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)

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In A Day – Manchester 23rd of March 2014

In a day when Arsene Wenger celebrated his one thousandth game with a record equalling defeat at Stamford Bridge; in a day where Andre Marriner made a refereeing mistake that will give him indefinite sleepless nights; in a day when Daniel Sturridge bravely shook off the national vilification for his disgraceful antics last week with a goal at Cardiff (waddya mean you’ve heard nowt about it?), Wayne Rooney equalled, then surpassed Jack Rowley’s scoring tally and stole the headlines with a goal from 58 yards at the Boleyn Ground. It’s hard to say which is Rooney’s best ever goal and it can obviously only ever be a matter of opinion anyway, but it’s comfortably the furthest goal he’s ever scored. The goal has been constantly compared to David Beckham’s goal against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park in August 1996. Personally, I think it’s more akin to Nayim’s fantastic goal for Real Zaragoza against Arsenal in the 1995 European Cup Winners Cup Final in Paris (shown below). Like Andre Marriner, West Ham United keeper Adrian will have a few sleepless nights coming up. Even with admiring the brilliance of Rooney’s initiative, a keeper should never be beaten from that distance (unless you’re David Seaman)

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Redondo’s Dummy – United against Real Madrid in the Early 2000s

April 2000 – Madrid and Manchester

This was the first of only four seasons where there was to be two group stages in the European Cup. United had cruised through the second group stage without too much problem, beating Girondins de Bordeaux home and away and losing at Fiorentina just before Christmas, partially due to a rare Roy Keane mistake which gifted Gabriel Batistuta the first goal in a 2-0 win for the Viola. This season saw European football at saturation level. On the 21st of March 2000, I was high up in the almost vertical Estadio de Mestalla watching Valencia and United play out a 0-0 draw which was very convenient for both sides. I didn’t know it at the time but exactly two weeks later, I would be back in Spain watching United play 200 miles from where I was at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. Back in Manchester on the Friday after the Valencia match about Midday, the news came through that United had drawn Real Madrid in the Quarter finals. Huge mobile phones were abuzz with all kinds of excited phone calls and text messages flying about with plans to go. I remember being sat by a computer on the Easyjet website ready to book flights from Speke to Barajas and it went swimmingly, return flights booked for four at a grand total of just under £350.00. Sitting there feeling very pleased with myself, we all went to the pub for an all dayer in good spirits. The first sign of worry came when we heard later on that day that the match at the Bernabéu was on a Tuesday night. We’d booked flights to go out on Wednesday morning and as everybody knows, once a flight with Easyjet is booked it’s cast in Moses tablets and impossible to change. We found flights going out of Gatwick on the Tuesday morning with Air Europa which cost us just over £100.00 apiece that did have the consolation of the fact that we could smoke on the flight (in those days, a very rare privilege, nowadays illegal).

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Message To You Rooney – Stoke City 0-2 Manchester United

Last season after the bizzare 6-1 loss to City at Old Trafford, United had a match at Aldershot two nights later where they could get the derby match out of their systems. Partial catharsis if you like before normal service resumed the following weekend with a hard earned 1-0 win at Goodison Park. This season following another home derby defeat, there’s been six days of reflection following what was to my eyes a substandard home performance. Stoke City, like Everton, is not the most forgiving of places to go to when you need three points to re-assert confidence. The statisticians have been out this week, working out all the permutations of how United could make a town halls of the run in, just like they did last season. Stoke’s an horrible place to go to and a horrible team to play when confidence has been rattled and there’s no doubt that behind all the bravado, last Monday and the way United lost had left United fans with all kinds of mad things running through their heads (something that’ll be conveniently denied now). Continue reading Message To You Rooney – Stoke City 0-2 Manchester United

Keane and Able

They were former team mates at Nottingham Forest but Roy Keane and Alf Inge Håland were never friends. The real trouble started at Elland Road in September 1997 when a Roy Keane foul on Alf Inge Håland resulted in Keane acquring a career threatening cruciate ligament injury. Soon after with breathtaking callous indiference, Håland stated that Roy Keane had deserved the injury that he’d acquired at Elland Road that day, a sentiment like this was not going to be forgotten. After Roy Keane had made his infamous comment regarding some United fans and prawn sandwiches after a fraught European Cup victory over Dynamo Kyiv at Old Trafford in November 2000, Håland couldn’t help but stick his oar and criticise Keane for comments made that had absolutely nothing to do with him, the club he was skipper of or the fans of that club. Talk about pulling the tigers tail? City fans mistakenly and conveniently blame Roy Keane for ending Alf-Inge Håland’s career for that “challenge” in the Old Trafford derby in April 2001. When Keane done Håland, whether he meant to or not, he struck a blow for all United fans that afternoon. Håland had in his days as a Leeds United player, referred to Manchester United as “Munichs” and “scum” on his own personal website. When Håland joined newly promoted City in the summer of 2000, he was described as “articulate” by the easily impressed City correspondent, Chris Bailey in the Manchester Evening News (he who’s now head of PR at City). I can only imagine that anybody whom is bi-lingual is articulate in Bailey’s eyes.

Roy Keane in the process of injuring Alf Inge Håland so badly that Håland gets up two minutes later and finishes the game. Håland retired from football two years later with an injury to his LEFT knee

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