Hawk Eye

Why is 20 special?

Courtesy: AP  

In 2004, after being dismissed on 99 in an ODI against India at the Oval, the former England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff wore a contented smile as he walked off the field.

The Lancastrian’s knock eventually won the match for his country and he was awarded the man-of-the-match prize.

When quizzed on his ‘surprising’ reaction after missing out on a century, Flintoff reckoned that scoring one run less than the hallowed figure of 100 didn’t matter as England had achieved victory.

It didn’t stop him from celebrating hundreds with much exuberance afterwards, but his temporary insight retains a special place in my memory.

There’s something magical about the multiples of 10, which I have never understood.

Why is turning 30 considered more significant than 31?

Similar questions could be asked about the momentousness of a 50 or 100.

As I set about to analyse the significance of Manchester United’s 20th league title triumph, I couldn’t help but feel that it would retain a more special place in the fans’ hearts than other similar achievements.

By all accounts, it was the easiest of romps to the championship. With four matches left, the Red Devils lead their nearest challenger Manchester City by 16 points.

Though United’s neighbours have a game in hand, the destination of the Premier League trophy was decided much before Aston Villa received a 0-3 thrashing at Old Trafford on Monday night.

While Sir Alex Ferguson’s men posted victories with remarkable consistency throughout the campaign, their title challengers excelled only in spurts.

In spite of City being unable to impose itself consistently on weaker opponents, its manager Roberto Mancini doesn’t believe there was much to separate the two sides.

“We don't have a gap (to United). The last two or three years… every time we have played United, we have played better, also when we have lost the game. We lost in the last minute (earlier in the season). Last year we beat them easily. The reason there is a gap like today (in the league)… probably there is more attitude, they wanted. They started the season and they wanted to win after last year. There are many reasons why we lost but I repeat, they deserve to win it."

“I think the 13 or 15-point gap is not reality for this championship. They are not a better team but they deserve to win this title because we lost a lot of points in games we probably didn't deserve to lose,” explained the Italian.

Sir Alex Ferguson, as one would expect, made his disagreement obvious.

“We are a far better team than Manchester City at beating other teams. I read his quote and he is right in one respect. The games between us there was nothing in it but in the other games it has been different. He doesn't recognise that we have been better in the other games. If you look at the derby games we've had, apart from that stupid game which cost us the title (the 6-1 last season), we have been close.”

Consistency, hence, is paramount. The oldest secret to winning a league title!

But really, it was one of the most underwhelming of triumphs for United. The challengers looked on disconsolately from distance, the Red Devils won games with astonishing regularity and the rest, well, did nothing of note.

There were more exciting successful campaigns in the past but this one would probably stay equally alive in the fans’ memory.

The manner in which United capitulated last year to hand City the lead, and the drama which followed on the final day of that championship, gave a special meaning to this conquest.

Losing the league title to its “noisy neighbours” at the last minute was gut-wrenching.

In addition to celebrating a success at the expense of their arch-rivals, United fans will almost certainly regard this title as special due to its numerical significance. 20, slightly unfortunately, feels different.

Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Aug 6, 2021 3:45:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/blogs/blog-hawk-eye/article4653353.ece

Next Story