It’s the first of March and although there is everything to be decided, you can smell it in the air. This could be the year United do what hasn’t been accomplished by a British club since Celtic in 1967: winning the League, FA, and European Cups, in addition to the Premier League trophy.
Yet as can often happen in football, the circumstances behind the feat would be less than ideal. Many pundits have argued convincingly that last year’s United, who won the European double, were a superior club who battled against difficult opposition in a fighting, post-Mourinho Chelsea in both the Premiership and European Cup. This year, Chelsea has faltered with the early departure of Phil Scolari, and now United’s only other credible competition (sorry Villa) for the domestic crown is Liverpool, who showed clear signs yesterday they are running into the familiar Benitez melodrama: up-in-the-air ownership and swirling questions over the manager’s future. The Premier League seems to have surrendered early.
The FA Cup, outside the possibility United fold to draw-obsessed Arsenal or maybe-resurgent-maybe-not Chelsea, could also be handed to the Red Devils. And no one else outside of Barcelona looks as convincing for the Champions League title—the same Barca that has just dropped two games in a row. Unless Inter can find a strategy that doesn’t include having Ibrahimovic attempt to dink past four United defenders on the edge of the area, Manchester United should go through to the quarterfinals.
For United fans, who no doubt have all been supporting world football’s Harlem Globetrotters since the pre-Ferguson/MUTV/Sky/Murdoch/Asian tours/Nike sponsorship period, the quadruple will be the epic, orgasmic climax of two decades of domestic dominance. For the rest of us, it will reveal one direction football might take during the up-coming economic depression/recession: total dominance by one, enormously popular club with enough financial clout to weather the coming storm. This probably won’t matter a damn for football’s pocketbook—after all, everyone loves a winner.
What it might mean for football’s soul is another matter entirely. This year, United could dominate because everyone else is shit. And as clubs are forced to cut ticket prices, managers send b-sides to major cup competitions, the Premier League feels “lucky” it can still get lots of money in broadcast rights, and more and more lower tier clubs, some with histories as long as Newton Heath’s, simply fall off the face of the earth, we could be in for two decades more of this sort of thing. So get ready for a new, fifth domestic cup competition, the next step up for the Uniteds of the world: the Quintuple.