Neil Humphreys: Don’t be stupid and lose your minds, United
Solskjaer's men can't lie down in Manchester Derby just to deny Liverpool
Manchester United followers might be deluded. They are convinced the derby at Old Trafford represents an impossible dilemma.
Lose against Manchester City and they'll lose bragging rights. Defeat City, on the other hand, and help Liverpool win the title and they'll lose their minds.
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In theory, this is known as Morton's Fork, a false dilemma where two scenarios both lead to an unpleasant conclusion.
In reality, this is known as myopic foolishness, the feverish work of online trolls who probably need to get out more.
The current thinking, or lack of, leading into the Manchester Derby tomorrow morning (Singapore time) only shows how out-of-touch and parochial certain supporters can be.
Among the online polls doing the rounds, one showed that two-thirds of United respondents would rather lose to City and finish out of the top four as long as Liverpool were denied the title.
The delusions of grandeur behind this logic are almost too many to number.
First, there is the titillating perception that United actually have a say in the matter, which they almost certainly do not, if the 4-0 defeat at Everton was any indication.
Recent performances have looked like a ham-fisted audition to play extras fleeing from the White Walkers in Game of Thrones. Everyone is running for the exits, looking for the first private plane out of Old Trafford.
The idea that the same rabble that staggered to six defeats in eight matches can suddenly elevate their game to the level required to break those winning machines from over the road is almost endearing. It's rather like listening to that granddad who insists he could've been a contender - had he wanted to.
Apparently, United could beat City, if they wanted to, but do they really want to?
This absurd, non-dilemma not only insults their opponents, but also the intelligence of anyone who's suffered the misfortune of sitting through United's recent defeats.
Frankly, the Red Devils should be so lucky. Rather than hope for defeat, there should be a collective praying for any kind of positive result whatsoever.
Tanking is never a sensible course of action for any professional sports outfit.
In Aussie Rules football, tanking can occur when teams ease off at the end of a poor campaign to get better players (the lower the league position, the better the draft picks).
But, even then, tanking isn't particularly palatable in Australia, going against the grain of any sporting fabric. Unless there's alcohol and a beach towel involved, Aussies don't lie down.
Tanking is hardly a sensible motivational tool in any team-building exercise. If City administer a shellacking - a distinct possibility in light of recent results - how would it help anyone associated with United?
The silverware may or may not end up in Liverpool, but United would be effectively finished, for this season, and seasons to come, as the club morph into a scrapyard of rusted classics.
A derby defeat should put an end to United's Champions League aspirations, bar the mathematical shouting, which only accelerates the exodus, but not in a manner of the club's choosing.
The best will flee first. David de Gea and Paul Pogba are unlikely to countenance a Europa League campaign at this stage of their careers. They'll be off. Others will follow, but for heavily discounted fees as United cut their losses.
And what about the traffic flow in the opposite direction? It's hard to imagine the starriest names beating a path to Ed Woodward's door to play for a fading franchise and a manager from Molde.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's obsession with the "Spirit of 1999" earned him the job and approval from friends in high places (Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand in TV studios). But the "Spirit of '99" means nothing to the latest wunderkind from Spain or France.
Beating City in the Manchester Derby, on the other hand, means something. Finishing in the top four means something. Never "tanking" in a professional fixture, whatever the opponents or permutations, means something.
But throwing away a game to satisfy tribal prejudices is as counter-productive as it is unbecoming of the club's stature. This is supposed to be Manchester United. Act like it.
As the euphoria of Solskjaer's appointment subsides, United must reflect on another season of mediocrity. Six years on from Sir Alex Ferguson, they are still going backwards.
But there is a single straw left to clutch. The Red Devils have a shot at denying the greatest English Premier League team in a generation of a second consecutive title.
That's got to be a more noble ambition than rolling over and becoming a punchline in a Liverpool joke.
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