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Old Red Nose Day Raises The Spirits


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…United manager gets ripped for being a smug bar steward.

We all had a good laugh at the James Corden send up of the England players in that Comic Relief skit and full credit to those England players who took part and were prepared to be made fools of in a good cause. Shame, then, that the Republik of Mancunia website took the opportunity [and great delight] in pinpointing JT’s particular moment for self deprecation to have yet another go at our club leader and their own international captain. Despite professing to be a republic in their own right and therefore leaving themselves open to the accusation that they don’t give a **** about unity and patriotism under the banner of St George, I was also left thinking that the Mancs, humourless as ever, simply didn’t get self-deprecation either. How wrong can you be…

Proof that I did indeed get it wrong and that these fans at least support a club that knows the meaning of the word deprecation, arrived on Saturday when the real Red Nose Day event took place at Old Trafford, hard on the heels of the warm up acts that appeared on Friday night. Timing is everything when it comes to humour, just ask Geezer, and you have to hand it to Sir Alex for creating the right pre-match atmosphere by continuing with those comic one liners he has become famed for over the years and which have made him one of the leading funny men managers of this or any other generation...

Mind games? - you have to laugh, don’t you? I mean how many of us didn’t have a chuckle at the discomfort shown by the constant big butt of all his recent jokes - the one and only po-faced straight man, Rafa Benitez? Like the fat ‘fact’ boy in the playground, he deserved to be ridiculed for being…well, for being someone who fought back, I suppose. That’s why the reference to Freud was so comical and why the programme note reference to Liverpool being in contention for the title for the first time in twenty years was such a hoot to boot. Add to this the first half penalty shout that, at the self-styled Theatre of Dreams, is a given that is always given and you have the perfect build up for the classic comedy sketch of all time. Go on admit it, you didn’t see it coming, did you?

An audience of seventy odd thousand Mancs didn’t see it coming either, but credit to prankster Fergie for knowing that they would appreciate the funny side of what was to follow… first Nemanja ’Coco’ Vidic slips, as if on a banana skin, and lets in Torres for an equaliser, accompanied by titters all round. Then a punch line to end all punch lines with a penalty being awarded against the home team - don’t know about you, but I suppressed a smirk for as long as it took Stevie G to score for the first time at his favourite revue bar, but then could not resist an Andy Gray hollow laugh or three. More high jinx arrived in a second half of hilarity that featured a sending off for Coco, the clown, swiftly followed by another goal, this time ushered in by Edwin as if he was introducing the next act.

However, for some strange reason that third goal didn’t go down too well with those present, whereas by now the audience at home was loving every minute. Trust SAF to save the best laugh till last, though, with Edwin again playing the major role of slapstick stooge to a Dossena chip that brought the house down. Well, not so much brought down as emptied, but those who appreciated that it was all for charity and that a lot of fun would be had by a lot of people stayed and roundly cheered the performance from their vantage in some far corner of the ground.

If there was one criticism of what was otherwise a marvellous Ferguson farce for all the family it was that the man himself declined to be interviewed by Sky television once the curtain went down. Some will say that modesty forbade his appearance or that he has grown tired of saying ’Thank you Geoff, well done’ at the end of each triumph of stage management. Others might be quick to point out that he is getting on a bit, probably forgot, and perhaps might need to be micro-chipped in future to ensure good Fergietime-keeping. Still, there was time aplenty for a cameo role from Rafa and he didn’t disappoint. Asked if the showstopper of a game was his team’s best Premiership performance of the season he replied, with that deadpan delivery of his… ’No, we have played better than that’ …and we all fell about laughing. There is something of the Les Dawson about the Benitez delivery at such moments and if only they could have instantly wheeled a piano in for him to play badly on, my lunchtime would have been complete.

Of course, everything will be back to normal next week and a knight in shiningly charitable armour will pitch up at Craven Cottage with his [slightly less] merry troupe to do what they are accustomed to doing against teams who regularly roll over in forelock tugging fashion. Never mind, it was fun while it lasted, even if it was only a one off matinee in Manchester, though I can’t help but think that the Comic Relief organisers missed a trick in the packaging department. They should really have hired Peter Kay to produce a cut down 3-minute DVD version of best bits, got Gazza, Wazza and Ronnie to do an introduction funny walk on a couple of treadmills, overlaid it all with the rest of the squad singing a few verses of ’Show me the way to a roasting, Rio’ then sold off millions of copies to a waiting public anxious to support a good cause. Okay, it’s been done before, but hasn’t everybody when it comes to the hype surrounding these Red Devils?

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