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Life Is Good When Manchester United Is This Awful

Bruno Fernades of Manchester United looks dejected during the Premier League match between Brentford FC and Manchester United at Brentford Community Stadium on August 13, 2022 in Brentford, England.
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

By now, everyone who cares to bother has weighed in on Manchester United's latest humiliation, a 4–0 groining at the hands of the mighty Brentford Bees, and most of it (if you listen to the Brit analysts smeared across YouTube) is about how United has shamed a once-proud name and the legacies of Sirs Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson.

That's not the true takeaway, though. Most folks are frankly effervescent at the very notion of Manchester United being a continued embarrassment to the concept of Manchester United, and giving up a four-spot in 35 minutes to a team that hasn't beaten them since 1938 makes it all the more delectable. The number of first-in-forevers in this game make this a particularly abject humiliation, and you're all in for that. That's how big a name Manchester United is, and why its sewage faceplant is such a glorious moment—because it's not going to get better for them for years.

In that way, United is like the Los Angeles Lakers, another team whose last decade has been largely a gratifying loss leader. The mighty falling is not a unique phenomenon, but the mighty falling and being unable to get back up is, and frankly Manchester United being a suck factory makes life slightly closer to being worth living.

Watching Erik ten Hag realize that the job he has just taken is a lot like being the dermatologist in a leper colony is amusing. Watching Cristiano Ronaldo look at his preposterous teammates like he would cheerfully accept a transfer to Ludogorets is its own reward. And watching the Brit media yank off their own heads in a Bellagio-style plasma shower is never not a festival, because Manchester United, like the royal family, is supposed to represent the nation at its best and hasn't come close to managing that in years.

It's a schadenfreude-o-rama, like watching the Lakers being caplocked into a future defined by Russell Westbrook, or the New York Knicks still being the Knicks, or the Dallas Cowboys now in their second quarter-century of abjectitude, or Canada without the Stanley Cup for nearly 30 years. The old traditions are revealed to be just old. The more people pretend to be disappointed by United's freefall, the more it is to be savored. Watching Gary Neville eating his innards out on television is its own reward, and we have no particular femur to pick with him except that he wears his Unitedhood on his sleeve when it looks more and more like a pair of Depends.

Truth is, United will suck for years because the Glazer family has turned the entire enterprise into a collapsing shitshow, strip-mining the profit center and leaving it to be a glitzier version of Norwich City until someone else buys it and pours money into the twin sinkholes of Old Trafford and the contents of the dressing room. It turns out that Frenkie de Jong is not a stubborn Dutchman—he is a visionary. And when the Frenkie de Jongs of the world tell you that nothingness beats Manchester United, they tell you that the problem isn't with the Frenkie de Jongs.

So enjoy this while it lasts, in the way that you should enjoy the Lakers and Knicks and Cowboys failing in bulk—as proof that while everyone falls, there is something delightful in watching those who cannot get back up. Manchester United has been in freefall for years, and the only thing promised it is more years.

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