David Hirshey writes regularly for Deadspin about soccer.
There are not many things that would cause me to get out of bed at 7:00 on a Saturday morning —a four-alarm fire in my apartment, Natalie Portman dropping by in a sheer teddy with bagels and cream cheese (again!), and, of course, the opportunity to see a hot lead enema jammed up Jose Mourinho's title hopes. Being as I didn't smell smoke or onion bagels, I needed every ounce of my Jack Bauer-like willpower and the warm bottle of Stella on my nightstand to wash down the three Tylenol to frog-march the 10 blocks to my Deadspin office at Kinsale Tavern.
Let's just say that the reward for my sleep deprivation was beyond my wildest dreams. (Sorry, Natalie.)
I would have been satisfied simply to see Chelsea drop a couple of points in their eye-gouging, soul-crushing pas de deux with ManU for the league championship. But it was the way in which United cruelly toyed with Chelsea that made my heart soar. It was almost as if Sir Alex, after enduring the relentless drumbeat of the Special One's paranoid rantings over the season, decided he'd have a little fun himself.
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With both games — ManU v. Everton and Chelsea v. Bolton — kicking off simultaneously , he knew that Mourinho would have one eye on the giant screen at Stamford Bridge scanning for the scoreline from Old Trafford. What if, just for the sake of mind-fuck, Fergie started with his best player, the new darling of world football, Christiano Ronaldo, on the bench and ManU played like crap for the first hour, falling behind 2-0? How nauseatingly overconfident would that make Mourinho, especially if Chelsea took a 2-1 lead in their game? Let's see: Two points behind with a home match against United on May 9 ... well, you couldn't blame Mourinho for fantasizing about wrapping around one hand around the trophy and the other around Roman Abramovich's throat.
And we all know the Special One has a fertile imagination. Just last week, he claimed that there's an unwritten rule in the Premiership that no penalty kicks can be given against ManU at home or, conversely, rewarded to Chelsea, no matter how egregious the foul. As nutball conspiracy theories go, this is right up there with Rosie O'Donnell saying that the U.S. was behind the 9/11 attacks on American soil. At least Mourinho has the good taste not to grab his crotch and scream "eat me" should you disagree with him. He simply labels you a "liar," as he did when his compatriot Ronaldo said that United is afforded no special treatment.
But Fergie hasn't lorded over the highest levels of the game for 20 years to let some Portuguese arriviste out-fox him as he closes in on his well-deserved title. So, with half an hour to play, he decided to pee in Mourinho's Gatorade. Of course, he needed Everton's help, and the Toffees were only too obliging. They somehow surrendered four goals in a master display of comical defending. First, Everton's third-string goalie dropped a perfectly innocuous cross at the feet of John O'Shea to make it 2-1. Then Sir Alex played his trump card, bringing on Ronaldo to make the Toffee defenders soil their shorts.
Within seven minutes, United was even. Ronaldo's header caused a goalmouth scramble with Everton's Phil Neville turning the ball into his own net. Yes, the same Phil Neville who is the younger brother of ManU captain Gary Neville ... the same Phil Neville who played 11 years for United before Fergie shipped him out to Everton. Talk about a conspiracy! "I think Phil was just confused as to what shirt he was wearing," said Kinsale regular and lifelong Everton fan Roger Bennett, fresh from the triumphant debut of his wonderful soccer documentary ("Sons of Sakhnin United") about Jews and Arabs playing for the same Israeli team " He's not the brightest lad."
Neither is Wayne Rooney, but his soccer IQ is off the charts. Last week, he rescued ManU in their Champions League semifinal against Milan when he lashed in the winner without taking a touch to control the ball. And on Saturday, there he was again when United needed him, getting on the end of O'Shea's cross to bundle in the goal that almost certainly gave ManU the championship. As an assistant coach bent down to whisper the news of Rooney's goal in Mourinho's ear, the Special One's face fell like a half-baked souffle. Sadly, he couldn't hear the rousing chorus of "Fuck Off, Chelsea" that rang out at Kinsale.