Manchester United v. Manchester City: the True Signs of Weakness

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Not all weaknesses reveal themselves easily on a silver screen. Sometimes, we think we’ve found Achilles’s heel, but instead encounter steel-backed boots. Sometimes, we use our hands to part the scales on the sleeping dragon’s chest only to realize, crap, we brainfarted and left the sword at the cave entrance. The world of soccer is no different. Nor is the world at large.

Thus, we’ve sifted through a few key historical and Manchester-related alleged “signs of weakness.” Some are obvious. Some, not so much. Please keep them in mind as you watch Mario Balotelli either score a winner or get red carded during the derby.

 1184 BC: The Trojan Horse & The Glorious Defeat of the Greeks!

After ten years of fighting, the Greeks had little to show for their efforts. The City of Troy remained well-fortified and well supplied. Basically, the Greeks attempted a siege but left their siege tanks at home. Definitely not a bright idea. So, the Greeks devised a plan. They pretended to retreat, but left the gift of a wooden horse to the Trojans. Inside that horse, soldiers carefully hid and hoped the ruse would work. Despite warnings from the priest Laocoon, the Trojans saw this really large wooden horse and thought, cool, bastards left town and aren’t sore losers. Smell ya later Greek geeks!

We all know what happened. The hidden Greek soldiers came out at night and and sacked Troy. Pwnage. Instead of being a conciliiatory gift or sign of weakness, the horse was a trap. The Trojans’ hubris betrayed them. Today, many people hear the word “Trojan” and think of either family planning or nasty computer viruses. Yet we should always keep in mind this false portent. Beware gifts of thy enemy.

June 18, 1815 AD – Napoleon Totally Has This One In the Bag

Napoleon did more for little dudes than the entire cast of Pit Boss combined. He forever lowered the height requirement for emperors of Western European nations, won some battles, and showed great things come in small packages. In fact, his own “package” has been the subject of considerable debate & is a highly sought private auction item. At his peak, nobody dissed Napoleon, nobody.

By the time 1815 rolled around, all the pundits picked Napoleon for some serious decisive conquest. The Anglo-Allied army? Ha. Everybody heard the name “Gebhard von Blucher” and just kinda giggled quietly to themselves. Still, the Seventh Coalition featured some typically ferocious tackling from the Duke of Wellington’s forces, and Gary Neville would probably have picked them to overpower Napoleon’s continental dandycakes. And, just like with the EPL, Neville would have disagreed with you, ended up being right, and caused some major consternation and self-doubt. Napoleon lost. But why?

Bottom line: Napoleon’s own confidence was his sign of strength and he only saw signs of weakness in his foes. Hubris clouded his judgment. He initiated the Battle of Waterloo to try and strike early before the Seventh Coalition formed, but, on game day, he waited until midday for the fields to fully dry. For the first but not last time in history, a shitty pitch and questionable match scheduling contributed to the fall of a continental power. Napoleon lost and resigned himself to being the Pep Guardiola that never was. What-er-looser!

March 21, 2012 – Vieira Totally Predicts Paul Scholes to Flop

During Christmas break, Sir Alex found himself short on midfielders: Anderson was either partying or “recuperating” in Brazil, depending on which of his drunk bodyguards you asked. Tom Cleverly was also crocked. Manchester United needed help in the center. Thus, Sir Alex convinced Paul Scholes to come out of retirement. Manchester City’s director of dumb remarks, Patrick Vieira, immediately seized on the action and declared it a “sign of weakness.” What happened next?

Since then, Scholes and Carrick have rekindled their midfield bromance and United are level with City on points. Scholesy has even scored one of his trademark “how the hell did this happen” header goals. Thus, Vieira saw the recruiting of a veteran player as a sign of weakness. However, the Frenchman failed to realize that class is eternal, especially when you never really tackled all that much as a youth. Scholes’ game centers on snap decisions and precision passing – neither of which has atrophied with time. And the ginger just may be essential in the game vs. City.

March 23, 2012 – Sir Alex Calls out City Desperation Over Tevez Return

You didn’t think SAF would let another coach or media figure get the last word, did you? Thus, mere days later, in the heat of the Premiership title race, Sir Alex pointed out that Carlos Tevez had basically blown off Mancini for half a year yet now the Italian caved & took him back. Surely, Sir Alex stated, this reeked of desperation. Eastlands fans asked: could the calmer heads in the City locker room, like Mario “veteran presence” Balotelli, cancel out Carlitos’ antics & petulance?

Thus far, Sir Alex looks wrong. In addition to increasing City’s sex appeal quotient, Tevez has combined well with Sergio Aguero and scored goals by the bucket load. In a bizarre twist, his six months of golf only marginally improved his handicap, yet left him with fresh legs for the stretch run. In the upcoming Manchester derby, Tevez is a key player/heartthrob. His smile may show weakness in the Eastlands’ players dental plan, but nobody can deny his goalscoring & dribbling exploits. He’s the poor man’s “post-car accident” George Best that can’t afford facial surgery. Tevez has returned as a spark plug, not a weak point.

From the Trojan horse to Tevez’s teeth, so called signs of weakness dot the landscape. However, beware the hubris of the speaker. If he says that “X is a sign of weakness,” then….that statement is probably itself a sign of weakness.

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