There are two big races that will be decided next year: Premiership Champions and the 2012 Presidential election. Though very different contests, each is important to people on either side of the Atlantic and the runners and riders in them are not too dissimilar either.
The Reigning Champions – Manchester United/Barack Obama
The ones to beat – the Championship Belt is fastened around their waists. But, as Shakespeare said:
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown
Henry IV, Part II
Sick and tired, and facing rebellion, King Henry IV is feeling the weight and pressures of his position, something with which the current President will be very familiar, not least in the last few months. Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United have been in this position many times before and are used to such expectations. The strengthening of their squad over the summer shows the desire to repeat, and Obama would do well to try and emulate the Ashley Young signing by United – it’s shifted their focus squarely to the Left Wing.
The New Pretenders – Manchester City/Michele Bachmann
At some point in the 1990s, City were dwelling in the third tier of English football and Michele Bachmann was working for the Inland Revenue Service. Fast-forward to 2011 and the blue half of Manchester is the richest club in the world, backed by Abu Dhabi oil money, and Congresswoman Bachmann is a front-runner for the GOP Nomination, espousing “take-from-the-poor-to-give-to-the-rich” taxation policies – making her a modern day Dooh Nibor (that’s a reverse Robin Hood). Having been previously defensively minded, Roberto Mancini has added the magnificent and entertaining Sergio Aguero to his squad for this season – meaning it will be hard to know exactly where City’s focus will be this season, defence or attack. Of course, it’s often difficult to fathom exactly where Michele Bachman is focusing too.
The “Haven’t we seen this before?” – Chelsea/Rick Perry
Back in 2004, the President of the United States who was running for re-election was George W. Bush – the charismatic former Governor of Texas, father of two, former Air Force Pilot. Now we have the 2011 version, Rick Perry – the charismatic Governor of Texas, father of two, former Air Force Pilot, with similar ideologies, mannerisms and way of speaking to Bush. In 2004, Chelsea’s new manager was a suave, young Portuguese guy who had come from Porto on the back of European success, in 2011, Andre Villas-Boas has come in with an almost identical resume. I’m not the first to make the Villas-Boas/Mourinho comparison, but I will point out one crucial difference. Mourinho came into the Premiership with much gusto, declaring himself “The Special One” and his huge ego would have been critical in his garnering respect in the dressing room. Villas-Boas does not have the same type of arrogance, a fact that could lead his tenure at Chelsea to be more comparable with Scolari’s short spell as manager at Stamford Bridge than Mourinho’s.
The Believers – Arsenal/Ron Paul
For years, pundits and journalists have been waxing lyrical about the the beauty of the football played by Arsenal under Arsene Wenger’s stewardship, but that praise always comes with a caveat – too lightweight/need a new goalkeeper/central defender. Unmoved, Wenger will go into the transfer market and find a 17 year old midfield prodigy with an eye for a pass and quick feet – never wanting to change his philosophy or do anything as base as sign a decent keeper. In the same way – Libertarian Ron Paul will not pander to the populace and alter his views to garner more votes. Though he is favoured by younger Republican voters, Congressman Paul is widely ignored by the media and never considered a serious candidate for the GOP Nomination – even after coming a close second to Congresswoman Bachmann in the Iowa Straw Poll last weekend. While their consistency of belief should be applauded*, it will be to the detriment of Arsenal and Paul’s chances of winning the league/nomination in 2012.
*Probably the only time I will give any level of praise to Arsenal/Wenger this whole season
The 1980s Redux – Liverpool/Mitt Romney
My first memories of football are from the 1980s, when Liverpool were the dominant force. Managed by Kenny Daglish, they were competing year after year for the title and the FA Cup – this was a time when Manchester United had not won the league since 1968, Chelsea were a joke, attracting fewer than 9,000 to their home games, and the President of the United States was former actor and Governor of California, Ronald Reagan. Himself a former Governor (of Massachusetts), Mitt Romney is like a throwback to that era – when only rich white men could realistically hope to be President. (Now we have 1 out of 43 men/44 Presidents* to give a modicum of diversity to the ranks). With the common perspective of both Reagan and Romney being strong on the economy (something you would probably disagree with if you had lost your job under President Reagan, or been fired by one of Mitt Romney’s consulting companies), the soap-opera looks and the comfortable speaking manner, there is a chance that the United States of America will have it’s first Mormon President elected next year. And, with Daglish back at the helm at Anfield, he will be hoping to return the League Championship trophy back to Liverpool for the first time since 1990, in the process regaining a tie with Manchester United for all-time league titles.
*President Numbers 22 and 24: Grover Cleveland – one man, two Presidencies.
The Never Going to Happen – Tottenham/Bernie Sanders
Neither of them are actually even in the race, but in my perfect world, they would be my winners. If Senator Bernie Sanders is too much of a reach, I would like to see that guy who was running on the Democratic ticket back in 2008, that Senator from Illinois with the message of “Hope” and “Change you can believe in”…I wonder what happened to him.