Every now and then something special happens. Something remarkable. Something so important and unusual that human beings, little trembling specks of thinking meat that we are, feel the need to pause and register their location. Where were you? As though it were somehow important to establish one’s physicality at such moments, to take comfort in the fact that the body was tethered to some point — this point — of the earth even as the mind exploded.
So, where were Manchester United? They were winning a game of football at Old Trafford. Admittedly the opposition, a managerless Stoke, weren’t the trickiest opponents, but they have been quite annoying in the last few seasons. You may recall a deeply irritating 1-1 draw last season, for example, and an equally vexing 2-2 earlier in this campaign. So, three very welcome points all round.
Where was Paul Pogba? He was having quite the game. He walked onto the pitch with a smile, and he left it having directed, and dominated, another 90 minutes of football. What a wonderful player he is.
Where was Stephen Ireland? He was also playing, much to the surprise of everybody. Including, apparently, Manchester United’s midfield. You can understand why “Keep an eye on Stephen Ireland” would be a confusing instruction in 2018, along the lines of “You have received a telegram,” or “You have parked your horse on a double-yellow peasant”. But there he was, pottering about, occasionally finding space, and almost scoring twice early in the first half. Then he disappeared, then he kicked Juan Mata.
Where was Phil Jones? Sprawling on the floor, mostly.
Where was Anthony Martial? He was having fun. He was receiving a perfectly-weighted pass from Paul Pogba on the edge of the box, leaning back just a touch, and wrapping his foot around the ball so precisely that he made his goal look like an 18-yard tap-in. Later on he missed a couple of other opportunities, ran around holding his gloves for a bit, and fired a pass right into Romelu Lukaku’s stomach. The Belgian striker was so delighted that he promptly scored.
Where was David de Gea? He was in goal, thank all that is good and pure.
Where was Alexis Sanchez? Don’t look at us.
And so the only question that remains, is: where were you? Where were you, that blessed day when Antonio Valencia scored an actual, real-life, very decent goal with his left foot?