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