When Albert Camus argued that one must consider Sisyphus happy because that was the only way to reconcile with the absurd meaninglessness of his existence, he was surely not thinking of Manchester United fans whose support for the club will remain as futile as Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a hill before seeing it come crashing down the next day.
On Saturday, Man Utd fans saw the proverbial boulder being rolled down the hill as a forlorn, disjoined United was torn apart by a Crystal Palace side with former Manchester United man Wilfred Zaha scoring a brace against his old team. This was Crystal Palace, not Bayern Munich, and United were put to the sword by a former reject who was Sir Alex Ferguson’s last signing who was discarded by Moyes.
The United players looked dazed against Crystal Palace, like a punch-drunk boxer forced to fight despite clear internal hemorrhaging and suffering from PTSD from his last bout.
It was a timid end to a 13-match-unbeaten Premier League run which was clearly coming for some time. Solskjaer had identified three key areas where United needed to strengthen – right-wing, left-back, and center-back. United were found wanting in all three positions.
Fernandes looked lost tired and distracted, understandable since he just had a baby.
Daniel James looked hapless and only lasted one half. Greenwood was at least more mobile but missed a clear chance. Anthony Martial was often left alone upfront as, with no service from his wide men or midfield.
Brother Teresa, the unfortunate sobriquet bestowed upon Marcus Rashford, appeared to be meandering in search of mouths to feed, which while completely laudable, needs to be backed up by feeding passes to his teammate as well.
Rashford is an inspiration for what he has managed in England but if he continues to be this anonymous on the pitch there will be questions about his commitment.
Pogba needlessly gave the ball away numerous times which would warm the cockles of Graeme Souness’ heart and McTominay showed he really wasn’t ready for the defensive midfielder role yet. Donny Van de Beek did better than Pogba but questions will be asked if he really can drag this team or improve it from 3rd.
David De Gea showed hints of rekindling his world-class form and was unlucky when his penalty save was ruled out.
‘Iceman’ Viktor Lindelof defended like he was running helter-skelter on thin ice. Luke Shaw looked fitter in his exercise video than he did on the pitch.
Harry Maguire was almost left hapless at the back, perhaps rueing that he had better defensive reinforcements to help him against the Greece Police than Crystal Palace.
As Gary Neville pointed out, there’s isn’t a quick center-back at Old Trafford. United have always had one razor quick centre-back to compliment a rock-steady one in defence. That’s how the best centre-back partnerships work. Ronny Johnsen had Jaap Stam. Nemanja Vidic had Rio Ferdinand. Steve Bruce had Gary Pallister.
Both Lindelof and Maguire are just too slow against the modern-day centre-forwards and wingers.
Former Manchester United defender Patrice Evra summed up everyone’s thoughts when he said: “United make more impact on social media than in reality. That is why the fans get disappointed and frustrated."
Because that’s the only real nature of United’s current reality. Our social media team encapsulates that. We are more bothered about bottling up the experience of our golden past and presenting it to our fans through nostalgia-tinted glasses rather than trying to reclaim it in real life.
Yet, it’s Manchester United rivals who have made all the signings. Chelsea has supplanted a completely new squad with additions like Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell, Malang Sarr, and Kai Havertz.
It’s Tottenham Lads have brought back White Hart Lane hero Gareth Bale and also added Sergio Regulion to the squad as a late-career Mourinho looks to impress upon his critics that he’s no longer just an Amazon Special.
Manchester City has brought in Nathan Ake and Ferran Torres. Liverpool, perhaps the greatest Premier League squad in a while, have added Thiago Alcantara, one of the finest midfield ballplayers in the world right now.
In an attack boasting Sadio Mane, Mohammad Salah, and Robert Firmino, they have pushed for the inclusion of Dioga Jota which will add a new dimension to their final third. They are looking to add Schalke’s Ozan Kabak to the formidable backline of Virgil Van Dyk, Joel Matip, and Joe Gomez.
There was a time when United added to its frontline despite being the best in Europe as they went toe-to-toe with the miserly Daniel Levy to get Dimitar Berbatov, although United already boasted the trio of Rooney-Ronaldo-Tevez which led United to a League-Europe double.
Yet the Jadon Sancho saga hangs on much like the Congress picking a new president. In fact, supporting United feels quite akin to being a fan of the grand old party, where a self-serving group looking at self-aggrandizement keeps its grip on a glorious old institution ensuring that there’s always a scapegoat to justify its failures as the institution spirals into decay and despair.
Camus had three feasible solutions for dealing with the absurd and meaningless universe.
The first was physical suicide which he rejected as cowardly. The second was the religious solution or the acceptance of some spirituality which serves no purpose. The third and his only acceptable solution was acceptance, ‘unflinching, courageous acceptance’.
And that is what the Manchester United fans must do even though there’s no way they will find themselves as happy as Sisyphus.
Accept that they will continue to suck as long as the Glazers are in control. No manager, not even a young Alex Ferguson can undo the damage of these American leeches who will always look to add to their balance sheets. Other teams, which fewer sponsors, haven’t stopped adding players to their squad yet United continue to bandy about coronavirus as an excuse.
For Manchester United fans across the globe, from Sanpada to San Francisco, it’s time to come to terms with that new normal.
We are not going to challenge for the title.
We are not going to have new honours.
We are not going to add to our Premier League count. We are simply going to be humiliated in Europe.
We should rid ourselves of the mendacious notion that this is a football club whose raison d’etere is to win trophies.
We are no longer a proud club that rose like a phoenix from the wrecks of the Munich Air Crash and rebuild from losing the greatest generation of players.
We are a far cry from the club that Sir Alex Ferguson rebuild in his image, an elite squad of professionals who never finished below third in the Premier League era and considered even a runner-up finish a debacle.
We are now a soul-sucking corporate entity whose sole purpose is to fill the pockets of the Mammon-worshipping Glazers who couldn’t care less about results on the field as long as we keep adding noodle partners.
That’s how the Sisyphean boulder rolls.
Read: Other Nonsensical Nemo columns
Ever since he was a kid, Nirmalya Dutta always dreamt he would be the new Bob Dylan. Sadly, he soon realised, he was only a freewheeling brat asking his dad for freebies.
The author is the Web Editor the Free Press Journal and tweets at @nirmalyadutta23.