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)
Until today, I had never in my life seen a good game of football involving the 1992 Autoglass Trophy winners. A real see saw game saw for the third consecutive time, a farcical goal go in at the Scoreboard End. Peter Crouch forced a great save from David De Gea on 3 minutes before Jonny Evans attempted clearance deflected off Crouch’s shin and into the back of the net. When Van Persie equalised on 43 minutes, the relief around the ground could be touched. It didn’t last long. Two minutes later, Marko Arnautovic beat David De Gea on his near post from a free kick to De Gea’s right. Wayne Rooney was again immense today, he was busy and determined. Some United players didn’t have such a great game though. Jonny Evans and Phil Jones occasionally resembled Laurel and Hardy at the back, then we have Nani…(on doctors advice and some Mogadon , I’m leaving it there).
On Monday just gone through sheer curiosity and the enticement of free entry, I went to United reserves/under 21s match against Tottenham Hotspur at Salford rugby league clubs new stadium on the other side of the Barton Bridge. Sir Alex Ferguson was in a crowd of 2,183 for a match United won 1-0 with a second half goal from Ryan Tunnicliffe. Before the winning goal, there was a floodlight failure on 38 minutes and the referee stopped play. I was thinking surely the far Eastern betting syndicates haven’t nobbled this match? Three minutes later, the match resumed with the lights still out. Seconds before half time, we had a tannoy announcement which said there had been a power cut locally. It had me thinking of what it must have been like in the early 1970s and just as another train of thought came to me, I saw a pitchside advert promoting BRUT aftershave. I began to think I was in an episode of ‘Life on Mars’, maybe there was more to David Bowie’s recent comeback than first met the eye and since then I’ve been waiting for the announcement of another three day week in this era of austerity. At the weekend we also had the revelation from the excellent reds away website (please see bottom of the page), who had procured the GMP attendance figure from a freedom of information request which ‘revealed’, amongst many other things, that there was 5,000 empty seats for the Liverpool fixture at Old Trafford in January just passed. With this information, blues and scousers gleefully gloated on the radio and internet about the exaggeration of United’s attendances at Old Trafford. Blues, bless ’em, I’d forgive. In recent times they have been as excitable as a fourteen year old lad who’s just been smiled at by the pretty girl in the year above but scousers really should know better than to take these figures as gospel. For twenty four years, they have been correctly fighting and contesting the deceitful police account over what happened at Owlerton in April 1989, but when the police say something they want to be true then lo and behold it suddenly is incontestably so.
United players applauding the traveling reds in the Trevor Brooking stand (photograph courtesy of Lee Thomas)
Atmospherically, United against Liverpool is never going to be the Woodstock festival but passing by the Liverpool fans today on the forecourt, about quarter of an hour before kick off, both sets of fans were baiting each other, divided by police lines. It may have been a lot of hot air, the ‘hold me back’ bollocks that occurs when traditonal enemies see each other and want to put a bit of a show on. I didn’t recognise one person in amongst the crowd who were ‘firm’. The last time I saw Old Trafford this moody was in January 2002 when Danny Murphy scored a late winner for Liverpool in the Stretford End. That was post match but today, it was all pre-game. The corresponding match last season was played in the wake of the furore of the Suarez/Evra affair and a pretty sickening FA Cup defeat at Anfield two weeks prior. The atmosphere that day outside the ground was nowhere near as lively then as it was today going in. By United/Liverpool standards, the atmosphere in the today during the game was quiet subdued. Maybe it was the kick off time or maybe it was the freezing weather but after the pre match bravado outside, once inside people seemed more concerned with keeping warm than creating the raucous atmosphere we normally get at this fixture. A couple of minutes into the game, Liverpool fans made a statement of intent when a smoke bomb went off in the middle of their stand. Apart from the Scousers displaying their legendary self celebrated wit with songs about Bryan Robson having VD and implying Gary Neville’s relationship with his mother had not progressed past the oedipus complex, this was the sole contribution they made to first half atmosphere.
In alphabetical order, a review of the teams United have played this season.
Two days after the 6-1 defeat to City, United played Aldershot Town. The timing of the game was a godsend bearing in mind what had happened 48 hours earlier. Any outside hope that Aldershot would have had by pulling a shock off were evaporated by the City result. League Cup or not, there was no way Sir Alex Ferguson was going to tolerate a defeat to Aldershot in the aftermath of the City match. Everything went alright on the night. Travelling United fans weren’t extorted on the ticket price, United won 3-0 without getting into third gear and 4,000 loyal, salt of the earth and local club supporting Aldershot fans went to their first and last match for ten years.
A mock up picture of Sir Alex Ferguson outside Aldershot’s Recreation Ground