Jack Pitt-Brooke: Communal disbelief at inversion of the natural order

Monday 18 April 2011 00:00

It did not feel like a semi-final. Not that, as a Manchester City supporter, I would know the look of one. But the marking of this famous game as a qualifier or a pre-event seems to undersell what was the most important match in City's recent history.

Of course, the future is unknowable, but it would be a surprise if the atmosphere, the sense of meaning, at the final even grazed that from Saturday.

The whole day was a total inversion of the natural order. The sight of 31,500 in blue, flecked with the yellow of inflatable bananas, was an aesthetic pleasure but also brought the thrill of trespassing. Having, to my eternal shame, missed the play-off final in 1999, this was my first experience of City at Wembley. The final will bring its own delights but it will lack the novelty of this.

The real tear in the fabric, though, was not the stage but the play itself. Seeing the Blues win a game that counted was the true shock. In what sort of Manchester derby is it City, rather than United, who keep their nerve?

I will never shed the image of Paul Scholes dancing away after his header at Eastlands last year, but the sight of him shuffling off down the tunnel, and taking much of United's hopes with him, is a fitting antidote.

The departures and celebrations following the final whistle left a strange scene; the whole squad and the coaches celebrated on the pitch in front of us all. It will look hubristic if they lose the final but for that moment it was blissful. We stayed in the stands, applauding the players and revelling in our communal disbelief.

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