This is episode seven of a wider series. To start at episode one, click here.
“Wake me up inside. Save me. Call my name and save me from the dark.”
Welcome to 2004.
Shrek 2 is the movie of the year, and you can’t get turning for news about Paris bloody Hilton.
The new year has been good to George Bond’s Manchester United. Form has been impressive, serial killer Harold Shipman is no longer with us, and the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed from the screenshot above, there is some silverware in the bag!
A disappointing/embarrassing dumping out of the FA Cup at the 4th round at the hands of a rampant Bristol City team aside (Writer’s note – they won 1-0 in the replay after a bore 1-1), Bond’s boys lifted the Carling Cup!
It was a closely fought 1-0 victory at Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium over Ranieri’s Chelsea. A delicately chipped goal by Ryan Giggs floated past the stranded Marcos, and there was nothing the Londoners could do to claw the game back in the last half an hour.
Chelsea captain and man of the match on the day, John Terry, was said to be forcibly stopped from remonstrating aggressively with best pal Wayne Bridge about who was at fault for the goal. Bridge wouldn’t even shake his hand at the final whistle…
The 4-0 smashing of rivals Liverpool was a real boost, especially when an injury to Edwin van der Sar when Bond had already used all three of his substitutes meant that Rio Ferdinand had to deputise with the gloves on for the last ten minutes! I do love an outfield player in goals. Not quite as much as a goalkeeper playing outfield, but it is still a wonderful sight.
A tight away goals victory over the mighty Bayern Munich tees up a tasty UEFA Champions League Quarter Final double header against Zaccheroni’s Inter Milan. Inter have a back five of Javier Zanetti, Fabio Cannavaro, Marcel Desailly, Marco Materazzi and Ivan Cordoba, all playing in front of Francesco Toldo. So scoring a hatful of goals really shouldn’t present a problem (Writer’s note – You are nailing this sarcasm, well done).
A match against rivals Leeds sandwiched between the League Cup final, a tough fixture against Spurs and the second leg against Bayern, forced Bond to field a team of reserves and youngsters. Thankfully for the Dartford Hardman, it paid off!
The players partied afterwards in the dressing room to the dulcet tones of nu-metal upstarts Evanescence. “I f*cking love this song!” exclaimed an overly excited, air guitar-playing Kieran Richardson, before respected coach Brian McClair gestured for him to calm down.
It looks as though the dressing room split really did happen, but not to detrimental effect. There truly seems to be a mentoring culture, with the older players lending a hand to the young.
Sometimes this means Solskjaer running Eddie Johnson through some first-time finishing training. Other times it means Roy Keane showing Ryan Shawcross, 16, and Fraizer Campbell, 17, how to tie a tie.
There are ten league games left, one trophy in the bag and George Bond is calling the boys together ahead of the final push.
“Boys! There are just ten games left of the season. We’re 13 points clear of Chelsea, and you’ve just shown me that we can beat them on our day to win a trophy. Liverpool and City are chasing, and Wenger’s Arsenal are 6th!
Ruud…your 18 goals have been a Godsend.
Giggsy…12 assists is more than anyone else in the league this year.
Phil…get a haircut.
Four out of the five top completed passes by players in our division are in this room! Give yourself a pat on the back!“
Tim Howard takes it literally and puts his shoulder out trying to reach, much to Nicky Butt’s amusement.
“Eric. Kleb. Thank you for your commitment. Without your motivational playlist mixtapes, the footballers at this club could not go out on the pitch and win.
Do you know something, lads?
A man reaches a certain age when he realises what’s truly important. Do you know what that is?
The room falls deathly silent.
“Have a think about that. That will be all, gents.“
Bond dramtically rips up a squad photo of Wenger’s supposed Invincibles, letting the pieces all fall to the floor in silence. He pats his Invisibles each on the back as they shuffle out of the conference room. Ronaldo winks as he passes Bond, Wes Brown has a tear in his eye.
Paolo Maldini and Gary Neville share a perplexed look as they meander out quietly, until finally Gary has to speak up…
“Wait, gaffer. Was that last quote from Meet the Fockers?!”
He’s right. It is.
Thanks for reading.