x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

An amalgam of emotions for Manchester City fans

The drama that unfolded at the Etihad Stadium on the final day of Premier League will live forever in our memories.

Manchester City fans celebrate after the last-gasp glory was secured.
Manchester City fans celebrate after the last-gasp glory was secured.

By the time horror and humanity had taken their shouting turns at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, the faces of the Manchester City fans had embedded into the memory bank.

If they're not memorable 20 years on, that will be a QPR-over-Manchester City level of upset.

Think of the horror paraded before those faces on Sunday, and you might strain to point out all the layers. Their club wins the league title so rarely - not in 44 years - yet they appeared to be choking a two-foot putt of an opportunity.

No, it goes deeper than that: they appeared to be losing at home for the first time all season, as if it were a nine-month practical joke.

No, it goes deeper than that: they appeared to be losing at home for the first time all season to the worst road side in the league employing a fired City manager.

No, it goes far, far deeper than that: they appeared to be losing at home for the first time all season, to the worst road side in the league, to the benefit of reviled Manchester United, who City had swept in two momentous league matches during the season, both about to be pulverised to afterthoughts.

As the gigantic build-up fixed to fizzle, you could read in those faces the horror that can contribute so mightily to sport.

If you looked carefully, maybe with the help of a giant television screen, you might have spotted something further: these people not only meet a horrifying realisation; no, they might even realise that they will have to function alongside this realisation for the remainder of their lives.

This horror would lurk in the brains, replenishing itself across years, flaring at times both predictable and surprising, impairing sanguine family gatherings and whatnot.

Through the hopeful 50s (minutes) and the dreadful 60s and the desperate 70s and the unbearable 80s they stood, every pan to their faces a must-see, most countenances wrenching in some way.

I think I'll never forget one thin young man, turning around and hurling some object onto his seat.

His horror - their horror - lent value to the way we value things more when almost lost.

Indeed, it probably birthed an entire strand of conversation to carry through the years and decades on the City side of the city.

What did you do? Did you leave the stadium? Did you leave the pub or the living room? Did you hear the fresh roars from the car park, the pavement, the other room?

Then as those remedial roars came, Sergio Aguero ripped off his shirt and some rich footballers made a heaving pile of humanity, the way humanity can look when profound fear subsides.

A side of City's payroll can prove hard to grasp, hard to cuddle up to, but those two goals in stoppage time made this City squad accessible. That is amazing given the Carlos Tevez lunacy draped over much of the year, but it did come true.

This lavishly built amalgam had gone about nervously disproving the macho cliché of "just another game."

These gifted players had played much of the pivotal finale as if damagingly aware of its magnitude. They had engaged in the human art of choking, and we all can identify with that.

They had staged an unwitting demonstration of how hard it can be to clinch something, why people might need practice at it, and why that practice makes each Manchester United title marginally more likely than the last.

They, too, drifted very close to something that would addle their brains for the duration.

They would have lost as a home side with 17 wins and one draw previously, to a 17th-place side with three road wins, two draws, 13 losses and - and! - 10 men.

Then, in some way, Edin Dzeko's 92nd-minute header wreaked even more pain, for in this instance a draw would still be a defeat.

Then Aguero started bulling to his right in the box, and as the pile developed and Roberto Mancini ran around, the fans again became an indelible sight.

In their enviable mirth, you could almost see they knew full well the value of horror and humanity.


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