When the Diary tries to write its weekly column, it almost always reverts to using a laptop. Occasionally, if it’s feeling a little retro, it will bring out the old desktop, sit down, and pretend to be a proper writer. It isn’t just the desktop that makes it feel a little old-fashioned and nostalgic for a past that probably never was, but the accoutrements that are believed to be of that time.
What the Diary does, in those instances, is bring out the half-bottle of supermarket brandy. It ventures down the the road and asks the shop keep from the local bodega which pack of 20 is on sale for that day, and then buys three packets of them. Very occasionally, it remembers to buy a portable fire extinguisher for the time the brandy and cigarettes meet in an unfortunate manner. Two paracetamol are taken in advance for the horror which will follow in about six hours time when the Diary wakes up with three unrolled cigarettes stuck to its cheek and its fingers smelling of brandy and sick. Two paracetamol are again taken at this point to chisel off the clouded edge.
In truth, the laptop days were halcyon days, and the Diary can’t remember the time it could actually remember anything more than the cloying mini-drops of alcohol hanging in the office air like humidity. The kind of humidity that makes you want to fight, to fight and then be sick. But that doesn’t stop the Diary from banging out a good 300 or so words of introduction, gearing up to pretend to live a life of glamorous, nihilistic self-abuse when really it is writing this on a sofa and is about to eat some fairly mild chili con carne.
What the Diary does not ever do, however, is take a lizard, smash it against a wall, and hope that what is left, in a mixture of plasma and reptile bones, is something that can be used as a column for its editor to transcribe. When we say it does not do that ever, it will admit it may have tried that once, and then been told in unambiguous terms that such an effort would not be accepted. Looking back, the Diary now acknowledges that the two month legal case to argue the validity of its submission was something of a fool’s errand, but there will be time for a proper autopsy of the decision in the off-season. An autopsy of the court case ruling, that is, not the lizard. That would be almost impossible given the state of it.
We say this not purely as an act of wanton self-indulgence designed to rile up the casual reader and delight the hardcore devotee of the Diary, but as a very, very, some would say excessively – lengthy way to point out that using something for its designed purpose is almost always the right way to go. There are a few exceptions to this. Viagra is a better remedy for erectile dysfunction than heart problems, for example, and pulled pork is better deposited in a trash can than eaten. Apart from that, horses for courses is a sensible guide in most walks of life, and certainly for football.
Louis van Gaal, though, disagrees. He is a man who would smash one lizard against a wall, then another, then another and another, take photographs of the corpses and send them off to a literary agent in the expectation of a huge book deal. He is a man who would take a blue pill of sexual promise and walk around, regularly checking his heart rate to see if there was any improvement while accepting the constant, fierce erection as an unwelcome side-effect. He would look at a menu and order the pulled pork instead of anything more edifying on the menu. He would also cast an eye at his squad before and during a football match against Spurs and fuck everything up by ignoring the obvious.
He is a man who, against Spurs, would stick his best striker, Anthony Martial, on the left wing. His best playmaker, Juan Mata, would be moved to be an auxiliary right wing-back. A Championship player in disguise, Jesse Lingard, would be slotted in as a number 10, despite his relative, palpable lack of ability. A versatile but mediocre defensive midfielder would play as central defender, and the whole sorry thing would carry on for 45 minutes. At half-time, Van Gaal would take off the most exciting discovery of his tenure, Marcus Rashford, and replace him with a winger, Ashley Young, who was short and coming back from injury. Even basic human curiosity would have forced anyone else to try a striker as a striker, and a winger as a winger. A basic manager would have played a number 10 as a number 10, a winger as a winger, and a right-back at right-back. A basic manager might have even bought a central defender at the start of the season.
But not Van Gaal, though, he’s far too busy killing lizards.