“Busted flush”, “Jose hates Manchester and is miserable”, “City are going to romp the league”, “it’s our year”, which came ad-nauseum from the scousers and this, was all before bells of October tolled for Manchester United. We were finished, an empire crumbling with all the drama of Rome in 476AD and writing this just before Christmas, it has to be admitted that United have had some disappointing results since August. Drawing at home to Stoke City, Burnley and conceding stupid late equalisers against Arsenal and Everton Continue reading Gorse Hill Sunset’s Fine – Manchester, 16th December 2016
Summertime…and the living is easy…fish are jumping and the cotton is high… (George Gershwin 1934)
After a Summer of easy living and virtually non-stop football, the new season is nearly upon us once again. So a big fat hurrah for that.
It seems like only yesterday since Manchester United’s glorious victory over Crystal Palace and the whole two minutes it was celebrated for before word leaked out over Louis van Gaal’s forthcoming dismissal. I’d love to know just what kind of knobheads we have in our support who thought it was a good idea to boo van Gaal every time his kite came up on the big screen at Wembley. Those wankers got their wishes almost seconds after the final whistle when the wholly accurate rumour that van Gaal was to be sacked Continue reading …And The Living Is Easy… – Manchester 4th August 2016
We can’t say this hadn’t been coming. Until today, United hadn’t lost a first team match at any level against Tottenham since May 2001. In that time, we’ve seen Tottenham blow a three goal half time lead (September 2001), concede a last minute equaliser from Carlos Tevez (February 2008) and blow a two goal half time lead (April 2009), that’s just off the top of my head. Last time the two sides met in March this year, United did a smash and grab that had the criminal fraternity purring in respect.
Alan Gilzean celebrates as a Pat Jennings’ drop kick bounces over Alex Stepney into the Scoreboard End net in the 1967 Charity Shield at Old Trafford
This fixture has traditionally, from the era of Denis Law, Bobby Charlton and Paddy Crerand playing for United and John White, Jimmy Greaves and Dave McKay playing for Tottenham been a classic match. Today was up there with the finest of those legendary matches over the last fifty years.
Nobby Stiles tackles Jimmy Greaves during United’s 5-1 win against Tottenham in December 1965
Tottenham came to Old Trafford today and were immediately on the front foot. United had barely touched the ball before Jan Vertonghen fortuitously scored for Tottenham after 90 seconds with a deflection off Jonny Evans’ hand which bamboozled United’s now joint first choice goalkeeper, Anders Lindegaard. There may have been some luck in the goal but United’s defending in the build up to the goal was shocking. Tottenham didn’t hang back then. Like a lot of visiting sides at Old Trafford nowadays wise to the wafer thin midfield, they attacked the United defence with alarming ease. Moussa Dembélé, who’s already had one outstanding game at Old Trafford this season with Fulham, was in full control of middle of the park again today. Gareth Bale, hardly an unknown quantity, was allowed an uninterupted 50 yard run before hitting hard and low into the far post of Lindergaards,’s Stretford End net. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Bale do that over the last 3/4 years, the Laurel and Hardyesque defending from Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand was a sight to behold. Such was the ease that Tottenham were passing through United’s defence, I was quietly fearing another outcome like last season’s Old Trafford derby at half time.
Gareth Bale puts Tottenham 2-0 up on 32 minutes
With the ineffectual Ryan Giggs being replaced by Wayne Rooney at half time, the second half was the best forty five minutes of football I’ve seen United play this season. During a chaotic three minutes in the second half United scored with a great flick from Nani. This was immediately followed by more appalling defending, this time from Patrice Evra, to allow Clint Dempsey an empty net after Gareth Bale had yet again cut in on the flank to force a parried save from Lindergaard. Immediately from United re-starting the game, Robin Van Persie played a brilliant through ball to Shinji Kagawa who scored to bring it back to 3-2. From that moment on it was constant United pressure, played in front of for once, a roaring Old Trafford crowd. Tottenham fans, who in the first half made a great job actually supporting their team rather than singing songs about what great supporters they are (hello Geordies), were now getting twitchy. They’ve seen this all before with United recovering seemingly irrecoverable deficits against their side. With a perfectly good penalty shout after a Sandro Raniere handball turned down, I had a gut feeling this was going to be Tottenham’s day. United pressed constantly with Rooney hitting the post, Michael Carrick the crossbar, Van Persie shooting wide amongst many other near misses. Towards the end with four centre forwards on the pitch and an attacking fly goalie, United went kamikaze but Tottenham’s defence soaked it all up. Tottenham were lucky in the second half but the good luck they had against United yesterday had been coming. If only for United’s abysmal first half performance and their own stoic second half performance, Tottenham deserved the win.
