It was early enough in the game on Saturday when Gary Neville found himself lost for words he hadn’t used several hundred times before – disgraceful, shameful, shambolic, farcical, scandalous, that class of thing – his thesaurus as exhausted as his patience.
But him being paid to talk, he could hardly just sit in the commentary box alongside Bill Leslie with his lips zipped in protest, so he tried to think of something Manchester United had actually accomplished on the day. He came up trumps: “It’s a real achievement to spend a billion pounds and be this bad.”
It was back in January that Gary joined the Labour Party amid speculation that he might have a lash at winning a seat at the next general election, although he admitted that any ambitions he had to become an MP were somewhat tempered by his fear of being “eaten alive” in Westminster.
As he watched United being eaten alive by Brentford, just the 4-0 down after 35 minutes, he had the sound of a man who would have preferred to be grappling with, say, Jacob Rees-Mogg over, say, post-Brexit fishing quotas in the House of Commons, while encased in a pinstripe suit and tie, rather than grappling with Jamie Redknapp in a Groundhog Day post-match tiff about the sinking ship that is the SS MUFC, its hull well and truly holed.
The highlight of the exchange was Jamie telling his colleague to “look at me when I’m talking to you!”, like Gary was seven and staring at the ceiling while being admonished by his Ma after putting his ball through the kitchen window.
It’s not often you’d see the words “Jamie”, “not” and “unreasonably” in the same sentence, but on Saturday Jamie not unreasonably pointed out to Gary that you couldn’t blame the Glazers for David de Gea responding to Josh Dasilva’s tame enough shot like it was a hand grenade, nor could you hold them accountable for him playing a “hospital pass” to Christian Eriksen, until remembering that’s an entirely inappropriate choice of phrase in a Christian Eriksen context.
“They have to take responsibility,” Jamie argued, not unreasonably. “When you’re a player you don’t think ‘I wonder what Joel Glazer is doing tomorrow?’”
The red mist engulfed Gary who, you always sense, would prefer a night on the town with even Jacob Rees-Mogg than our Jamie, his irritation with the lad usually just very marginally below boiling point.
But he conceded that a good chunk of the United squad was rubbish and the other half possessed as much passion as a pair of curtains, but still put the bulk of the blame for the disgraceful, shameful, shambolic, farcical, scandalous, etc lark at the feet of the American owners who were, he alleged, “hiding over in Tampa” rather than having the cojones to turn up at Brentford’s Community Stadium to have the bejaysus booed out of them.
“Today,” he said, “was a new low. It seems continuously that Manchester United can surpass their previous lows – when is the lowest low going to come?”
That’s the thing, though, the NUSPs – Non United-Supporting Persons – can’t get enough of this quest for the lowest low, most of them – based on Saturday’s 500-ish texts – never having experienced entertainment quite like it.
“Where do they go from here,” Karen Carney wondered out loud, Jamie resisting saying “the Championship” lest Gary deck him.
With that De Gea popped up to chat with Sky’s Patrick Davison having requested the interview so that he could apologise to the United faithful for playing like a drain. Said faithful would have concluded that if the team could amass as many points as they’ve issued apologies the last while, they’d have the league won by October.
“Have you any idea how to turn this around,” asked Patrick.
“Eh … I’m not sure, to be honest,” said Butter Fingers.
Back pitchside, Kelly Cates reminded Gary that United’s next game is against Liverpool, at which point he turned a whiter shade of pale. You sensed he’d prefer to share a bath with Jacob Rees-Mogg than be in the commentary box for that one.