Remembering ManU, Then And Now

David Hirshey writes regularly for Deadspin about soccer.

When I walked into Kinsale Tavern on Sunday morning, making sure to step lightly around the dried tears of Patriots fans right outside the entrance, I was expecting a raucous welcome. After all, I was rockin' my Giants Super Bowl Champions t-shirt and still recovering from reprising Fear and Loathing in Phoenix with Leitch who, among other things, offered to blow a state trooper — and give him a signed book! — if he didn't search our car.

But despite the fact that all the usual ManU wankers were three deep at the bar in their silly scarves and kits, the place was like a sepulchre. "Who died?," I asked Pauline, the pub's longtime proprietess.

"23 people," she whispered, and I thought to myself "Wow, these kids don't know how to hold their liquor, do they?" And then it hit my addled brain like a Jay Alford sack on Tom Brady. Of course the reason that Kinsale was so eerily quiet — indeed, the reason that 76,000 people stood hushed at Old Trafford on the big screens over the bar — was the one minute of silence to commemorate the 1958 plane crash that killed 23 people, including eight beloved Manchester United players.

Think "We are Marshall" but with Bobby Charlton in the Matthew McConaughey role.

The solemn prelude was the pre-game entertainment before yesterday's big ManU-Man City derby kicked off. Call me shallow, but I preferred watching Jordan Sparks sing the national anthem. After all, I used to cheer for her weak-ass Dad not to get burned by Michael Irvin back in the day.

But there was no cheering at Old Trafford where Sir Alex got all Rudy Giuliani on the Man City yobs and warned them that anyone who so much as tittered during the one minute of silence would be waterboarded — or forced to watch the Liverpool-Chelsea game afterwards. The irony, of course, is that the Man City fans were actually respectful, while the ManU faithful are coping with their grief by selling their commemorative scarves on E-bay (how much do I hear for my Cory Lidle bobblehead?).

Wearing the retro sponsorless jerseys in honor of their fallen heroes, United wandered around the pitch like Britney at the MTV awards as City shredded their lazy defense for two goals en route to its first victory at Old Trafford since 1974.

"They were overwhelmed by the occasion," lamented Dubliner Dave who , according to Pauline, was himself so overwhelmed by the Giants Super Bowl victory that he was doing an Irish jig on top of the bar at 4 a.m. last Sunday.

But what excuse did Liverpool and Chelsea have for their coma-inducing display yesterday? Is it possible Alexi Lalas is right when the Galaxy GM says, in defense of MLS, that, "we don't have a monopoly on crap soccer." Certainly, this nil-nil draw at Stamford Bridge could serve as Exhibit A the next time some British tabloid hack calls the Galaxy a pub team. How eye-bleedingly awful was the match between two of England's alleged super powers? Let's put it this way, it made me hunger for a Kansas City Wizards-Colorado Rapids midseason game played on the football-lined field at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

Why, I wondered, was I even watching the Liverpool-Chelsea borefest when I could have been in Accra, Ghana thrilling to the joyful and dazzling play at the African Nations Cup? (If only Leitch wasn't such a cheap bastard, I could have pimped his book to all the Deadspin readers from Cote D"Ivoire.) Still, on the face of it, who could have foreseen that with so much high-priced talent on the field at Stamford Bridge, the soccer would be so soporific?

Yes, the Blues were missing Drogba and Essian, but for the first time since Christmas they had Lampard (welcome back, you fat fuck) alongside Ballack (nice open goal miss at the end, you whiny Kraut) in midfield with everyone's favorite mercenary Nicolas Anelka spearheading the attack. At least that's what it said on the lineup sheet, though for most of the game the $120 million troika was largely invisible. And what about all the hooey that Chelsea under Avram Grant was playing so much more attractive soccer than it did under Mourinho? Maybe that was the case in the Israeli's first few games in charge, but Chelsea's style has now become as dour as the black on black ensemble that Tony Soprano-witz flaunts on the touchline.

By comparison, the beleaguered Rafael Benitez looked positively jaunty, even though it's only a matter of time until Anfield observes a minute of silence in his honor. Liverpool may be a sad husk of the team that bestrode Europe only a couple of years ago, but is it his fault that Torres went away for international duty and came back injured? Without their lethal and stylish marksman, the Reds couldn't finish a sandwich, let alone a goal at Stamford Bridge where Liverpool has gone scoreless in its last eight visits.

Let's face it, Liverpool's attacking tandem of Crouch and Kuyt is not going to make defenders crap their shorts no matter how many high balls the Reds hoof into the box aimed at the head of the 6'8" beanpole striker. It never fails to amaze me how useless in the air the robotic Crouch is, and yesterday's three pathetic headers on goal were just more evidence that he will never be a force in the Prem.

Benitez can stroke his poor excuse for a goatee all he wants, but unless he finds a better partner for Torres upfront, Liverpool are in danger of the unspeakable happening — not qualifying for Europe. And if that were to happen, how long do you think their talismanic captain Steven Gerrard would stick around? Yesterday, Gerrard played like a man whose mind was elsewhere, possibly in Dubai where his girlfriend and her two friends were vacationing.

Let's bow our heads and have a minute of silence for them.