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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Legends In Their Own Closing Time

In 1988, the Licensing Act which amongst other things, allowed pubs to stay open from 11am while 11pm, was introduced by Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd. The legislation was widely derided by the tabloid media, who screamed all kinds of Armageddon-esque rhetoric about the streets being full of drunkards seven days a week. As Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday said in response to the legislation, “where men will not place chains upon their own behaviour, others have to do it for them”. Like the vast majority of other tabloid created hysteria, this didn’t materialise. If anything, the opposite was true. In the year of the legislation, Manchester United had an average attendance of 39,152 and in the 2014-15 season, a mean average of 75,334. Despite the fact that United’s average attendance has nearly doubled in the twenty seven years since the act was introduced, paradoxically the amount of pubs around the vicinity of Old Trafford has plummeted. In 1988 the A56/Chester Road, which is the busiest arterial road serving Old Trafford, had nineteen pubs/social clubs. Now it has four. In 1988 Hulme, a neighbouring district to Old Trafford, had twenty eight pubs within its boundary. Now with The Junction on Rolls Crescent and The Three Legs of Man on Stretford Road, it only has two.

The Pomona Palace, the last pub standing on Chester Road in Hulme. Demolished in January 2014

When Peel Holdings successfully applied for the demolition of the Pomona Palace in December 2013, the final pub on what was loosely known as Chester Road in Hulme vanished. To this writer, who grew up in the area, the thought of there not being a single pub on Chester Road was inconceivable as a child in the 1980s. In 1988, there were eight pubs in the half mile between the end of the Deansgate flyover and the border of Manchester and Trafford; now there are none. This isn’t necessarily down to the changing of people’s drinking habits, Continue reading Legends In Their Own Closing Time

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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One night on Chester Road – Eric Cantona signs for United

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

Rooney hat-tricks with passes from Carrick – Man United fans blog player review 2011 / 2012

(1) David De Gea

David de Gea pulls off a save for Manchester United against Athletic Bilbao

David De Gea saves against Athletic Club at Old Trafford

By the half time of David De Gea’s first class debut for United at Wembley in the 2011 Community Shield, he’d made two bad mistakes which had given City a 2-0 lead. The following week he’d made another bad error against West Brom which had contributed to their equaliser and the knives were already out for him. Undoubtedly a good shot stopper, his lanky physical presence and his early reluctance to assert his authority in the penalty area had people thinking United had signed another Massimo Taibi. Every keeper makes mistakes but any new keeper who comes to Old Trafford is going to be immediately, unfairly and virtually always negatively compared to the two great United number 1’s of the recent past, Peter Schmeichel and Edwin Van Der Sar. De Gea made further expensive mistakes against Basle in the Champions League, Liverpool at Anfield in the FA Cup and against Blackburn Rovers for which he was dropped immediately after. A couple of weeks later, De Gea had an inadvertant stroke of luck when the solid and reliable looking Anders Lindergaard, who’d taken De Gea’s place, suffered an ankle ligament injury. I believe this was the turning point for David De Gea. Since then he’s looked a better and more confident keeper and he’s made some outstanding saves, most memorably in the last minute at Stamford Bridge from Juan Mata and at Ewood Park with three world class saves in the first half alone. For all the doubt expressed about David De Gea in the first half this season, only once has a mistake of his actually cost United points and that was against Blackburn Rovers on New Year’s Eve. As bad a mistake that was, that day, with the exception of Danny Welbeck, there was a whole team of players in red that had a stinker. I’m hoping our doughnut loving new keeper spends the summer getting to grips with his position at Old Trafford and has a long future there.

Continue reading Rooney hat-tricks with passes from Carrick – Man United fans blog player review 2011 / 2012