The most memorable moment of yet another dreadful first half at Old Trafford was when Jonny Evans passed the ball back to David de Gea from near the half way line in the 22nd minute. A wayward corner from Ashley Young ended up with Daley Blind on the opposite flank. He passed to Evans near the halfway line who in turn passed to de Gea. Evans had no choice, he couldn’t pass safely to another United played where he was so he did what any sensible centre half would do. The howls of disapproval, most notably from the K Stand, were the angriest I’ve heard Old Trafford since the anti Moyes banner flew around Old Trafford last April. Some people thought that the crowd were having a go at Evans, but I think it was more a case of a pissed off crowd who had seen far too many moves evaporate this season in this manner. That there was no outfield player available to Evans to pass to is more a problem for his team mates as a collective, than it is any culpability for Evans after an attacking position moments earlier fell apart. Not for the first time this season, United fans chanted attack, attack, attack-attack-attack, however to my ears, this was shouted with a bit more vigour than usual.
Possibly the most terrifying image I’ve ever seen used to advertise a football match. Incidentally, Thriller by Michael Jackson is still available in all good record shops (while good record shops last)
A feisty Sunderland side who clearly fancied their chances Continue reading A Long Road Back – Manchester, March 1st 2015
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
Both teams provided a guard of honour for Sir Alex Ferguson who was then introduced by a brief tribute from David Gill. A minutes silence followed for Rememberance Sunday and then the game kicked off in a rousing atmosphere. In another listless United performance, another victory was scratched out against a mediocre but difficult team to beat. Wes Brown, a distinguished centre half who’d made 362 appearances over fourteen seasons and scored five goals for United inadvertantly added to that tally today. He had a knack of scoring important goals including the first goal in a European cup match against Juventus in 2003. the winner against Liverpool in a league match in March 2008 and the winner against a stubborn Crawley Town in the FA Cup earlier this year, which saved United’s blushes. Today, as if almost a goodbye present to his old friends at Old Trafford, he scored what could be a crucial winner again for United but this time he put the ball in his own net in first half injury time. When he left United in the summer just gone, I’d guess that you would have got good odds at the bookies on him scoring again for the reds.
A boisterous away support started singing “you urnly sing when you’re winning” just after the goal, but they really excelled themselves during half time. Old Trafford MC, Alan Keegan played a dreadful dirge that had been written in tribute to Ferguson. As thick skinned and hard faced as I am, I was cringing listening to it whilst over my right hand shoulder, I’m watching Sunderland fans swaying to this tune. It’s rare that I look on visiting supporters at Old Trafford with anything other than contempt but when I heard the Sunderland fans singing “what the fuckin’ hell was that” and with their hand waving, I found myself nodding in ammused agreement. They also shown some class when Danny Welbeck was substituted for Dimitar Berbatov, singing his name and applauding him off the pitch.
In a tense, forgetable and frustrating second half, the linesman signalled a penalty against United in the 65th minute after a penalty area scramble involving Ji Dong-Won, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Having not seen an action replay, I’ve no idea what the linesman saw wrong, all I saw was six of one and half dozen of the other but to Uniteds relief, the referee overruled the linesman.
In 1993, when the Old Trafford stadium was reconfigured, all the stands in the stadium were officially renamed to the points of a compass. United claimed this was on health and safety grounds, we, the humble fans believed that the club were pissing on eighty three years of tradition in Orwellian newspeak. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of Sir Alex Ferguson’s appointment, the club today announced that the North Stand, previously United Road, is now called the Sir Alex Ferguson stand. Now they’ve done that, can we now have the Stretford End back ?