Before, United fans knew that even if Fergie messed up, it was OK because Fergie was there to clear it up. Now, uncertainty. Nothing is the same. Sh*t just got real...
You simply cannot fail to smile when watching Paul Lambert do his Paternal Overseer thing with some actual skipping down the touchline. It's all just a little bit Disney...
In their continued quest to become the world's foremost trans-Atlantic free-to-read digital-first news organ, the Guardian have recently rejigged the automated suggestions for further reading that appear below each article. Where there used to be links to (occasionally quite old) pieces about similar subjects, now can be found a selection of recent links to other Guardian pages that "may or may not be relevant", a new approach that quite by accident breeds happy and amusing coincidences.
All of which brings us to Fernando Torres, who has been talking about his Chelsea career to the hardest working journalist in the world, Ms Press Association. His comments ranged from the predictable ("I have four more years on my contract so hopefully I can win many more things") to the peculiar ("We have been very good defensively this season") to the accidentally barbed ("One of the main reasons to come to Chelsea was that they are always aiming for trophies"), but ultimately amounted to little more than the usual shuffling of the usual words. Wholly unremarkable, then, had the Guardian's new and shiny algorithms not decided to point any readers hungry for more in the direction of: "Dying rock stars' famous last words".
Poor Fernando. Even the mindless forces of internet traffic maximisation are out to get him.
There is something strangely affecting about watching Torres at the moment. Since he moved to London, his travails have gone from entertaining to curious to bizarre to hilarious, and have now, via the occasional moment of fleeting hope, arrived at a kind of lingering and diffuse sadness. He's become a figure who hangs around on the edge of football games, a kindred spirit of the lonely man who spends his day sitting at a suburban bus-stop, endlessly sorting through his collection of plastic bags, occasionally interrupting the conversations of his fellow passengers with harmless but distracting mumbles.
How did he get there? Well, he probably flew in a plane and some style. That or he drove, M6 then M40. Maybe the train, Lime Street to Euston, if he was feeling particularly environmentally conscious. But that's not important, and I don't know why you brought it up. What's important is, how did he get there?
The general consensus seems to be that he lost a yard of pace somewhere along the way. How he managed that, though, isn't clear. (Maybe it's still circling a baggage carousel.) And in any case, that doesn't account for the complete collapse of everything else about his game. Liverpool-Torres used his pace, yes, but it wasn't all he had. Chelsea-Torres also seems to be missing a yard of intelligence, a yard of confidence, a yard of imagination, a yard of nous, a yard of gumption, a yard of technique, a yard of courage, and a yard of knowing how and when to kick the ball in the net, setting him the whole nine yards behind his former, better self.
This is what's so compelling about his collapse. For all that you can pick your favourite reason - as well as the notorious yard, other theories include an inability to adjust to differing tactics, the general wear and tear of regular football from the age of three-and-a-half, and a powerful allergic reaction to Roy Hodgson - not one of them feels satisfactory. Nor do all of them at the same time. We're used the sight of footballers declining, and we understand the reasons why they do; Torres, by contrast, just fell off a cliff. It's weird. And more than weird, it's kind of scary.
It's like something out of a Philip K. Dick novel: the man who woke up one morning and had no idea who he was, and why he was even here in the first place. Roman Abramovich knows this, and has resorted to desperate measures. If the sight of Rafael Benítez can't confuse Torres back into his former self, then more drastic measures will follow: a red kit; a THIS IS STAMFORD BRIDGE sign; a compulsory pre-game chorus of "Getting To Know You". He's scoring loads in training, apparently. He's working hard. He's making all the right noises.
He's gone, though. The eyes are empty. The spirit is dead and the fires are banked. All that's left is a shambling revenant, a memento mori to everybody watching that talent is fleeting, that life is capricious, and that all rock stars die in the end.