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

Lunatics With Semi Military Power – Madrid February 13th 2013

Real Madrid have to play Barcelona twice immediately before the return leg at Old Trafford in three weeks time. I’ve heard it said that Jose Mourinho might shuffle his squad around for those matches, but like United against Liverpool, pragmatism goes out of the window when the el classico is played. Madridistas would, under no circumstances forgive a half cocked effort against Barcelona any more than we would against Liverpool.

Electronic sign outside the Bernabau informing us that the match was a sell out (photo courtesy of Pete Barry)

Twice in a week, eleven months ago, United were outclassed by a team from Bilbao who didn’t even qualify for this seasons Champions League. On those nights against Athletic Club, United looked light years behind a team that eventually finished 10th in La Liga. Tonight in the Bernabau, in front of a full house and the biggest United none final following since Milan in 2005, United got a very well deserved draw. It could have been so much more Continue reading Lunatics With Semi Military Power – Madrid February 13th 2013

Crying Wolves Slayed By The Red Devils, Manchester, 10th of December, 2011

This is just the oposition United needed after recent setbacks. Wolves are a typical Mick McCarthy team, plenty of bottle, fight, heart but also like every Mick McCarthy team I can remember, both as a player and as a manager, shit. That United only scored four is down to some sloppy finishing from the reds and some great saves from Wolves keeper, Wayne Hennessy. This was as comfortable a performance as was possible for United under the circumstances. On 17 minutes, Nani scored a goal that was almost a carbon copy of the goal he scored against Liverpool in front of the Stretford End in March 2008. Ten minutes later, Wayne Rooney scored his first goal in open play since his goal in first half injury time, against Chelsea in September. With three senior United strikers out injured at the moment, this was a great time to pick up his scoring form.

With United cruising nicely against the toothless Wolves up to half time, it was a little surprise in the 47th minute when Steven Fletcher headed high into the United net in the old Scoreboard End. With this being Wolves though, there was no onslaught or pressure forthcoming in search of an equaliser, I believe both the players and the fans of Wolves were equally as gobsmacked as the United fans that they’d scored. Just in case there was any worry of a Wolves comeback, Nani made the game safe nine minutes later and Wayne Rooney got another five minutes later. United were comfortable enough to bring on Ezekiel Fryers on 67 minutes for Patrice Evra and Federico Macheda on 75 minutes for Danny Welbeck.

The other thing I noticed in this game was Nani making a “reverse pass” to Danny Welbeck on 65 minutes. I saw Ryan Giggs do the same pass on Wednesday, proving that you can teach an old dog new tricks. This is a pass which is David Silva’s speciality, I first saw him do it in the Old Trafford derby last February and it created chaos amongst United’s defence, he did the same thing to more devastating effect in October. The look on defenders’ faces, who are running out trying to play opposing forwards offside, only to be confronted with this pass is a picture.

The atmosphere today was a massive improvement on recent games. United fans rallied well to encourage the team from the off. The Stretford End and the K Stand really found their voices to provide a warm, sometimes hot atmosphere on a freezing day. The Wolves fans, were noisy for their big day out to Old Trafford. They sang the hurtful and cutting *Fuuurzdi noyts, shannul foiv (English translation below) and **du blik kun-troy buoyzz, (translated below), listening to this lot sing, it’s hard to comprehend or believe that this part of the world gifted us the singer that is Robert Plant. I will give the Wolves fans one thing, they had a refreshing attitude to supporting their team, instead of singing the tedious self celebrating we support our local team that I normally hear from opposing fans at Old Trafford, they actually adopted the novel idea of actually supporting their team. Points docked though for doing the piss poor look at us, aren’t we wacky Poznan dance.

There are certain clubs who have such history and substance that the footballing romantic/sentimentalist in me believes belong in the top division, Blackpool are one, Notts County another, Wolverhampton Wanderers also belong in that company. Despite not having won a trophy since winning the League cup in 1980, when Andy Gray capitalised on a rare and comical howler from Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Peter Shilton to score into an empty net against the reigning European champions. Alongside Matt Busby, Stan Cullis, Wolves manager from 1948 to 1964, was a pioneer in European football. After Wolves won the title in 1954, Cullis arranged friendlies against teams like Real Madrid, Borrusia Dortmund and the “magical Magyars” of Honved from Hungary. These games gave president Ebbe Schwartz, from the newly formed UEFA, the idea of European Cup. Wolves have made a contribution to the football we watch today that no amount of money can buy. They were the “glamour” club of the 50s, a club which a young George Best in Cregagh, Belfast was a fan of.

* Thursday nights, Channel Five

** The black country boys