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)

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 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, £5.00 in sterling.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVjAP9iq_YU

Commentary by Clive Tyldesley and Ron Atkinson

For obvious reasons, I sought out the Bayern Munich 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 How We Suffered – Manchester 26th December 2014

This could’ve been tricky. Newcastle have a lousy record at Old Trafford but on their last visit here, just over a year ago, they beat United at Old Trafford for the first time since 1972. The protests that were raging against Alan Pardew’s incumbency a few months ago have gone somewhat muted in recent times as Newcastle had built up a good run of results which included beating this seasons likely champions Chelsea, a few weeks ago at St James Park. Such was the revival in Newcastle’s fortunes that paper handkerchief manufacturers were in serious danger of laying workers off due to the fact that Geordies weren’t crying in the stands, their broon ale or threatening to burst the banks of the Tyne with their relentless squawking after a bad result. A last minute goal from Adam Johnson the other day for Sunderland and United’s eventually easy win today should see normal service resumed for Kleenex pretty soon.

United players celebrate Robin van Persie’s goal in the 53rd minute (photograph courtesy of Neil Meehan)

Without dominating play, Newcastle made a lively start. Continue reading Oh How We Suffered – Manchester 26th December 2014

Took One For The Team – Manchester 28th September 2014

In the summer of 1982, Ray Wilkins was chosen to be the skipper for both club and country, following the respective stepping down of Martin Buchan and Kevin Keegan. Fate decreed that a broken cheekbone for Wilkins, just weeks after his appointment by Ron Atkinson and Bobby Robson, led to Bryan Robson being appointed the skipper of club and country instead. This was a position he kept long after Wilkins left United and retired from international football. Wilkins was unlucky that he lost his position so quickly due to an injury but, ultimately, it was best (certainly for United) that Robson was skipper. Probably for England too if I’d have cared enough.

Wayne Rooney could find himself in a similar position to Wilkins but in completely different circumstances. Continue reading Took One For The Team – Manchester 28th September 2014

Where’s Your Famous Atmosphere – Newcastle 5th Of April 2014

I was surprised in the week approaching this match at the trepidation Newcastle fans were approaching this fixture with. With hindsight, they were right to be worried. After a level opening to the match, Newcastle folded like a cheap pair of trousers once Juan Mata put United into the lead in the 39th minute with a fantastic free kick. Anders Lindegaard stopped picking his nose for the day and he made a couple of excellent saves early in the match, particularly from Papiss Cisse in the 24th minute.

David Moyes took a gamble with this side today, obviously with Wednesday night in mind. That it resulted in United’s best league result of the season thus far is a happy coincidence for Moyes and a bit of long overdue good luck for him too. I’m not sure if he knew just how well Shinji Kagawa and Juan Mata would play together but he will know after todays performance, just in case he had any doubt. Kagawa along with Javier Hernadez were instrumental in United’s 2nd goal, scored with casual ease by Mata. Hernandez and Kagawa linked up again in the 65th minute to make the score 3-0 and finish off any lingering hope of Newcastle getting back into the game. This gave prompt to possibly the earliest exodus I’ve ever seen a football ground from a pathetic and risibly overrated home support. People leave early for all kinds of reasons but never to this volume.

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Milburn Stand rapidly emptying immediately after United’s 3rd goal

We are the Geordies, the Geordie boot boys,
For we are mental, we are mad,
We’re the loudest football supporters,
the world has ever had…

United fans got bored with the nearby mute Toon platoon in the Leazes and the Milburn Stand. We couldn’t hear a peep from the rest of the ground either although to be fair, we were so high up in the Leazes Stand that we could hear passing aircraft before anybody else in the ground. The atmosphere in the ground from reds was quite subdued for the first 15 minutes. I put this down to the fact that everybody in there was so knackered after climbing the seven levels to get there, the last thing on anybodies mind was singing songs of any kind. Reds tried engaging the locals with songs like “where’s your famous atmosphere”. With a wit that the New’astle fans are not famous for, they stated very hurtfully and less than half heartedly that we were “just a shit Man City”. United fans opened the songbook with tunes in homage to Roy Keane, George Best, Jaap Stam, Andy Cole. The confused look on the faces of the knowledgeable locals (© every clichéd commentator) was a picture of vacant confusion. As the Geordies gradually left the ground to virtual desolation, Adnan Januzaj made the score 4-0 in injury time. This was much to the chagrin of the equine division of Northumbia Police.

Bud the horse gets belted by Newcastle united fan Barry Rogerson in April 2013

Ant & Dec, Mark Knopfler, Jimmy Nail, Sting, Tory Blair, those Geordies that were always crying on the telly in the 1990’s and Alan Sheeera, your boys took one hell of a beating

In Serene Indifference – Manchester, 7th of December 2013

Righteously Wronged And The Ignoble Noble – Manchester 22nd of December 2013

It’s not been a bad week. After last Sunday’s stroll in Villa Park, United qualified for the League cup semi-final via a potentially tricky away match at Stoke City. With an almost biblical downpour of hailstones, referee Mark Clattenburg took both teams off the pitch on 30 minutes. That sagacious analyst on SKY Sports, Alan ‘your nose is offside’ Smith, was complaining about it being health and safety gone mad. Smith, a product of the mythical old school where men were men and all that bollocks, would have been the first onto Clattenburg’s back if a player had acquired a serious injury due to the prevailing elements. Another great one from Smith was when he proclaimed early in the game that you could always guarantee a great atmosphere at Stoke. This was when the only noise that could be heard was the 5,000 United fans singing the Twelve Days of Cantona. Stoke fans, apart from their riposte (sic) of ‘shit’ everytime a chant of ‘United’ went up, couldn’t be heard by a dog. Continue reading Righteously Wronged And The Ignoble Noble – Manchester 22nd of December 2013