It was a weekend in which the non-existent Premier League title race could have been decided once and for all, but which ended with grown men crying and throwing tantrums as many of us took a rare opportunity to laugh at Manchester City.
Here are the all the best bits from this weekend in the Premier League.
Tears at Manchester City
Ah, the narrative; the beautiful narrative. One of the most ridiculed terms in the game, narrative is nonetheless a priceless commodity in football. Had City won the league against cross-town rivals Manchester United at the Etihad on Saturday, it would have been an achievement they could have dined out on for all eternity.
Instead, plucky old City – the club Alex Ferguson once dubbed "noisy neighbours", and who, according to tradition, are often still treated like the lovable underdog of the two sides – were confounded by three second-half goals from United, un-spinning their triumphant narrative as fast as they had written it. Having gone two goals up in the first half and looking like the perfect manifestation of Pep Guardiola’s cranial philoso-football, their sudden collapse just as they were about to win a historic title on derby day gave the rest of us a rare opportunity to ridicule them.
While there is much that is inherently ridiculous to the idea that City are somehow still the gutsy little guys on some level – sure, they were in the third division as recently as 1999, but are also heavily subsidised by the national wealth of a Gulf State – this was more a chance to have a good old-fashioned laugh at them, to laugh at the fallibility, vulnerability and humanity which was so lacking earlier in the season when they won 18 consecutive league games.
Funniest of all – as far as United fans were concerned – was the sight of grown men in tears at the final whistle. Fair enough, lads: your bitter rivals have spoiled a story you were hoping to tell your grandchildren, but you’re ultimately crying over a 13-point lead at the top of the table and a brief delay to City’s title celebrations.
Spiting Me, Spiting You, Aha!
A word for Jose Mourinho after the Manchester derby, if we may. The only thing more irritating than Mourinho the bad loser – refusing to shake hands, slating the ref, relentlessly criticising Luke Shaw for no reason – is Mourinho the magnanimous winner, which is exactly what makes him great. Having presided over a classic comeback against long-time rival Guardiola, he not only went in for generous commiserations come the end of the game, but also said of Manchester City afterwards: "Of course they are frustrated because they wanted to do it today, but I congratulate them for the title because they are going to win, and deservedly."
Considering he had just managed to spite City and Guardiola in spectacular fashion, it was hard to take Mourinho’s comments at face value. When Mourinho publicly praises a hated adversary, having just masterminded an unlikely win against them, you know that if nobody was watching he would be dancing maniacally on the sidelines, flicking the Vs and feigning a post-match handshake only to re-enact the Alan Partridge "smell my cheese, you mother!" scene.
The Legend of Welé
There’s a meme that’s been popular among Arsenal fans for a couple of years now, which shows the face of third-choice striker Danny Welbeck superimposed over the greatest Brazilian footballer of all time, and captioned "Welé". If you are looking to understand football humour at its purest – gentle, mischievous, oddly affectionate piss taking – this is a good place to start. Welbeck is self-evidently not as good as Pelé – even at the tender age of 77, Brazil’s favourite son could probably run him close on goals over the course of the season – but his showing against Southampton at the Emirates on Sunday was worthy of the "Welé" moniker. His performance was a reminder of why he is such a lightning rod for banter: two goals, an assist and a shocking close-range miss while still finding the time to beat us all at the circle game.
Welbeck may not always be the striker Arsenal fans want, but he is absolutely the striker they deserve. Entertaining, erratic and intermittently good, with a soft spot for bizarre, self-aware online culture, he is an iconic footballer for the ArsenalFanTV generation. Yes, he’s unlikely to score over 750 career goals or to lift a single World Cup in his lifetime – let alone three – but he deserves the comparisons to his Brazilian namesake in his own unique way. Danny Welbeck is the people’s Pelé, raised up to legend status on the back of a funny meme and an extremely average goals-to-game ratio.
Neil Warnock Wants Us All To Fuck Off
And now to next season’s Premier League, and the managers who will be joining our ensemble cast of visionaries, oddballs and occasional incompetents. Two sides who look highly likely to be promoted from the Championship are Wolves and Cardiff, who played each other on Friday evening. Managed by relative newcomer Nuno Espirito Santo and grizzled old veteran Neil Warnock respectively, the latter became seriously pissed off with the former when – after Wolves survived two penalties in stoppage time to keep the score at 1-0 – Nuno ran off to celebrate with his players before shaking hands with his opposite number.
Subsequently, Warnock felt the best response was to tell his rival to fuck off half a dozen times in front of the television cameras. Anyone who is familiar with Warnock’s managerial modus operandi will know he can be difficult to get on with, but the sight of him screaming his head off, arms convulsing in rage, roaring "FUCK OFF" indiscriminately was something to behold. Afterwards, Warnock added a touch of Brexit to proceedings, saying: "He’s totally out of order. In British football, you shake the manager’s hand afterwards… if that’s how they’re taught in Portugal, fair enough. But not in Britain."
Only in British football would a manager accuse an opponent of lacking in manners having just told them in no uncertain terms to get to fuck.