Barcelona v Manchester United: Champions League quarter-final – live!
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For Manchester United fans, the last few months have been the most uplifting since Alex Ferguson retired and winter came. A low bar, admittedly, but nonetheless: where once there was José, now there is hopé.
But is there really? If you think this has a happy ending, then you haven’t been paying attention. Never before has there been a season which, at this late stage, retains the capacity for such multifarious awfulness – verily, the night is dark and full of terrors. And, at the end of it, Manchester City might win a domestic treble, something Manchester United have never managed; or they might win the actual treble; or they might win absolutely everything.
Alternatively, Liverpool might win their first league in 29 years, perhaps thanks to a helping hand from United; or Liverpool might win their first league in 29 years, perhaps thanks to a helping hand from United, then add to it a sixth European Cup; or Liverpool might share every trophy with City, a sweep culminating in a European Cup final that, for United fans, will forever be known as the Battle of the Bastards.
And yet, the question begs: do United even want to win tonight? A silly question, you might think, but stick with me. What happens if their reward for so doing is a pumping from Liverpool, who then go on to reclaim Ol Big Ears? Or what happens f they somehow sneak by Liverpool as well, only to be brutally murdered by quadruple-chasing City in the final, their very own red wedding. Some old wounds never truly heal, and bleed again at the slightest word.
Of course, these are all worstest case scenarios. More likely, United subside gently this evening and then hope that Ronaldo and Messi can, between them, limit the season to a straight worst. The Nou Camp pitch is wide, and it’s hard to see how United can cover all of it, at the same time as keeping Messi, Suarez and Dembele quiet, at the same time as finding a goal or two for themselves.
But, at 1-0, they’re not entirely out of things – leave one wolf alive, and the sheep are never safe. The thing is, that though Barca are good, they’re not that good – the same issues that make them unreliable insurance makes them slightly vulnerable tonight. Their defence is far from the tightest, their midfield is slow, and in Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, United have players able to trouble any team – on a good day. Today will need to be their best day. Dracarys!