July 16, 2024

It’s true – we do act differently when we know we’re being observed. Sociology has named this phenomenon the Hawthorne effect.

Okay, so Mr Cadbury Q. Hawthorne (otherwise known as Henry A. Landsberger) probably wasn’t referring to a footballing cup tie when he coined that term. But every supporter knows that as soon as those cameras roll, a side can slip into the Caldwell (Superman) Zone and proceed to laser vision their opponents into screaming submission.

How else can you possibly account for anomalies such as Wigan 0-1 Canvey Island or Man City 1-0 Wigan? I know the former wasn’t televised, but it doesn’t take millions of extra viewers to make a difference.

That being said, today’s game actually was viewed by millions. And as a player, there are two broad reactions to such a fact come 4pm: “oh, fudgebuckets” and “yeeeah, let’s cream these fudgebuckets”. To fudge a colloquialism or two.

For Latics, this particular 4th Round FA Cup match was initially a case of the latter, then the former.

Sideshows? Well, they can be quite big.

…But not as big as Marouane Fellaini’s hair. And I’m sure there’s a ‘Ronald vs. (Shaun) MacDonald’ joke in there somewhere, but I choose not to redeem that particular (hamburger) voucher just yet.

Marouane Fellaini or Ronald McDonald?
See, separated at birth.

As kick off eventually arrived, the travelling support had already twice cycled through their (admittedly small) repertoire of Time Life classics (You’re Only Here ‘Cos It’s Wigan/Will Grigg’s On Fire/We Beat Man City etc.).

And their side responded in typical Warren Joyce fashion, applying a touch of calming game management to a potentially tense situation. But that quickly gave way to an 11th minute Callum Connolly strike, which Sergio Romero volleyball punched away with throbbing knuckles.

In fact, so ‘great’ was Latics’ ‘dominance’ in these opening stages that an increasingly boisterous blue and white contingent broke into celebratory ‘olés’ with every pass. But you get the feeling they would have done precisely the same even if they were 2-0 behind by this point.

The considerate Henrikh Mkhitaryan simply could not bear to spoil those guys’ party, and deliberately chose to slice Anthony Martial’s probing cross into the side netting. ‘Sir Mk’ thought he might grant those Ticsmen this small mercy, for there would surely be later carcasses to pick clean.

Alas, good times at Old Trafford can only last so long.

Meanwhile, the tricky Sam ‘Sweatband’ Morsy continued to (metaphorically) tickle the United defenders’ toes, and soon fashioned a chance for the second ever Wigan Athletic goal in The Great Theatre of Salford. But since a miskicking Mickey Jacobs made contact only with his right heel, Romero’s burning knuckles went untested on this occasion.

As if to directly punish this (admittedly marginal) error, the hosts finally pilfered that goal they always promised. Timothy Fosu-Mensah served up the most testing cross yet, and the aforementioned Marouane McFellaini muscled past a helpless Connolly to gleefully cushion the ball home with his bouncy barnet.

This certainly wasn’t an isolated incident – a second goal momentarily followed in roughly similar fashion. This time, Martial played provider as Chris Smalling pushed Stevie Warnock aside to nod home the hosts’ second. Smoooooother than Davey Perkins’ freshly-waxed chest, awww yeah.

But the very worst news? A greatly subdued Morsy appeared to have lost his magical sweatband somewhere in the melee. Quick, someone knit him a new one from Paul Daniels’ old sweaters!

Paul Daniels Spitting Image
“Joke’s on you – I magicked all my sweaters away to Kerguelen!”

Not that the visiting supporters’ enclosure was in any way affected by these developments. According to OPTA, they were just launching into their 3,465th rendition of You Are My Sunshine as Callum Connolly headed another opportunity right at Romero’s welcoming nether regions.

Quick, grab that cash and run…

United’s third was the predictable casualty of a ‘screw it, let’s all pile into the box’ mentality. Which in the circumstances is entirely forgivable, even when it costs you a Henrikh Mkhitaryan goal on the ultraspeed break.

However, their fourth was a casualty of nothing more than Old Trafford Syndrome, which can be best described as mild apathy brought about by unerring pressure and advanced level gamecraft. The absolutely delighted Schweinsteiger poked past a sobbing Haugaard, shifting thoughts to that long rail replacement ride back from Manchester Victoria.

Rail replacement sucks. And yes, that statement is absolutely worthy of a new paragraph.

Manchester United, on the other hand, certainly don’t suck. And yes, that statement also deserves its own paragraph.

But as your small time Internet speakwriter heads off for his weekly ice cold Bovril and teletext browsing session, he leaves you with ultimate proof of the Hawthorne effect in action: the abstract metaphors and obscure Latics references in this article were dialled down for the sake of any Mancunian friends –and indeed big brothers– that just so happen to be watching.

Whoever and wherever you may be this weekend, cheers for reading, and remember this: thoughtcrime is death. G’night.

Second opinion

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