You'd think it would be simple - that winning is good, losing is bad and drawing is somewhere in between. But no...sometimes losing is better. Or something...
Though to be fair that should be 'brazuca' with a small 'b' or @brazuca with a sodding Twitter account. Rise seas. Fall skies. For this is where civilisation ends...
Serious injuries aside, feeling sorry for Premier League footballers isn't really the done thing. They earn all that money, after all, which is generally assumed to be sufficient compensation for the vicissitudes of a footballer's life. Not picked? Manager doesn't like you? Fans on your back? Never mind. Go and buy a white tiger, that'll cheer you up.
It follows, then, that feeling sorry for Manchester United players is even less acceptable. They get to play in the Champions League, they get to win all those trophies, and thanks to the club's outstanding sponsorship connections they'll never want for paint or tyres again. Yet as the dust of the slamming transfer window settles down, and as United jam their trapped hand between their legs, crease their forehead in pain, and try not to scream, it's hard not to feel just a tiny pang of sympathy for the one player they did manage to smuggle through: Marouane Fellaini.
After all, this was meant to be his big moment. Best club in the world, a dream to play at Old Trafford, Tom Cleverley is my idol ... all that good stuff. A Bale-style unveiling might have been a bit much, but maybe a bit of fuss? A quick session keepy-uppy on the pitch? Instead, the most exciting thing about the move was the short-lived Twitter rumour that he'd been nicked for speeding on the M62. Have a look at the obligatory post-signing shirt-holding photograph. Yes, his new (and old) manager may be smiling with his mouth, but look at the eyes. Those are the eyes of a man who has spent the previous 24 hours shouting "Ed! ED! What the merry hell is going on?" down a mobile phone, and is about to sit down for the first time in a week.
There are reasons for this muted welcome. Chief amongst them is the fact that the rest of the world is busy laughing hysterically at United, while the club's fans are either sighing or shouting, and the club themselves are busy trying to lessen the impact of having made grand fools out of themselves. Quite what happened with Ander Herrera, we may never know; precisely who was in charge of the mysterious trio of briefcase wielding "imposters" that spent the afternoon talking to the Spanish FA, nobody may ever want to admit. Poor Fabio Coentrao was driven to tears by the whole shambles, and it's since emerged that United also failed with late bids for Sami Khedira, Luka Modric, Wesley Sneijder, Erhun Oztumer, Muzzy Izzet, Roy Keane's good knee, the ghost of Charlie Roberts, a small grove of lemon trees, the film rights to Naranjito: World Cup Final In Danger!, a basket of muffins, the Small Olympian Bear, a packet of triffid seeds and the Isle of Sheppy.
But even setting aside the high drama and low farce for a moment, there is still a lingering air of "meh" about the move, and it's not just that Manchester United fans are hideously entitled and privileged brats that are struggling desperately to come to terms with living in the real world again. As a signing, Fellaini comes with two problems, neither of which are entirely his fault.
The general question for any new signing at any club is the obvious one: whether he's good enough. Fellaini, though, comes with a prior concern: what is he actually for? On the one hand, United's need for a proper midfielder dates back to the Domesday Book; on the other, many of his most effective performances last season came further forward, in an area where United are fairly well-stocked. And if he is to play in midfield, Is he to enforce or to create? To put in a foot or pick out a pass? To charge forward with the ball at his feet, or to trace intricate triangles around defenders?
The second problem, which exacerbates the first, is Moyes. Managers that sign their former charges are often accused of lacking imagination, which can be a slightly peculiar criticism in isolation. (Playing Ashley Young in goal would be imaginative.) If a player is the right player, then he's the right player, regardless of who he's worked for, and how much creativity it takes to realise that. But where there are questions about the suitability or quality of a player, then the reputation of the man that does the signing comes into play, and Moyes-at-United has almost no reputation at all. That, one suspects, was part of the reason for delaying any move: making an unambiguous statement-signing early in the window would have addressed this fear. But then he wanted to stay in Barcelona.
All in all, it's probably not a set of circumstances that any player would choose for his crack at the big time. Still, all is not lost. For one, to improve United he just has to surpass the TC23 Brand Experience, Anderson's arse, and the still-just-about-twitching bones of Ryan Giggs, which shouldn't be too daunting for an undoubtedly talented footballer. And for t'other, even if he doesn't quite end up as the new Bryan Keane, then he's still got his hair, his size, his gangliness, and his occasional moments of entertaining and inexplicable violence to fall back on. One or two swift kicks to a Scouse shin, and cult hero status is virtually guaranteed.
Andi Thomas - you can follow him on Twitter, you know
The measure will be does he have 68% of the impact on United that Ozil seems to be having at Arsenal because that was what he has cost the Glazers. No sympathy just performance to value is what is expected.- redbornandbred