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).

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

The Saints march with the devils abandon – Manchester 30th January 2013

The last few days have to be the best days the bookies have had in recent memory with football scores. All weekend, shock after shock results occurred with QPR and Norwich getting beaten at home by lower and none league opposition respectively. Sunday continued the surprises with a clean sweep of shock results. Chelsea drawing away at Brentford, Tottenham losing away at the Leeds scum and the magnificent game and result at a three sided Boundary Park where Liverpool were knocked out of the cup by (come on) Oldham. That afternoon, Brendan Rodgers brief tenure as Liverpool boss reached a new depth as he gallantly blamed the young players in the Liverpool side for letting them down as opposed to his team selection and a choice that he made to leave Steven Gerrard on the bench. United and City both went through with almost mundane efficiency. On the Sunday night draw, United were for the eigth consecutive time, drawn against Premier League opposition in the FA Cup by drawing Reading at home. City were a different class to Stoke and it was only a matter of time before they got a deserved winner, which was scored by the excellent Pablo Zabaletta. That performance was replicated by City last night when they went to Loftus Road and murdered a QPR side 0-0. Another banker gone up the wall and I have rarely been so happy to see a result make a town halls of my fixed odds coupon as I was to see that draw of City’s last night. Tonight, both Liverpool and Chelsea surrendered two goal leads, Chelsea succumbed at Reading to add another fixed odds upset and Liverpool threw away a two goal lead to disrupt recently reached quadragenarian Brendan Rodgers plans to have Liverpool in the top two at the seasons conclusion. United were hot favourites tonight to beat Southampton but United were very, very lucky not to be joining all the other teams previously mentioned in the shock results.

Continue reading The Saints march with the devils abandon – Manchester 30th January 2013

Sky and Grass – Wigan 1st of January 2013

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.

Continue reading Sky and Grass – Wigan 1st of January 2013

The Day Of Beauty And A Beast Of A Game. Manchester, 1st Of October 2011

I looked at one of those “on this day in history” things this morning to find that sixteen years ago today, Eric Cantona made his return at Old Trafford, against Liverpool of all teams, from the lenghty ban imposed after the Matthew Simmons incident at Selhurst Park. On that day he created Uniteds first goal for Nicky Butt after ninety seconds and scored a late equaliser from the penalty spot after (truth be told) Liverpool took a grip on the game in which United were lucky to get anything from.

Today, luck again was on Uniteds side. This season up to now, United have made easy work of some hard matches and made hard work of some relatively easy matches with recent games against Stoke City and Basle obvious examples. Last time Norwich City played at Old Trafford in 2004, they gave United a bit of a scare before United ran out with a 2-0 win which looked far more comfortable on paper than it did on the pitch.  Today’s match was exactly the same. A very sloppy first half followed by a second half where Norwich could’ve been two up before United scored, a special mention to Anthony Pilkington who missed a one on one against the excellent Anders Lindegarrd.

When Danny Wellbeck made it 2-0 on 87 minutes, twenty tense minutes after Anderson scored, the sense of relief in the stadium was palpable. This was a precious three points, ground out against a feisty Norwich team and a misfiring United.

The Norwich fans, immediately to my right looked like a massive bunch of bananas in varying states of maturity with their yellow and green shirts. Away from the usual self righteous rubbish that oposition fans chant at Old Trafford about supporting their local team, was a very witty chant to the tune of “Sloop John B” of “We’re Norwich City, we’ve come for our scarves” which I’m assuming is a reference to the green and gold scarves that were de riguer during the vociferous period of anti Glazer chanting during the 2009-2010 season. An unseasonably beautiful day and a great result in a match which didn’t share the days beauty.