Sometimes, there is nothing to talk about. There just isn’t. It’s not always our fault that there isn’t anything to talk about, but if there isn’t, it’s on us to make something up. In sport, this seems to happen more often than in other arenas of life. There are always thieves, murderers and zoos to keep us occupied in the wider world, but for those who are more inclined to thrust their heads into the sand and look for a football match than wonder where Syria is, the week can seem like a great void interrupted sporadically by goals and racism.
So when we had concluded discussions on the gloriousness of Juan Mata’s ultimately pointless free kick a few Saturdays ago; after we had said all that we can possibly say about Mark Clattenburg to this point without resorting to outright libel; after United were awarded their billionth penalty at Old Trafford since records began last week, we turned to something else. Manchester United had won a football match, so some decided that there is a pro-United conspiracy that goes right to the top of the FA.
It wouldn’t have been entirely fair to have gathered sharpened pitchforks and come to an immediate conclusion, so I decided to give it a few weeks after United visited Stamford Bridge in the Premier League – a realistic length of time when categorically determining whether or not a sport is corrupt – to be absolutely certain. I’ve stepped away from the fire now, and am prepared to make a reasoned declaration.
Manchester United are at the centre of the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful match-fixing programme in the history of football. There is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the club has engaged in serial cheating by a number of methods.
For a time, we were prepared to look away. They were so good, and probably gave money to charity – why would they be prepared to throw it all away by cheating? We were fools. In the light of revelations that unconditionally verify the pro-United conspiracy – that is, two red cards a few weeks ago – the years that had gone dark are illuminated.
FA officials took to the skies in 2008; seeding the clouds above Moscow. It rained, and John Terry slipped and missed what should have been the final penalty in the shootout. Referees are threatened with an hour in a cage against an empurpled Alex Ferguson if they don’t somehow give United an advantage during a match. Two African Cup of Nations tournaments were scheduled in consecutive years, and Yaya Toure becomes conveniently unavailable. So all-encompassing is the conspiracy that it’s a wonder Manchester United haven’t ended up with a decent central midfielder after Roy Keane left in 2005.
Donald Trump made some interesting points in a full-scale meltdown following Barack Obama’s victory in the US presidential election, which I think become relevant to the pro-United conspiracy when slightly reworked. Trump, a level-headed, respected businessman, was left unhappy at the result of a clearly rigged election – Obama has a suspicious 100% record when it comes to presidential elections – and voiced his concerns accordingly. Trump’s edited tweets follow – imagine them being shouted by a shirtless, bearded man holding a ‘Manchester United: The Truth’ sign.
Simply, we can’t let this happen. We should march on Wembley and stop this travesty. Our sport is totally divided. Let’s fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice. The whole world is laughing at us. The Referee’s Association made a laughing stock out of the league. We should have a revolution in this sport! If you experience any harassment or heckling at stadiums from United supporters, make sure you report it immediately. Reports of referees giving Arsenal / Chelsea / Liverpool / City / Liverpool / Liverpool’s victory to United. Pay close attention to the referees; don’t let your victory be stolen.
See? See how seamlessly Trump’s perfect sanity translates to the dire situation football finds itself in? It’s clear: Donald Trump is every pro-United conspiracy theorist.
That’s one way of looking at Manchester United. The other way is to be rational. Rationality is a strange concept that some football fans choose before blind support of their club and, while less wildly entertaining, it’s certainly more sensible.
One argument that the Donald Trumps of the Premier League and beyond like to flog into a pink mist is that Manchester United win an awful lot of penalties. It’s true. United win an awful lot of penalties because they spend an awful lot of time in the box. They spend an awful lot of time in the box because they’re better than an awful lot of teams. They’re better than an awful lot of teams because they have an awfully good manager, and have had a lot of awfully good players because they have an awfully good scouting network, and have, at various points in their history, had an awful lot of money at their disposal.
They have all this because they have won football matches become very popular for doing so, and attracted interest from businessmen who have the money they need to buy good players to be better than other teams to spend time near the goal to win penalties. Convoluted – and simultaneously simplistic – as it might seem, it makes marginally more sense than the alternative.
Manchester United win because they’re good. They win penalties because they’re good. Referees make mistakes because they’re human. It rains because of a combination of pressure, temperature and science. Alex Ferguson and his empire lost the Premier League in the last few seconds of the season because there isn’t a conspiracy.
There’s delusion, and there’s reality. You can decide for yourself.
Max Grieve is a football writer and the editor of the excellent A Football Report. He can be found on Twitter here.