Before this match, there was a hell of a lot of hype about Eric Cantona masks whipped up by Her Majesty’s press. Sami Mokbel reported in Friday’s Daily Mail that Palace officials “will stop any supporters wearing a Cantona mask from entering the ground, while those who try to put them on during the game will be told to remove it or face ejection”. With this in mind, I’m interested as to what may have happened if Eric Cantona turned up at the match yesterday. Would he have been turned away from the turnstile for looking like himself?
United haven’t lost at Villa Park since a League Cup match in October 1999, which resulted in a 3-0 win for Villa. I say this as if ever United could’ve come a cropper at Villa Park since that night, it would’ve been today. Everton and Newcastle have both recently lanced long held unbeaten records at Old Trafford for United. With those results in mind, it wasn’t beyond the realms of ridicule that Aston Villa could end another long unbeaten run for United. That was the feeling ’til just after kick off.
United beat Shaktar Donetsk last Wednesday night in as low key a game as you can imagine at Old Trafford. Maybe the midweek result, courtesy of a rare Phil Jones goal, gave a United a badly needed confidence boost,something that had been badly lacking in the previous two games. The talk quietly emanating out of Aston Villa fans before the game was that United were there for the taking. There weren’t many United fans of my acquaintance who disagreed with that opinion. What nobody had banked on was just how bad Aston Villa would be. I’m sat here scratching my head like Stan Laurel wondering how Villa have somehow managed to beat both Arsenal and Man City. From what I saw today, Villa are garbage.
View from my seat amongst the Villa fans in the Witton End, as Wayne Rooney is about to take a late corner for United
The success United enjoy in modern football commenced in my eyes against todays opponents, Fulham in August 2006. That day, United went 4-0 up in the first twenty minutes, of the first game of the season at Old Trafford, a match United ended up winning 5-1. Later on that season, United nicked a slutchy 2-1 win against the same opposition at Craven Cottage with a last minute goal from Cristiano Ronaldo which induced a celebratory dance from Sir Alex Ferguson which has gone down in United folklore. The results of that seasons fixtures nicely encapsulate the matches between United and Fulham in recent times. In March 2009, United murdered a terrible Fulham team 4-0 in the FA Cup quarter final, only to go there two weeks later and lose 2-0 to the same side. Last season just prior to Christmas, United won 5-0 at Craven Cottage, later on in the season, United stole a 1-0 win against Fulham at Old Trafford with a goal from Wayne Rooney, just like today in fact.
I hope Wigan go down, I really do. I’ve no particular dislike of the club but it’s not even a football town. Wigan’s most boisterous support comes from the Billy Boston stand, named very appropriately, after a legendary Welsh winger who played for Wigan rugby league club between 1953 to 1968. That boisterous support basically used a bass drum to attempt to create an atmosphere, God forbid they actually did it by singing, shouting or what have you. Can anybody think of a legendary Wigan Athletic player they could name a stand after? Wigan Athletic couldn’t so they named the stand I was placed in today after their old stadium, Springfield Park and the entire stadium is named after the shy, retiring and too modest Dave Whelan, a man who played for Blackburn Rovers. Wigan can’t even fill out their stadium for the visit of United, Arsenal or Liverpool and worst of all, they hold back 1,000 tickets of the usual away fans allocation for United’s visit, to sell as corporate packages at £125.00 a pop. The face value of the ticket is £28.00, this means that Wigan are basically charging United fans £97.00 for chicken-in-the-basket or some other shite just so we can watch the match. It’s extortion basically. There are ticket touts operating, strictly speaking, illegally on Warwick Road yet they don’t take the piss like this. Wigan are somehow, perfectly within their rights to do this. The attendance today was 20,342 which means that officially, there was 4,791 empty seats in the ground. If they say so, but it looked like far more. United fans were screaming for tickets for this match, but Wigan, being the kind of small minded club it is would rather have advertisements for a betting company covering seats in a prominent position for TV cameras than having arses on them seats. Clubs with a mentality like that have no place in the top league. Their ground is in the middle of bleedin’ nowhere, all the backdrop is of sky and grass and whenever they score a goal, they need the stadium MC to induce them to celebrate by playing Tom Hark by The Pirhanas. My ticket today came from a very decent Wigan fan who procured me two seats for the Springfield stand, sat supposedly amongst Wigan fans but there were a lot of reds in there today. United fans, as per usual on the road, were in fantastic voice with plenty of songs celebrating players from days of yore like George Best, Andy Cole, Nicky Butt, Jaap Stam, Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Eric Cantona. Once United got a grip on the game, with goals from Javier Hernandez (35 mins) and Robin Van Persie (43) in the latter part the first half, everybody with a red allegiance relaxed and enjoyed the game. Wigan were spirited but completely outclassed and barring a balls up of proportions last witnesses when Everton last played at Old Trafford, this game was won by half time.
There are some moments in life that you’ll remember exactly what you were doing and where you were. Virtually everybody of my parents’ generation remember precisely what they were doing and where they were doing it when they heard that John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been assassinated in his convertible Limousine in Dallas, November 1963. I vividly remember what I was doing when John Lennon was murdered, Princess Diana’s car crashed and the happiest memory of them all, when Eric Cantona signed for United, twenty years ago tomorrow.
Eric Cantona shields the ball from Brian Deane of Sheffield United at Elland Road in October 1992. Leeds would eventually sign Brian Deane to replace Cantona for nearly three times the price United paid for Cantona Continue reading One night on Chester Road – Eric Cantona signs for United