We Got Sanchez, Paul Pogba and Fred…

…Oh Christ, so we have. A song sung with such annoying repetition over winter months by the faithful, it was relatively easy to gloss over the somewhat dubious respective merits of the lyric as United made a storming start to Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s reign as United manager. We have Ole at the wheel and with the obvious love for him from the terraces, it really does feel good. However, doubts are already creeping in. On the concourse at Goodison on Sunday at half time, there were murmurs from the usual moaning twats about Solskjær’s suitability for the job. He maybe at the wheel, but there’s already a few passengers getting travel sickness.

Paul Pogba not missing his chance to get his face on the telly after the match in Paris

Thinking of passengers, we got Sanchez, Paul Pogba and Fred indeed. Batting away the people moaning about Solskjær, there really is a bitter irony to those three players being celebrated in song from the terraces. Sanchez has the heart of the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. It comes to something when a swap deal involving Henrik Mkhitarian sees United come off worse. Sanchez arrived with great fanfare playing John Brown’s Body on a grand piano and with two adorable Golden Retrievers, he even set up an Instagram page for them. I reckon those dogs could’ve done a better job in a United shirt than he has. He has been shit. As for Pogba, I doubt it was a coincidence that for United’s best night of Solskjær’s reign to date, he was suspended after getting sent off in the first leg against Paris Saint Germain. Fear not, he was all over the post match celebrations, there was no way he was missing that photo opportunity. Fred also had his finest moment in Paris, when he hustled Juan Bernat away from barracking Marcus Rashford as he was about to take the penalty in the Parc de Princes. Has Fred done anything else worth remembering as a player since he signed for £50m+ last summer? If you can remember anything then please leave a comment at the bottom saying so as I’ll be fucked if I can.

Paul Pogba on Twitter immediately after Jose Mourinho’s sacking

After the euphoria of Paris, there was a relish in the air as United went to Arsenal the following Sunday. A 2-0 defeat was disappointing, but not the end of the world. United played well at Arsenal, it was just one of those days. The following weekend, United were knocked out of the FA Cup by Wolves at Molineux. That was harder to take due to it being United’s only realistic chance of a trophy this season and the fact that Wolves, for the second time this season, had played United off the pitch. What was even harder to take was a couple of weeks later United deservedly losing again to Wolves. The most annoying thing about it is that Wolves have only won twice since the beginning of March and both of those victories have been against United. We’re truly through the looking glass when we’re looking at a match against Wolves as an elephant trap. United have only won twice since that night in Paris and both of those wins, against Watford and West Ham, were very lucky.

This was drama in the classic United tradition

Talking of elephants, Romelu Lukaku has the mobility and the physical presence of one on a football pitch. For the hat trick, he also has the first touch of an elephant. Lukaku has an eye for a goal, nobody can doubt that and, as Paris proved, he also can do it on the big stage. However, looking at Lukaku, I can’t help feeling that at £70m plus, United have been done like a kipper again in the transfer market. If Everton had United over for Lukaku, they also royally had United over on the Sunday passed. For years I have lamented United’s delivery of crosses and corners. I rarely expect either to beat the first man, however, on Sunday, Everton’s second goal was scored less than ten seconds after a United corner. It has come to something when the opposition are more dangerous from a United corner than United are. There’s no doubt that Everton deserved the win and only a fool would ever take a trip to Goodison lightly, no matter what form Everton are in, but that performance on Sunday was a disgrace. Easily as bad as any under Mourinho or van Gaal’s stewardship. Say what you want about van Gaal and Mourinho, but these are managers who between them have won three European Cups and have managed Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Ajax. These are decorated managers, respected throughout the world and both have come to United and have eventually looked like mugs. When that happens, the structure of the whole club has to be looked at from top to bottom. At the top, we have owners who extract great profits from the club, so nothing is wrong from their perspective, but anybody who thinks the Glazer’s own the club because of their love for United or football want their heads examining. We now have a relative novice ‘at the wheel’, I hope it comes good, I really do, but as per 2014 and 2016, you’d better belt up for the ride, because it isn’t going to be a smooth one. Ole’s going to need all the support he can muster as he tries to sift through that coven of a squad he has. Don’t underestimate what he’s up against. Players with bad attitudes on long and lucrative contracts and in Ed Woodward, a boss who’s a genius at signing sponsorship deals with brands that have tenuous links to football, but a complete half wit when it comes to football itself.

€100 for this view. Travelling reds deserved better than what they got in Barcelona. (Photo courtesy of Peter Garton)

In the meantime, look forward to tomorrow night’s derby match as the pride of Cheshire and the Beswick branch of the Abu Dhabi United football group come to Old Trafford. Reds might feel like turkey’s on Christmas Eve, but you never know. From 2002 to 2010, I saw lousy City sides beat great United teams, so there’s no reason why United can’t beat City tomorrow night. As for the implications of a potential United win? Fuck it, I’m going back to bed. Wake me up in August.

Return Of The Pink Paper

The front cover of the United Review for the Tottenham match set the memory bank running for this piece. A homage to the Pink Final which used to be sold outside Old Trafford and Maine Road, it was in reality a promotional tool for United’s ghastly new change strip, which made its debut at Turf Moor the following Sunday. As awful as the new away strip is, the piece itself was written with the good taste that the United Review editor has, a fine man who knows the score and is a time and travel served red. Continue reading Return Of The Pink Paper

Is That The Programme?

There was an air of uncertainty and discontent in 1987 as Red News first graced Warwick Road with its presence. The magnitude of the job Alex Ferguson had in front of him was becoming increasingly apparent and whilst it was early in his incumbency, such was the turbulence of Manchester United’s season, there wasn’t 100% confidence on the disgruntled terraces of Old Trafford that he was the man to repair the debris left to him by Ron Atkinson.

