Uniteds dads army are the union at Norwich, a despatch from a small town near Ipswich, 26th February 2012

This Friday marks the 21st anniversary of the debut of Ryan Giggs, a match when he came on as a sub in an awful match at Old Trafford against Everton where the Toffees ran out deserved 2-0 winners. Today, Ryan Giggs scored what could be a priceless injury time winner, 899 matches later against a Norwich side who, on balance of play, deserved a draw. The goal was greeted by the United fans in the Jarrold Stand at Carrow Road with the kind of primal roar which normally greets winning goals against Liverpool. There was none of the laconic cool that a good chunk of United’s support and Giggs himself sometimes demeans when United score, everybody, Giggs included, went f$ck%n mental when this goal went in. This goal mattered.

I was expecting a tricky game for United today. No matter how poor their recent form is, Norwich, like a lot of other teams always raise their game when playing against United Last time United came here in April 2005, a soon to be relegated Norwich side played United off the park to win 2-0 in what was one of United’s worst performances in recent memory. In October last year, United beat Norwich 2-0 on a gorgeous late summer’s day at Old Trafford but anybody who remembers that match will remember that the final score concealed a whole multitude of sins. Today’s weather was just as unseasonably pleasant and was looking even better on 7 minutes when Paul Scholes ghosted in on the far post to
head United into the lead.

Such is United’s way though that once an opponent is on the back foot nowadays, United don’t go in for the kill. A shell shocked Norwich were allowed back into the game by some typically sloppy passing from United today. Nani in particular had a shocking game and that’s before I yet again, mention his corners, which are now a recurring theme of a bad dream. David De Gea was again outstanding, on 28 minutes he saved with his feet from a low drive from Anthony Pilkington after a chipped cross from Kyle Naughton. Six minutes later he saved a glancing header from Grant Holt. On 83 minutes, an unusually poor ball from Paul Scholes across his eighteen yard line started the sequence of events which give Norwich their deserved equaliser. Norwich sub, Aaron Wilbraham forces another great save from David De Gea which leaves the United keeper conceding a corner. From the resulting corner, powerful Norwich centre forward Grant Holt controls a Zak Whitbread knockdown, to fire a belter past a despairing and faultless David De Gea.

Suddenly, United start playing again and force pressure on Norwich. Danny Wellbeck, who’d had a great game missed a free header four minutes after Norwich equaliser. It all looked like too little too late until Ryan Giggs, even at this late stage of his career stole three points for United.

Today’s been a long day. I got to Chorlton Street bus station at 7am to pick up the Red Issue/United We Stand coach. There was all kind’s of waifs and strays walking about, young lads and lasses coming out of nearby all nighters and hungover reds stood on Chorlton street in sullen silence wondering what the hell they were doing there at this hour. We got to Norwich at midday and were directed by an unusually pleasant and helpful policeman to the Compleat Angler pub on Prince of Wales road, by the banks of the River Wensum. On the bus going to and from Norwich, the reds were in good wit and fine voice. Chants of “De Gea, De Gea de David De Gea” to the tune of SL2s old rave classic
On a ragga tip (a tune I first heard on an all nighter in the Banshee, Oxford street 20 years ago). There were also a new chant of “Viva Ronaldo” which included in these Glazerian times, the very optimistic line of put him on a plane, bring him back from Spain. My favourite though was the chant of You are Scholes, Scholes, always believe in Paul Scholes
which went to the tune of “Gold” by Spandau Bollocks (sic). Why chants like these never take off in the ground is beyond me. It took an hour to get out of Norwich today after the game, but the locals kept us all well entertained with their middle and duel fingered salutes. It’s very hard to take seriously, anybody aiming abusive gestures while wearing Norwich shirts. .

After the recent impressive rendition by Ajax fans, the Bob Marley classic Three Little Birds has caught the imagination of United fans. If you’re gonna be influenced by visiting fans in European competition, I’d rather it be that song, than us standing with our backs to the game looking wacky. In the coach park today as we were boarding the home bound bus, there was a fella in the corner, really getting into the spirit of the song by singing don’t worry about de ting, cos every li’l ting’s gonna be alright.

On the way to Carrow Road today, I also read the newly published Sun on Sunday and headed straight to Roy Keane’s column. Having read it, I couldn’t believe how bland and forgettable it was. It saddened me to see a man of his integrity, honesty and principle put his name to such a load of pony. A man for whom I’ve always had awesome respect, for his candour and selfless, almost psychopathic endeavour on the pitch for United. If he dosen’t watch himself, he could end up being an embittered gobshite in the mould of Emlyn Hughes and Malcolm McDonald.

There was a lot of understandable dissent and disillusion when Paul Scholes returned to United’s squad for the cup match at City, nearly two months ago. Whilst it’s farcical that a club of United’s size and money generating capabilities are reliant on a returning retiree to galvanise them, it’s no surprise to anybody who’s not been burying their heads in the sand, that this has been coming since the Glazer burglary commenced in May 2005. Whatever the rights and wrongs of United’s hand to mouth transfer policy, one thing is agreed by everybody, Paul Scholes has been sensational since returning to United’s squad from what now looks like a much needed refreshing sabbatical, as opposed to retirement. United have never properly replaced the aforementioned Roy Keane, but have won four league titles and a European cup, since his acrimonious departure in the autumn of 2005. Paul Scholes’s absence this season was so keenly felt that he ending up coming back and replacing himself. What happens when he and Ryan Giggs finally call it a day, God only knows.