IT MAY have fooled you, but of course I saw all this coming.
It was very obvious to me that, while succumbing to a desperately poor Middlesbrough side, we were just playing possum.
We might have laid it on a bit thick, St John’s Ambulance men being tempted to rush onto the pitch at times to resuscitate apparently lifeless players, but it worked: United put aside their steely ambition, opened up the picnic basket marked ‘complacency’, and gorged themselves on their own invincibility.
Now was the time for Rafa’s masterplan.
Away went the straightjacket, the daft selections and the bits of paper carrying the life and times of Alex Ferguson.
Out came the mortar board, the first team and carefully-crafted dossiers on how to humble the alleged best teams in England and Europe.
A gentle warm-up against Sunderland, just to loosen the limbs and get into our stride.
And then the hounds were unleashed, led by Gerrard and Torres, to lay waste to opponents paralysed by fear and eventually slaughtered by ruthless execution. Obvious really.
It must be said we have been aided, according to certain sections of the press, by outrageous fortune. Real Madrid, despite coming off a domestic run of 10 wins in 11 games, were derided as the worst Real team in living memory. A worthless 4-0 win then.
Next come Manchester United – champions of England, champions of Europe – their fans keep telling us, and on course for a quintuple of trophies according to the papers (every day). But we catch them on a ‘bad day at the office’, several of their players who are apparently candidates for Footballer of the Year mysteriously suffering a catastrophic loss of form.