The floodlights are blinding. This is after all, a stadium of light and its illumination is searing. There is no place for me to hide my nakedness from its hostile radiance. Beads of sweat weep down my furrowed brow but I cannot mop them. My hands have been nailed. Flesh sandwiched between metal and wood. Bones shattered, blood spattered, a mortal man broken and left to slowly rot on this very public cross as spectators, both faithful and non, jeer my every pained movement. I stretch every sinew to delay the inevitable feasting of the scavengers on my still-beating heart.
I lift my weary head upwards towards those shadowy stands and I see Him, looking down upon His creation with barely a flinch of empathy. We are transparent in His eyes. He hears our every thought, our every vengeful whisper against His dogma and He judges us, preparing His retribution with intricate attention to a Grand Design. My parched lips crack as I summon whatever strength still remaining in my aching body to cry, “Father, oh Father, why do you forsake me thus?” He does not answer. He does not answer any of my questions now. He merely looks to the living Ghost of the Holy Trinity that sits on his left shoulder and they both ruefully shake their heads. It is then that I realise that my sacrifice will be a solitary one.
Questions intensify and dovetail as my breathing becomes more spasmodic. Fragments of thought surface but instantly become consumed by the human pain that my anatomy is forced to endure.
Why do they hate me so when once they followed so unquestioningly? Why is my image now used as a symbol of the folly of false faith? If our God retired His throne in a fanfare of celestial trumpets in the fifth month of the twenty-seventh year of His ascendance, why does He continue to haunt us with His omniscience at every juncture and junction?
One question, above all others, lodges itself in my semi-lucid consciousness: If I was Your Chosen One, then why do You now turn Your back?
You seduced me, flattered me, tempted me with words more becoming of Your most eternal of enemies. He who resides in the South but simultaneously in the dark hearts of men. He told the world You favoured him, that You quenched his avaricious thirst with the finest of wines, that he was Your desired emissary to continue Your mission. But his was a false pride and You promptly banished him and summoned me, Your faithful servant, made in Your very own image. A messiah who would lead Your flock to the promised land. A living embodiment of the One Love hymnal, sung by angelic troubadours on this hallowed turf. You told me You saw the light in me and on Your word, I turned my back on those disciples who I had led for one year and ten, renounced them, cast them out. On the power of Your Word. For You. I did this.
My bloodshot eyes tiredly glance to my left and I see the battered body of a criminal who once betrayed You. A poacher who danced to his own tune and came to rebel against Your authority. “What is your name, my son?” I ask of him. “They call me Van Nistelrooy and I am here to answer for the sins I once committed against my Father,” comes his faint reply. “And do you repent?” “I do. I have. I have sought forgiveness but He will not hear my words, for His wrath is unbending in its rancour. But I live in eternal hope, for I am a believer. To the end.”
To my right, another vanquished soul. His demeanour differs greatly from the pitiful figure I have just exchanged words with. He refuses to believe in the Father who breathed life into his very lungs. Seemingly untouched by the physical pain we withstand upon these crosses, he howls with anger and threatens retribution for the wrongs done to him. I sense a Celtic idiolect as he spits venom and warns the huddled bystanders of the duplicity of our God. Some once called him a prophet of doom as he pierced our belief with visions of fatted calves and false idols basking in earthly pleasures. They turn to face away from his spite.
The same fate awaits us all, regardless.
Time passes slowly. The crown of thorns, so gleefully placed upon my cowed head by the Pharisees of the press and the Secularists of social media who reveled in disproving my divinity, presses deep into my scalp. It won’t be long until this pain is over. Until I can finally rest.
With my earthly torment approaching its sombre climax, I now feel a sense of relief. I see a vision of the faithful lining up in their thousands to worship at this theatre of dreams that existed even before His inception. And it is at this point, the very final point, that I sense the hope that springs eternal in all our souls.
The revelation that He was never a benevolent God washes over my wounds and brings light into my tired eyes. My breathing intensifies as I grasp for every breath I can muster. He is a bitter and vindictive God. Selfish. Unmoving. Incapable of change. Controlling from His lofty perch and intolerant of Man’s free will. I feel this knowledge cleansing me.
And so, I now exercise that very free will You bestowed on me, Father. I will disown You and shape my world as I see fit. Though I may falter and fall, I now understand that I do not have to follow Your commandments or kowtow to Your threats. You are dead to me from this moment on, and with Your death, I am free to be the kind of Messiah, You claimed You wanted me to be. A human one.
I may be dangling on this cross but I am still alive and while I have breath left in my body, I will make it my life’s endeavour to demystify the myth of Your infiniteness. You did not make Manchester United. Manchester United made You. And I will save this club by excommunicating myself from Your gaze. I am neither a Chosen One nor a Manager. I am a man. Just a man. A man with a job to do. With hard work. With the sweat and toil from my own hands. With the dexterity of my own brain. Without God. Without Ferguson.
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