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FA Carling Premiership, 29/4/00
Manchester United
No nearer
By Matt Rowson

"After thirty years I've become my fears,
I've become the kind of man I've always hated!"

Ah, Tim Booth. Spokesman for a generation.

That was a real fear though. The possibility of promotion to the Premiership had seemed so remote, so implausible, that there never seemed to be any danger in pompously slagging the Premiership and all it stood for. We were never going to ascend and be a part of it, so where was the risk?

Except we did. Ah. What a predicament... how to continue beating the "Premiership/Sky is the root of all evil" drum, now that we had joined the sorry ranks and were benefiting from it? The facts of the matter, fortunately, came to the rescue.

Premiership status or not, we are no nearer to being Manchester United now than we were finishing in the bottom half of the second division three years ago. Thank God. The kind of man we've always hated is still there to be scorned, despised. As has been pointed out elsewhere, often though the "Plastic Supporters" line has been wheeled out in other Premiership graveyards, it never rang quite as true as at Old Trafford in October. Rank upon file of paying customers waiting to be entertained. Pure tupperware. Goodison, St.James', Highbury, Upton Park... all of these were quiet, but none of them were sterile. No, we'll never be Manchester United.

And relegated or not, last Sunday illustrated that Watford are perfectly capable of still being Watford. If we do return to the Premiership and establish ourselves in years to come then I hope to God that it's by vaulting over the garden fence, trampling in the flower beds and pissing all over the lawn... not meekly through the front door for tea and biscuits. I don't want Watford to stop being Watford, even if it means establishing ourselves with the Coventrys and Southamptons in the lower half of the Premiership. And I don't want Watford to be Coventry any more than I want them to be Manchester United - someone pissing on your lawn is far harder to ignore than Coventry for a start.

Manchester United don't half make it easy to paint them as "that man" though. Take Ryan Giggs' recent TV assertion that Premiership players are being asked to play too many games. Hello? It's eighty-five years since Watford played as few as forty-two competitive games in a season. Abject cup performances certainly contributed to this low figure, but our Ryan should get his facts right before he starts getting all controversial. Manchester United are one of very few clubs who have anything like an unmanageable workload - even skating around the much-debated issue of the World Club Championship (which turned out to be far more entertaining than expected), United have only themselves to blame for this.

Who exactly was it who helped negotiate the Champions (sic) League format? And then introduce another safety net to prevent the likes of Dynamo Kiev unprofitably progressing again? And then to complain about playing too many games? Oh dear. Still, at least Real Madrid saved poor exhausted Ryan another two or three draining fixtures (ˇOlé!).

No less nauseating than United's own introspectiveness is the tired lauding of the "Mighty Reds" from various sections of the media. Alan Parry's incessant fawning over United's half-hearted victory over the again ponderous Chelsea almost resulted in my Dad needing a new Telly. Even the normally refreshingly cynical Peter Allen on Radio 5 twice interrupted my journey home this evening with updates on the Ruud Van Nistelrooy transfer. For goodness sake... you don't make something interesting just by telling us that it's "News".

Given that relegation was going to happen, we could arguably not have chosen a better time for our fate to be sealed. On Sunday, Vicarage Road burned with a fire quite out of proportion with what three points might have hoped to achieve. This weekend, in front of Sky's cameras (Doh! Missed it!), our relegation is but a footnote. Even without the injured Roy Keane, even if Ferguson rests his poor dears and fields a youth team, you don't need any motivating for this one.

I couldn't want to beat these bastards more if this was the last game on earth.