In the end football was the real winner.
That's what losers say to justify the fact they've been a part of something really special but have not actually won the game.
But my goodness, it was special.
Congratulations to Manchester City. Even the most one-eyed United supporter (ME!) has to acknowledge that they've been the best team throughout the course of this season. As mentioned in my previous blog, the fact that United pushed you all the way to the brink is a minor miracle unto itself, when you consider the talent and depth in the City squad, and some of the breathtaking football played this season. I know City had the wobbles in March, allowing United to take (at the time a seeming unassailable) lead at the top of the table. But when you consider that City tore United to shreds in the two head to head match-ups, the end result is fitting. Manchester City are the best team in England in 2012.
(Excuse me while I throw up in the second draw of my desk)
Honestly though, regardless whether you wear red or blue, or have any affinity with a Manchester team at all, if you took two hours out of your life to watch the spectacle that unfolded you're a better person for it. It couldn't have been scripted. Replay those games 100 more times, heck give me a thousand, you'll never replicate that drama. It was nerve wrecking, spine tingling, nauseating, exciting, exhilarating, and ultimately for me, devastating. But I'm still happy I stayed up after midnight to witness the most memorable climax to the English premiership in history.
So close yet so far for United. It's fitting that it took a United-esque performance to shift the balance of power in Northern England. How many times have I celebrated as the Red Devils conjured magic from their seemingly endless back of tricks? The two injury time goals versus Barcelona. The penalty save versus Bergkamp in the FA Cup final the same year. The Great Dane saving everything the city of Newcastle threw at him in the mid 90's. The John Terry missed penalty in Moscow. Last minute winners and equalisers have been United's trademark and bedrock for the best part of two decades. Now the shoe is on the other foot. And it f#cken sucks.
I still haven't recovered...my thoughts are a jigsaw puzzle, with some pieces missing and others that just don't fit. I followed both matches last night with relative composure, certain that City would eventual breakdown Rangers gallant soldiers and win comfortable. But as the seconds ticked away, and the possibility of the biggest last day choke job beckoning, my thoughts wandered into fantasy. Is this actually happening? Are we actually going to be crowned champions against all odds?
The final ten minutes were simply excruciating, with City pouring men forward and driving cross after cross into the heart of Rangers defense. At the Stadium of Light United were desperately trying to hold onto possession and not lose their slender one goal advantage. After racing out of the blocks and creating numerous chances early on, the Reds retracted into safe mode, willing time to pass in an instant.
With five minutes of stoppage time on the clock I honestly thought it was over. The Sporting Gods had thrown the dice and decided that the petro-dollars of City would have to be invested further in a vain attempt to grasp the crown from the rightful Kings. I mean, what were the odds that City would score two injury time goals right???
The Sporting Gods had other plans. First Dzeko equalised, then Kun grabbed the winner (thank f#ck it wasn't that shite Tevez). The images from Sunderland, with the look of disbelief on the faces of the United faithful, was heartbreaking. The trophy wasn't only in touching distance. We had both hands on it and were booking the after party.
To be fair though, the trophy wasn't lost last night. It was lost in the two derbies, during the pathetic performance at home to Blackburn, the thrashing at St James' Park, the brain explosion against Everton and the incompetence versus Wigan.
As soon as the final whistle was blown at the Etihad I stumbled into bed. I felt paralysed, sick to my stomach. My blood pressure was soaring, heartbeat racing. I wanted to scream, but the family was sleeping. I wanted to break something. I wanted to open a bottle of plum brandy and drink myself into a stupor. So much blood had rushed to my head that my thoughts were a jumbled mess (they still are). I lay listening to the silence, trying to comprehend what had just taken place. Seconds turned into minutes, turned into an hour. And I was still awake. Still replaying those images in my mind, silently cursing the Gods and their warped sense of humour.
Why do they make it so hard? City could have won easily. Been up three at half time and I would have gone to bed disappointed, but not rocked to the core.
But it's precisely that feeling that makes these events special. Sports, but especially football, offer up moments in time that you'll never forget. It's not the winning or the losing. It's the magic. It's the sensation that you've been part of something that, for the briefest moment in time, exists outside the boundaries of reality.
Last night was one of those moments. Whilst I'm devastated that we're not the champions of England, I'm not disappointed one iota at sitting on the couch at two o'clock in the morning, heater on, laptop streaming the two games, shooting tweets from the phone, drinking warm milk, scaling the mountain of elation and subsequently falling into the valley of depression in mere seconds.
And being part of something magical.