After Sunday’s derby match, and United’s defeating of City, a couple of tweets caused some mirth in the obvious quarters. Namely this
The mocking responses were many and varied. “Good luck in the Fourth Round of the Moral Cup”, for example. And “enjoy your Moral Cup success”. And, “here’s to the Moral Cup Winners 2012”. And, well, mainly that same joke, really, over and over and over.
And fair enough, I guess. We lost, and claiming a moral victory is pushing it. But our performance was excellent, and the thing is, I know where Messrs Kompany and Richards are coming from; indeed it’s not a million miles away from what I was feeling after the match. To be precise, I remember saying “it’s not quite a moral victory, but it doesn’t feel far off.” And judging by the reactions of the fans in the stadium, subsequent conversations with other City supporters, and even Alex Ferguson’s downbeat assessment following his side’s 3-2 win, I’m far from alone here. (I also knew that, a couple of days later, being out of the cup, that fine feeling would count for nothing. And here we are.)
So damn those players for expressing themselves a little clumsily, if you like; yes, damn them all. And bring on your ridicule and your opprobrium. But we can take it. In fact we can do better than that. The fact that the players and the fans felt so positive in defeat to our bitterest rival, and so in tune with each other despite our cup exit, is something I take as a hugely encouraging sign.
Because, ultimately, I think it all comes down to whether or not you believe there is more to football than merely winning matches. I certainly do, and I don’t believe you’re a true football fan if you don’t. Real supporters know the thrill of a tightly drawn game, and the boredom of a functional victory; they recognise how a battling defeat can give hope for the future, while a fortuitous win may merely paper over the cracks. Not surprising, then, if for certain United fans – the kind, say, who equate a lack of trophies with a lack of history – this is a concept they they simply fail to grasp, and so find ripe for mockery. Gratifying too that, despite our recent influx of petrodollars, it is something that so many City fans do still understand.
For now, at least.