Wednesday 24 October 2018

Manchester United unveil their new 4-4-4 formation

John Smith

I WOULDN'T claim to have an awful lot of soccer expertise but as I watched Manchester United's photocall on Wednesday night even I realised in my slightly sickening "New Lad" way that something was, as they say, up. The presence of an extra man in the line-up was worrying eno

I WOULDN'T claim to have an awful lot of soccer expertise but as I watched Manchester United's photocall on Wednesday night even I realised in my slightly sickening "New Lad" way that something was, as they say, up. The presence of an extra man in the line-up was worrying enough; the fact that nobody on the team seemed to notice it could only bode ill.

As I say, I am not the most avid of fans but it struck me that there were certain clues that could have alerted Alex Ferguson's team to the impostor in their midst. Numbers-wise, even Giggsy must have wondered why the gaffer had decided to wait so long before unveiling the revolutionary 4-4-4 formation.

And one has to feel that even though Karl Power for it was he wore an identical kit to the rest of the team, some of the rest of the lads should have recognised that the 33-year-old unemployed labourer hadn't had many first-team outings until that point in the season. Let's face it: they train together, play together, room together and even share baths somebody must have realised that they had never seen him dive in with a loose tackle before Wednesday.

While the stunt organised by Front magazine has all been treated as something of a joke in the English media, it cannot but have provided the home team with a degree of inspiration.

Sure, Barcelona two seasons ago had been a set-back, but looking at Gary Neville happily saying "Cheese" beside a man he had never met before in thequarter-finals of the European Championships must have made them think that maybe it had just been bad luck after all.

What the German press thought of the incident one can only guess. Perhaps they just put it down to that wonderful old English mania for dressing up. Although given the ITV commentary team's inability to refrain from mentioning previous "clashes" involving Germany and England, coupled with the score after 45 minutes, they were probably just relieved that Manchester United appeared for the second half instead of trying to tunnel their way out of the changing rooms.

The photograph was of course undoubtedly a coup for Mr Power, who has been planning the event since he hatched the idea in a pub in Barcelona after watching the extra-time triumph of two years ago. There is clearly plenty of money in the unemployed labouring game.

And certainly Mr Power, who rejoices in the nickname "Fatneck", proved that there is a bit of toned muscle underneath that fat by telling one player who did eventually wonder about his presence, "I'm doing this for Eric Cantona. Now shut it."

According to him, however, Dwight Yorke was first to notice but he just smiled over giving us an early hint of that admirable detachment that he was to display throughout the game. It is also something of a boost for the laddish magazine Front (the one with a very attractive blonde on the front of it this month, kind of chunky).

Even so, I can't help being reminded of a cartoon from Private Eye a few years ago featuring two opposing Old-Testament-era armies. One of the armies is carrying three giant flags, the first depicting a pair of women's breasts, the second a pint of beer and the third a football. On seeing the flags, a soldier clad in the garb of the ancient Israelites shouts out, "Run for your lives the Philistines are coming."

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