In today’s suspicious 2-0 loss to Manchester United, Sunderland defenders and former Red Devils John O’Shea and Wes Brown were involved in a foul on Radamel Falcao that looked entirely too clumsy to be accidental. Though neither O’Shea nor Brown (who 29 percent of fans in a poll I just made up didn’t know was still in the Premier League) are the players they once were, they are both still paid professionals, and no one who is given money to play soccer would ever defend this poorly.
To understand how this block-headed foul could take place, you have to accept two fundamental truths:
- Match-fixing is real.
- Match-fixing is beautiful.
Until this point in the game (the 66th minute), Manchester United was more reminiscent of the club that had people saying things like “Louis van Gaal’s system is stifling the creativity of his players, blah blah blah.” O’Shea and Brown, well aware that a win would temporarily boost United to third on the standings, felt the overwhelming pulls of loyalty and nostalgia and did what they had to do. Wayne Rooney converted the penalty, Sunderland would go down to 10 men, and the visitors’ fate was decided.
Though O’Shea was the muscle in this incident, it was Brown, the brains of the operation, who the referee sent off. Some claim mistaken identity, but this was another example of family loyalty. Brown voluntarily took this wrap for his teammate.
This penalty and resulting win is a credit to the culture Sir Alex Ferguson build around the club he shaped for so many years. Even after they’ve departed, two long-time Red Devils are still contributing to the club.