30th anniversary edition of Red News, where this piece was originally published

In the wider world, Margaret Thatcher’s government were continuing their vendetta against football fans. One of these ideas was to make every football supporter carry membership cards for the club they were affiliated too when attending matches. It was around this time that United introduced their own shitty membership scheme, the benefits which included 10p off a pencil rubber in the newly fangled superstore for the commencement of the 87/88 campaign. One of the most controversial measures of this scheme was making the Stretford End terrace members only, where the Stretford Paddock was fine for anybody who wanted to attend. This resulted in a lot of refuseniks (this writer included) moving over to the Paddock and it’s also this writer’s opinion that the Stretford End was never quite the same after this. Continue reading Is That The Programme?

Oh What A Day…Barcelona 1999

Following United’s unprecedented win in Italy, all the questions and talk in town after Turin was (a) Are you going to Barcelona? (b) How are we getting there? (c) Where are we staying? (d) Have we got a ticket? (e) How much are the snides coming to? The respective answers were (a) Yes, (b) flying (c) Salou, (d) no and (e) £50.00. Getting to Barcelona by air out of Manchester was nigh on impossible, unless you were prepared to part with a mortgage-sized down payment for a flight. Through a friend whose sister worked in a travel agents (ha, remember using them?), we got a week’s holiday in Salou for a relatively reasonable price with flights…out of Stansted. With United playing in the FA Cup Final two days earlier, this actually worked out quite nicely. With a distance of 47 miles, Stansted is not really anywhere near Wembley, but it’s a hell of a lot closer than Manchester.

Brendan Markey, somebody with MUFC shaved into his chest and Anthony Murphy on Plaça Reia in the afternoon before the match (photo courtesy of Malcolm Hancock)

On the day of the match, as we got off the train at Barcelona Sants station, local prints of the British Newspapers were being sold in the kiosks scattered along the central reservation of Las Ramblas. I was passed a copy of The Sun and to my dismay, saw on page five that they had pointed out the spelling mistake that was on the snide tickets. The genuine tickets had Graderia on them (which means tier) and the snides were spelt with Granderia, which was what we had. It was the kind of mistake that would have made a particular Old Trafford t-shirt printer proud.

Having done a load of my swag in London the previous Saturday, I did the rest in Salou in the two day run up to the game. A new shipment arrived in Barcelona on the morning of the match. One thing I learnt in Salou was that the Germans were paying 2,000 pesetas (about £8.00) for the shirts where United fans were paying 1,500 pesetas (about £6.00)

Commentary by Clive Tyldesley and Ron Atkinson

For obvious reasons, I sought out the Bayern fans in Barcelona (who had mostly been in Lloret de Mar). The majority of them were hanging around the huge roundabout at Plaça de Catalunya, at the other end of Las Ramblas. Soon after, having sold all my swag to the Bayern fans, we stopped for a few drinks with some other grafters on Plaça Reia, a square just off the Las Ramblas. As per usual, we’d underestimated the strength of the local beer and whilst walking to the station, it dawned on me that I was bladdered.

Teams line up before the match

As we got to the nearby Liceu rail station, there was chaos outside, similar to the frightening scenes outside Estádio das Antas in Oporto a couple of years prior. One saving grace was that the Guàrdia Urbana patrolling the station entry didn’t lose their heads, something you can normally guarantee when Latin police come up against pissed up fans of English football clubs. The nine stop journey to Maria Cristina rail station was a wall of Red noise. Soon after leaving the station, we hit the first of what turned out to be seven ticket checkpoints. Every time we passed these checkpoints, we thought we’d cleared the final hurdle of getting into the ground, even though we’d been there before and knew there were also turnstiles. As we approached the turnstiles, my Dad and Sister went before me and they were almost immediately carted out. I approached the turnstile with the same expectation but, to my amazement, I was cleared to carry on. I couldn’t believe it. Now I had a problem. Alone and pissed in the ground with no idea where I should be, I just walked up the nearest stairwell and stood where I could once up there. I looked at the scoreboard and I could see that United were already losing 1-0. Just as I was settling in, I heard my name shouted, I looked left and to my disbelief, I saw my cousin. I could’ve gone anywhere in the ground but it happened to be there.

Paul Farrell and Wayne Holt of Moss Side meet George Best just before kick off in the Camp Nou (photo courtesy of Paul Farrell)

Continue reading Oh What A Day…Barcelona 1999

Oh The Simple Pleasures – Manchester, 17th May 2016

The recent fiasco at Old Trafford summed up United’s season in one very handy microcosm. A farce of comical proportions occurred when a mobile phone with wires hanging off it was found taped to a pipe in one of the executive suites. I can understand the worry when first seeing something like that and I don’t blame whoever it was for alerting the authorities. However, anybody who has ever tried using a mobile phone in Old Trafford will tell you, it would’ve been impossible to detonate due to the abysmal signal in the ground. If it was a real bomb and somebody would’ve tried setting it off, it would’ve gone straight to voicemail.

Every blue household, “LOOK, LOOK, EMPTY SEATS AT OLD TRAFFORD”…*logs onto Facebook*

The evacuation procedure itself was quintessentially British. Not a hint of panic on Warwick Road as people calmly walked away from the ground. The biggest worry from Reds was managing to get to the pub before the bars got rammed.

Bournemouth fans however were a different breed altogether – somehow blaming fanzine and swag sellers for the game being postponed. I suppose it’s the kind of reaction you could expect from a load of Tory-voting Southern mard arses. One great thing to have come out of Sunday’s postponement is that this lot will have had two 500 mile round journeys in the last 72 hours. Fantastic. Continue reading Oh The Simple Pleasures – Manchester, 17th May 2016