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28th Jan 2020

Thank you Sander Berge for allowing Manchester United fans to dream again

Sander Berge allowed Manchester United fans everywhere to dream again. His accidental gift to the #mufcfamily was the greatest gift of all - that of hope.

Nooruddean Choudry

Mr Sander-man, give me a dream.

He was the one shard of light to break through the gloom of a dark January morning. The merest flicker of hope in the barren depths of transfer window despair. The people needed something to believe in – a totem for their dreams – and for those precious minutes between approximately 11.15am and 11.22am, they had one. Manchester United were on the verge of signing Sander Berge from Genk, and for a golden while, everything made sense again.

It was of little consequence that no fucker knew who Sander Berge was. That wasn’t important. What mattered was that United had achieved the impossible and secured the services of an actual real-life footballer. I mean, they hadn’t, but it definitely felt that way. There was a frisson in the air, as we all contemplated the possibility that maybe – just maybe – the club weren’t quite as riddled with fuckwittery as we all assumed (spoiler alert: false alarm, fuckwittery sustained).

If anything, the collective ignorance of Sander Berge’s footballing prowess made his short-lived signing even more exciting. Just because you’ve never heard of someone or ever seen them play does not mean you can’t rave about their talents and longingly admire a self-penned formation with their name in it. And what a name – Sander Berge. It drips off the tongue like the caramel innards of a golden barrel Roses chocolate. Say it loud and there’s music playing, say it soft and it’s almost like praying.

He was Schrödinger’s signing – except instead of a box it was a matt black Mercedes 4×4 with a 15-year-old trialist in it. Blissful ignorance was our torch and a few select Getty images our compass. We were able to project whatever we pleased upon this mysterious Sander Berge, and project we did. He was a holding midfielder, that much we knew from initial reports, and a quick scan through his Wikipedia page taught us of his youth (21) and towering height (6ft 5in).

From this we could deduct – in the precious minutes allotted to us – that he was brawny and full of potential. Imaginings began to percolate of how he could be described. The ‘next Michael Carrick’ perhaps, or maybe even the ‘new Roy Keane’ if he was bad at punditry. Being Norwegian, he’d no doubt settle into the hustle and bustle of the Premier League, and almost definitely speak immaculate Queen’s. A beautifully conditioned wave of hair suggested sound technique, whilst ruddy cheeks pointed to determined work ethic.

Alas, the perfect dream died as quickly as it was bollocked to born. It was a cruel trick of the light, or just the racist assumption that all white people look the same. It wasn’t Sander Berge on his way to Carrington, but instead just some random kid who plays in goal. All those hastily prepared ‘Sander Berge | Welcome To Manchester United’ YouTube videos were in vain. In many ways it was a painful metaphor for the current malaise at the club – pinning all their hopes on a Norwegian saviour who didn’t really exist.

But should we regret those fleeting moments of ignorant bliss? Should we cringe at that short window of unbridled and misguided joy? Never.

Sander Berge allowed Manchester United fans everywhere to dream again. His accidental gift to the #mufcfamily was the greatest gift of all – that of hope. He was so very close to being the spark that lights the fire that burns the Old Trafford engines once more. All that stood in his way was reality. The Osmonds, and later Boyzone (in the superior version), sang of wanting love and ‘not a facsimile of’. That is both grammatically and philosophically wrong. Hope – even false hope – is a good thing. And to think it took the nonexistence of Sander Berge to remind us of that fact.