The events on Monday were absolutely horrific and fans of the red and blue halves of the city will have been saddened at the events that unfolded.
Despite this, by Wednesday evening, many supporters of Pep Guardiola’s side will have liked nothing better than to see their city neighbours humbled.
In a similar vein, Jose Mourinho’s men will no doubt have been focused on the job in hand, with the carrot of Champions League football dangling invitingly in front of them. The assumption therefore made by Jake Humphrey and Co. that the players would have struggled to focus seems implausible.
It is difficult to imagine the pain and anguish felt by the families and friends of those caught up in the chaos of Ariana Grande’s concert. However, many of the players live a long way from the city centre, and would have only been exposed to what had happened via social media and TV coverage. It is hard to imagine that they have established as intimate a connection to the place as many long-standing residents. Why, given their rather remote links to the tragedy, was there this expectation that they would have been too grief-stricken to play?
The constant attempts to shoehorn nebulous notions of ‘solidarity’ and ‘representation’ into the commentary sounded more hollow with every passing mention. Players and staff who were interviewed must have been compelled to buy into this romantic narrative that they were ‘doing it for the city’, even if they did not viscerally feel those sentiments.
It may be unpopular to say, but most people just wanted to watch a game of football. The rather nauseating way that journalists tried to extract emotive soundbites both before and after kick-off smacked of an industry that absolutely revels in carnage and suffering, no matter how much they deny it.
For United’s travelling contingent, their abiding thoughts before kick-off must have been about realising personal and professional dreams. The wild celebrations at the end, led by Mourinho, were not emblematic of a team who had their mind on far more sombre matters. It seems strange that we could have expected them to be anything other than joyous.
Featured image: Reuters