No time for acrobatics as Nani retrieves the ball from the net having scored to bring it back to 1-2
Despite the defeat, this was one of the best games I’ve seen at Old Trafford in a long time and the second half performance from United gave heart that we might start seeing United play the way we demand they do. The atmosphere was electric for the first time a good while; Christ, even the B Stand were on their feet! More of the same next time round would be great, but does it really need a two goal deficit to wake the Old Trafford crowd up?
At 11.15 Monday night, I got a text off a friend of a friend in Brighton, telling me there was three tickets available for the match at Craven Cottage on Wednesday at £50.00QPR apiece. I accepted at once and having made plans to go down to Fulham, I got a pretty underwhelming text off the same kid, telling me the tickets had actually been sold last night before he’d texted me, but he didn’t know this at the time. I could’ve gone down on spec, like I’d done for the game at QPR, but there’s a massive difference between going to London at the weekend without a ticket and all the hassle and mither of going there on a Wednesday night ticketless (going straight from work, Wednesbury at rush hour, getting home at 3am and up for work three hours later, etc).
This is the first United match this season that I’ve either not watched in the flesh or live on the television, SKY sports had decided tonight to show the goalless draw between Wigan Athletic & Liverpool live, I believe so as to get one of their quota of crap matches out of the way, satisfy a contractual obligation with the Premier League and maintain a veneer of equality. Having failed to get any kind stream on the internet showing the match, I kept in touch with the match via the very old fashioned method of listening to the commentary on Talksport for the first half. By half time United were 3-0 up with Danny Wellbeck, Nani and Ryan Giggs scoring. Giggs scored his first league goal of the season and also by doing that, scored for the 22nd consecutive season.
Listening to the match on the radio is definetly more stressful than watching it on the telly or in the ground as you can obviously only use your imagination to picture what’s going on. In my formative years of being a United fan, in the 1980s, there wasn’t the saturation television coverage of football that we get now, we’d get something like five/six games a season live on television, seven or eight in a good year. Myself and fellow reds of my age were at the mercy of Piccadilly radio’s United correspondant , Tom Tyrell. A man so biased that he makes Paddy Crerand sound like Bob Wilson, he’s the only man I’ve ever come across who could induce heart failure in an eleven year old boy. With United running rampant by half time, there was none of the heart stopping moments that radio commentary gives you and by sixty minutes, I’d managed to find a stop/start stream of the match and United were in cruise control. On 88 minutes, Wayne Rooney let fly with a scorcher of shot, the kind a striker plays when his team’s winning 3-0. It was, to then, easily the best goal of the night and it was a nice way to wrap up a comfortable win. Dimitar Berbatov though had other ideas when a couple of minutes later, he backheeled an Antonio Valencia cross in the bottom left hand corner of the Fulham net to score a goal very similar to the famous one Denis Law scored for City in front of the Scoreboard End of Old Trafford in 1974.
The only other thing I can remember from tonight of significance was when Phil Jones was clobbered by Clint Dempsey’s elbow in the second minute. Having seen the replay, I genuinely think it was an accident. Dempsey is an honest lad, he looked pretty gutted to have done what he’d done. Jones, hard bastard that he is, played on for twenty minutes but was obviously not right, I’m just hoping it won’t cause his absence from the United team for too long. With the physios room at the moment at Old Trafford resembling the M62 rush hour, he’ll be badly missed if he’s out too long.
