IT was the moment we have been hurtling towards ever since Richard Keys invented English football and inspired Steve Coogan to imagine Alan Partridge on the same Premier League launch day back in 1992.
A man in a darkened room plays ‘Glory, Glory Hallelujah’ gospel-style on a piano. Then that same man walks down a darkened tunnel at Old Trafford.
Then Alexis Sanchez — for it is he, the Premier League’s first £25million-per-year player — dons his ‘iconic’ red No 7 shirt, because everything in this league must be an icon now.
I con, you con, we con, they con. Then Sanchez heads out on the turf, takes a deep breath, realises how parky the night air is in Manchester, opens his arms like Christ the Redeemer and plays a little more plinky-plonk on the old Joanna.
Somewhere, a social-media executive with angular hair and skinny jeans is preparing his acceptance speech for awards night.
Meanwhile, vast swathes of the nation groan and wonder just how far up its own rectum football can possibly disappear.
After the longest ‘next 48 hours’ in history, Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan finally swapped clubs, presumably taking so long so that United’s hipsters could sculpt their 30-second masterpiece to Michelangelo perfection.
United have signed a 29-year-old who wasn’t quite good enough for Barcelona. Arsenal have signed a 29-year-old Mesut Ozil-type player not quite as good as 29-year-old Mesut Ozil, presumably to eventually replace Ozil.
Sanchez had issued a gushing Oscar-night message ‘umbly thanking backroom staff and the Arsenal fans who adored him — they even unfurled a banner to his pet retrievers at the Emirates.
But the Chilean — who snubbed his footballing guru Pep Guardiola to earn twice as much at United, yet is definitely not a mercenary — also used his farewell message to slaughter former Arsenal players who uttered ‘damaging’ opinions about him on television.
Television, which invented Richard Keys, and therefore Premier League football and therefore £25m-per-year footballers.
Television, which must never be used to point out that a star player stinkbombed his own dressing room to such an extent that his team-mates no longer wished to celebrate his goals.
And this airbrushed blandness is what they think the public want — Sanchez, his multi-millionaire agent, Jose Mourinho and the United social- media whizzes.
They think this is how you want football to look.
When, in fact, this transfer window has given us a truer reflection of how top-level football still is and how we actually want it to be — warts and all.
And, surprisingly, it’s Chelsea who are keeping it real.
Roman Abramovich-owned Chelsea, who privately moan they can no longer keep up with the ‘stupid Manchester money’ being spent up in that rain-drenched footballing Vegas in the North West.
And the brilliance of Chelsea’s transfer window has been the revelation that, despite a factory which churns out scores of players for the loan market, despite a vast worldwide scouting network which can identify any Brazilian 12-year-old who’s decent at keepy-uppy, despite mountains of Russian oil roubles, the champions of the richest league on Earth want to sign a big man they can lump it up to.
Boss Antonio Conte has seriously considered signing Andy Carroll, Burnley’s Ashley Barnes or Peter Crouch, who turns 37 next week.
Immense wealth and limitless scientific data has led to this.
And it’s what the public want to see. Not a glimpse into the inner sanctum of a moodily lit dressing room — but more of a peek into the panic-stricken meeting of a transfer committee putting its best-laid plans through a shredder.
Sadly, it looks like a more cultured targetman — Roma’s ex-Manchester City title-winner Edin Dzeko — will fulfil Conte’s craving.
But we almost got what we really wanted. A silhouette of a 6ft 7in bloke, seemingly constructed by pipe cleaners, performing a robot dance at Stamford Bridge.
Then Crouchie turning to the camera with a smile, as he sits at a grand piano to play ‘Chopsticks’ like Les Dawson in his pomp.
It would have been like Richard Keys had never darkened our doors.
WATFORD are blaming Everton for destabilising their club following their pursuit of Marco Silva.
The Portuguese boss has now been sacked and replaced by Javi Gracia, the tenth Hornets manager in 5½ years.
So who defines the word ‘stable’ at Watford then? Theresa bleeding May?
JOSE MOURINHO or Arsene Wenger commit a minor misdemeanour and it’s ‘Hang ’em high and ban ’em from the touchline’.
But Jurgen Klopp kicks off at a fan and it’s ‘Dontcha just love that crazy goofball?’
THERE are many reasons why Jimmy Armfield will be sorely missed.
But, as an old-school lover of football on the radio, I will offer this as Jimmy’s most precious gift — and it’s a gift increasingly rare in football or the media.
His was a voice which didn’t feel the urge to shout.
KYLE EDMUND may be a resident of the Bahamas, South African-born of a South African mum and Welsh-born, Zimbabwean-raised father.
But the way he dug in to defeat third seed Grigor Dimitrov and reach his first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open came from an upbringing which was 100 per cent Yorkshire.
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