips, helpless against the wondrous piece of sporting beauty he’s just been in the presence of. Tell me that you couldn’t write poetry about that as well.
What happened after that goal in that game was a crash. A car crash of a team’s performance, a crash that could, and did, break hearts. The worst falls are after joyous highs.
Unfortunately, it’s that fall which has been the overwhelmingly dominant feeling for United fans this season.
When you’re in darkness – at night, say, in bed with the curtains shut and your bedside lamp long since off – what might otherwise seem like a normal, or even dull, level of light shines oh so blindingly bright. And that’s what happened against Midtjylland. Someone switched on a light into our football supporting lives and my god was it good.