I was watching Denis Law last Saturday being interviewed on Football Focus, generally reminiscing about his days as a pro-footballer and drawing the inevitable comparisons with the lifestyles and living conditions that pro-footballers live in today. Two things mentioned regarding the treatment of his knee injury in the 1960s by doctors and the brinksmanship over a demanded £10.00 a week pay rise, which resulted in him being transfer listed by Sir Matt Busby, brought modern events into stark comparison. Specifically Owen Hargreaves recent comments over the treatment of his knee injury during the last three years of his lamentably injury plaugued time at United and Carlos Tevez’s alleged refusal to come off the subs bench on Tuesday night in the Allianz Arena in Munich.
Hargreaves claimed he was being used as a guinea pig during his injury by the medical staff employed by United, whether Hargreaves is right or wrong is not for me to say due to my lack of expertise in the treatment of knee injuries but if he has any complaints about his treatment, he wants to listen to Laws story about knee injury treatments in the 1960s to get some perspective, particularly when Law said he felt like his knee was being treated by “butchers”.
In an era when the word legend is overused, Denis Law is a legend in the old fashioned sense of the word. A bigger folk hero to the hearts and minds of United fans, you’d struggle to find. The original king of the Stretford end, he’s so popular at Old Trafford that he’s revered as much for his reaction to a goal he scored at in the Scoreboard end of Old Trafford against an already relegated United side in 1974 which just compounded it, as for any other deed of his during his time at Old Trafford. Along with Bobby Charlton, he’s probably the only United figurehead that could walk in and around City’s newly monikered stadium without getting abused.
Carlos Tevez is another ex United player who performed like a legend on the pitch when playing in red. A tigerish and mithering centre forward who never gives the best centre halves in the business a minutes peace. I’ve lost count of how many important goals he scored or created in a red shirt from where/what most people would call a lost cause. He was loved on the terraces and stands of Old Trafford, just like he was at his previous club, West Ham. When Tevez announced in June 2009 that he was leaving United, no United fan of my aquaintance was happy about hearing it. This was the second world class player United had lost in a couple of weeks after United had sold Christiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid for an eye popping £80,000,000. People were sorry but not surprised to see Ronaldo go, consensus was though that if the money paid by Real Madrid went towards signing Carlos Tevez permanently, then it’d be alright.
It didn’t, Tevez announced he was leaving United soon after and a few days after that, announced where he was going. Tevez had previously said that out of respect to United, he wouldn’t sign for our main rivals, Liverpool. It was a choice between City and Chelsea. Whilst amused at the unintended effects of his words, putting City firmly in their place, he went and signed for them. City fans were unsurprisingly ecstatic of signing Carlos Tevez from United. There was all kinds of talk of this being a seismic shift in the balance of power between the two Manchester clubs. These seismic shifts have been occuring on a bi-weekly basis since September 2008 in which time, United have won two titles and a league cup and City have won the FA Cup. City fans with a nostrodamic foresight were singing, to the tune of “London bridge is falling down”, songs about Carlos Tevez and Munich on the day they signed him, they had him sussed all along.
Over the five years that Tevez has played in England, he has picked up a truly mind boogling amount of money in wages, to play for clubs and fans who worshiped him almost unconditionally and he has treated the fans of these clubs and the clubs themselves with an almost regal disdain, culminating in the incident in Munich on Tuesday night. Denis Law, as alluded to before, is an almost regal presence at Old Trafford. It’s an indictment of the warped realities of modern and old school football that a man who literally gave the lifelong wellbeing of his knees for Man United has, in the last twelve years released three autobiographies.
I’m not Denis Law’s accountant and thus, not privvy to his finances but the prolific nature of his autobiographical scribes tells me that he’s doing it for the need of money. I just hope that the release of this book, obviously aimed at the Christmas stocking filler market, along with Paul Scholes and Gary Nevilles recent tomes flooding the market with United related books, yields enough money so that Denis can spend his dotage sitting in the garden, enjoying his grandkids or basically doing what the hell he wants to do and never having the need to do it again. Buy yourself the book, buy your father, granddad or uncle the book and buy your United mad kids, nieces and nephews the book, he’s a great man with an interesting story to tell.