The nuisance neighbours take a big step towards the title

Tue, May 1, 2012, 01:00

THE EVENING began on Sky Sports News outside the City of Manchester Stadium with a man from Stockport dressed as a sheikh who’d named his son Yaya. He hadn’t, he insisted, been anticipating this game all week, he’d been waiting for it since 1968.

That was, then, quite a lengthy build-up, but he was no more excited about it all than the United legends. Sky also had a chat with Lou Macari and Norman Whiteside and they spoke to Clayton Blackmore too.

Macari was hosting a few hundred supporters for a “curry dinner” at Old Trafford before they all settled down to watch the festivities on a big screen.

A few, he told us, had even travelled from Australia but couldn’t get tickets for the game, so they were going to have a curry and watch it on the telly too. Strewth. Back at the venue for the biggest game in the history of the world (#Unmissable #SkySports) who should pop up but Claudio Ranieri, just one of football’s who’s who to make the trek to Manchester.

“If City beat United is that the title won tonight,” Jim White asked him. “If they a-win tonight it’s no a-easy to win also in Newcastle, so stepa-by-step,” said Claudio, as only Claudio could.

Over to Sky Sports at 7.0. “It’s the game we’ve all been waiting for,” said Ed Chamberlin, “ooooOOOooooh yessssSSSSSSssss,” agreed Gary Neville, who Sky had placed in a cold shower since that Fernando Torres effort against Barca. It wasn’t, evidently, chilly enough.

Curiously, though, there was no Jamie Redknapp, all we heard was his voice saying “I can’t fink of a bigger game in Premier League history”. Maybe he was out busking having put his life savings on ‘Arry for the England job?

So, it was just Ed and Gary.

“How big is this game,” asked Ed.

“You can’t put it into words,” said Gary, which was a tricky admission from a pundit.

Luckily, though, he was able to steady himself, and forecast that “at some point this evening something will happen”, which came as a relief to the worldwide audience of 650 million.

Gary, by now super comfy with his Sky gadgets, then turned his attention to Carlos Tevez, rather excellently noting that he was “a low hanging fruit for five months and nobody picked him up”. Now? “It’s an uneasy marriage with City, but you can share the same house and not sleep in the same bed.”

United’s defensive shape against Everton? “Spaghetti Bolognese,” he said, in that Greater Manc accent of his that made the dish sound more like an affliction than a tasty treat. There were still 40 minutes to kick-off, but we already had our man of the match. Over to the commentary box and for their big man up front Sky had opted for Niall “Tenacity” Quinn, leaving Alan Smith on the bench. It was a surprise selection, but maybe they just wanted some blue balance for Red Nev?

“United looking comfortable,” said Niall, proving he could be impartial. Mind you, that observation came after three minutes, so he was probably being a bit previous.

Scoreless at half-time. Well, it would have been but for Vincent Kompany’s goal. “Absoluuuutely FANTASTIC,” said Quinn, “it’s been AAAAAALL City, they totally deserve to be 1-0 up.”

Back in the studio. “Do City deserve to be a goal up,” asked Ed. “Hmm, they just shaded it,” said Gary.

No consensus there, then.

Second half. By 57:39 Niall thought it was time for Danny Welbeck to come on. 58:53: “Welbeck has started really well,” he said, while Danny was still adjusting his shin ads.

And the clock ticked on, like it tends to do. All getting a bit tense. All kicking off. An ugly exchange. “Yap, yap, yap,” Alex Ferguson gestured towards Roberto Mancini. “Yap, yap, yap,” Mancini gestured back, the fourth official sandwiched between the pair before sending them to their naughty chairs.

A bit later? Final whistle. And the globe held its breath for fear of a Geoff Shreeves v Alex Ferguson exchange, along the lines of:

Geoff: “Sir Alex, you know you’ve blown the league, don’t you?”

Alex: “Yes.”

Geoff: “I mean, COMPLETELY blown it - having led by EIGHT points with just SIX games to go?”

Alex: “Geoff?”

Geoff: “Yes Sir Alex?”

**Head-butt**

Back in the City dressingroom Mancini, you’d imagine, was delivering a cautionary word to his boys: “It’s no a-easy to win also in Newcastle, so stepa-by-step.”

Still, the nuisance neighbours took a big stepa towards the title. Unless, of course, it’s a-one for sorrow against the Magpies.