A Prayer to St Jude – Manchester 6th of May 2012

After Papiss Cissé’s goal of the season strike against Chelsea last Wednesday, there was always hope that Newcastle would make City struggle at St James Park earlier today. I’ve never been comfortable with relying on other sides to do United a favour but, needs must and all that. It quickly became apparent at Newcastle that barring a robbery, City were going to win. They looked dangerous going forward, strong in midfield and watertight at the back. In the second half, Yaya Touré, (the man whose agent, in November 2009 said, “If he leaves Barca, he will not go to Manchester City…he would sign for a more  important club”), took a grip on the game and scored twice to give City a deserved 2-0 win.

 The journey to Old Trafford was more of a subdued stumble than my usual brisk walk. If Newcastle had got a result I’d have been skipping like a kangaroo to the ground. I drove past Old Trafford about three hours before kick off to pick up the Red Issue. When there then, the weather was glorious but the sky seemed to get more grey through the day as the blue moon rose. When the game kicked off, it had all the intensity and atmosphere of a pre-season friendly. United were frenziedly chasing the ball when it went out for throws, corners or free kicks. As laudable as it is for intent, United were trying to claw back a ten goal deficit in goal difference, it all looked like a massive case of too little too late.

Swansea City, the same Swansea City that beat Man City a couple of months ago were, contrary to Roberto Mancini’s risible claim last Monday, not easy opponents. They came to Old Trafford and tried to play their usual passing game, Nathan Dyer in particular giving Patrice Evra a headache in the first half. On 28 minutes Paul Scholes scored, diverting a Michael Carrick shot with a speed of thought that he’ll never lose. Two minutes later Javier Hernandez missed a great chance to make it 2-0 but Ashley Young on 41 minutes doubled United’s lead. In the second half, the game petered out with a stubborn Swansea defence repelling a a United attack with plenty of intent but precious little invent.

Swansea fans were in great voice today. Their rendition of Evan James’s Land of My Fathers had the hairs on the back of my neck standing. They had a very funny song to the tune of Sloop John B about Scotty Sinclair and Rosie Webster but then they came out with all the usual generic bollocks about supporting their local team. United fans were understandably deflated with the result at Newcastle earlier in the day but the truth be told, barring the home game against Liverpool, the atmosphere from United fans at Old Trafford has been lamentable this season (when United fans can’t get wound up for the visit of Liverpool will be the day to really worry). Towards the end of the game, the Stretford End came up with a rousing Red flag. Originally a song adopted by United fans in the wake of the Munich  air disaster (and not originated by Chelsea despite what that pillock John Motson may say) it has become over the years, a song of defiance. It’s a bit like We’ll Support You Evermore, a song of consolation to a team that’s ultimately about to come up short. After the match, I reckon a good chunk of people who were singing the aforementioned anthems with such passion and fervour, left the ground without applauding the players on their traditional end of season lap of honour. Alex Ferguson said in the post match speech, to his adoring masses of a two thirds full stadium that Hopefully next week will be the biggest celebration of our lives. If that happens, he’ll be spot on, there’s no question about that. In the meantime, fellow Reds, especially any with a religious conviction, join me in a prayer to St Jude. AMEN

Robbed at Anfield, Liverpool, Saturday 28th of January 2012

For the third season in succesion, United have been knocked out of the FA cup by loathed rivals. The previous two defeats against Leeds in January 2010 and City in April 2011 were deserved. This loss at the home of the once mighty, once proud, Liverpool FC was not. United controlled this game almost throughout, yet blew it with poor communication at the end to gift the industrious but mediocre Dirk Kuyt the winner. I understand that Liverpool fans enjoy watching their team beat United as much as I and my fellow reds enjoy seeing United beat, preferably destroy, them but the Liverpool players’ reaction to the final whistle spoke volumes. With all their high fives, hugging and clenched fist gestures to the Anfield Road and Kemlyn Road stands, you would have though they had just won the cup rather than just knocked out their main rivals in the 4th, repeat 4th round. Could you imagine the great Liverpool sides of Souness, Dalglish, Hansen, McDermott et al celebrating a win in the 4th round of the FA Cup in the same manner? Liverpool of that era prided themselves on their business as usual attitude to any victory apart from a cup final or title clincher. I suggest the gleeful Scousers that were watching today’s match at Anfield dig out their Liverpool FC 1970s/1980s DVDs and get all dewy eyed over them as they will never see a team like that again.

United banner for Anfield yesterday (Photo courtesy of Gareth Edwards)

Continue reading Robbed at Anfield, Liverpool, Saturday 28th of January 2012

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.