Another day, another huge Villa loss to the great Manchester United, another step closer to the competitive irrelevance of the Premier League. How many top flight trophies is that now? Fifteen? I've lost count. The English league is starting to look like a broken record, with Ferguson's men making mincemeat out of teams propped up by a feeble UK press as worthy of a title challenge but turn out to be in the crucial stages, like Arsenal against Chelsea last weekend, not up to the task.
What is the point of a competitive league if its financial resources lay predictably at the top so as to make actual competition near impossible? The Premiership resembles a playground see-saw with one forlorn looking obese child straddling the low end, waiting for a playmate to come over and help him balance it out. With the league structure set-up the way it is now he'll be splayed down there for quite some time.
Disagree? Let's assume there is some sort of competitive parity in the league despite the overwhelming financial inequality between big clubs and small, and Manchester United are just that good. If this is truly 'The Best League in the World" and teams are on some basic equal footing, than English clubs should be dominating Europe and the Red Devils should be leading the charge. United have won the European Cup just twice in the past fifty years. The vast majority of their league titles have come since the advent of the Premier League. The only other club to have won in European competition since 1992 is Liverpool, who have never won the Premiership. If there is competitive parity in the league, surely more clubs would be represented in European competition. And if Manchester United were really that good, surely they should have collected more than a European Cup in 1999.
A second question: what pleasure does it bring to win the league almost every year when the league is clearly rigged in your favour? If I supported Manchester United with the domestic league in the shape it is today, I might go see Arsenal away and perhaps a few games in the latter stages of the Champions League in the hope of a rare breakthrough. Outside of that, there's not much point. I suspect that some Mancunians might feel the same way, having long settled to support the less gargantuan by now equally immoral club (thanks Thailand!) with the blue shirts. Others show up at Old Trafford to watch the Red Devils much in the way fans showed up in droves to see the Harlem Globetrotters; you always knew the outcome, but man could they ever play.
The ominous final question: what is the point exactly of following a league in which usually one of three likely clubs win it every year? The managers behind the Premier League with its Darwinian television rights scheme and it's emphasis on developing the big clubs as if they were global brands like Nike and Reebok (companies that have effectively joined forces with their footballing counterparts in search of idle cash), seem to have forgotten that at the end of all the flash and kitsch of the commercial enterprise there is a game to be played.
It may not be too long yet that supporters of other long-standing English clubs will feel that the jig is up and will stop going to watch games. Villa were to be the 'Big Fifth' beginning this season with a wide support base and bags of American cash. After this summer they might be in real contention for domestic competition, but other clubs have been down this road before (Leeds, Newcastle) and met the giant, long established money wall nailing England's club giants to their perch. Unless there is some direction from that Old Firm known as government, the league is going to be in big trouble proving its relevance, both outside the Isles and in.