United staunched by the Kompany men – Manchester 30th April 2012

Not a single save did City goalkeeper Joe Hart have to make tonight. The first ten minutes of tonights match was just like the last derby at Old Trafford and in a smaller way, like the Champions League final against Barcelona at Wembley last May. United came out very aggresive but were contained efficiently by a well marshalled City defence, lead by the ever improving Vincent Kompany.The main difference being that while United weren’t outclassed tonight, the correct team won.

Vincent Kompany heads City into the lead in first half injury time

Unlike last October, I never felt that United were under any pressure but I also felt from about twenty minutes in that if City scored, United would be fucked. United for all the aggresion and attacking intent looked well taken care of in the final third of the pitch. United won numerous corners but as per usual this season, never looked anywhere near scoring from one, or even the corner beating the first man. Every red who know’s their stuff knows that there’s a lot of work need doing on the team this summer, amongst many other things the signing of a player who can take a fucking corner would be nice. In injury time of a first half that resembled a game of chess, for once, Chris Smalling went to sleep and allowed himself to be hustled out of his marking position by Vincent Kompany. To say it was schoolboy defending would be unfair on schoolboys. I like Smalling and every player makes mistakes but to allow a player of Kompany’s heading ability a free header from six yards was a cardinal sin.

Manchester United Manager Alex Ferguson (L) And Manchester City's Italian Manager Roberto Mancini Speak </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>RESTRICTED TO AFP/Getty ImagesSir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini all smiles before the match

There was a lot of nervous anticipation in town tonight before the match. All the usual faces who you normally see at away matches were gracing (amongst others) pubs like the White Lion, Walkabout and Vera Duckworths Old Grapes pub with their presence. Having found the White Liion too packed, the walkabout with a one in-one out policy we went to the Grapes to watch the match via an Albanian TV link and a pub full of boisterous and lively reds. I only wish the lads and lasses in the Grapes tonight were out in the Commonwealth stadium supporting the lads rather than what we had in there. If any red is reading this, who went to the match please leave me a comment and let me know what the atmosphere was like in the United section as I still don’t know a soul who got a ticket for tonights match.

Football Fans Hold Up A 'No Diving' Sign As They Watch Manchester City Play Against Manchester United In An English AFP/Getty Images

City fans show homage to Francis Lee and their relief that Edin Dzeko isn’t playing

In a toothless second half performance, I knew in my guts after about fifty minutes that barring a miracle, United weren’t gonna score. Rooney was playing too deep, Nani was being well taken care of and Ji Sung Park’s lack of match fitness was painfully obvious. Bringing on Welbeck, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young was too little too late. This season we’ve all seen United scratch good points from hopeless positions but tonight, United come across the best domestic side they’ve come across this season. City fans, if not their players, will now think they’ve got a hand on the title. If they don’t win it, it’ll be through a collapse that only they are capable of but one thing is for sure, if City win the title from here-on-in, they’ll have deserved it and United will only have themselves to blame.


FC United Victorious in the absence of Northwich Victoria at Victory Park – Chorley 28th of April 2012

The drive to Chorley’s stadium was straight forward and to my surprise I got a ticket for this match easy enough. The most complicated thing was, after parking my car, working my way through the labyrinthine streets and ginnels surrounding Victory Park before finding the relative stability of Rangletts Park. After the huge demand for the play-off final away at Colwyn Bay last May, I have a feeling that getting a ticket for this season’s final which is away to Bradford Park Avenue next Saturday might be a bit tricky. One thing onside though is that Bradford PA’s stadium, the Horsfall, is a bit bigger than Colwyn Bay’s ground.


FC United’s barrel chested skipper, Kyle Jacobs, ready to lead the men out

Due to the expulsion of Northwich Victoria from the League Division they were playing in, FC have inadevertently benefitted from the sad goings on from Vic’s eviction from their stadium, which had only officially opened in 2006. There was general discomfort amongst some FC fans over the moral meritocracy of FC’s participation in the play offs but it’s not as if they’ve qualified for the play offs from any sharp or snide practice. I would rather FC had arrived there via the route of natural qualification but I don’t think FC fans should adopt a feeling of guilt akin to that which the Catholic establishment instils.


Chorley and FC United players shake hands pre-match, following the minutes applause in memoriam of former Gigg Lane ball boy Ben Obiora

Whatever the qualms of some FC followers, one thing is for sure, the FC team went for the win today at Chorley with a gutsy and stoic performance in a cold bitter wind and a playing area under a brooding battleship grey sky, only warmed up by the constant chanting and singing of FC fans. With the score 0-0 at half time, Ciaran Kilheeney nearly scored for Chorley early in the second half with a shot from 12 yards that hit the bar. FC’s powerful striker Michael Norton who’d constantly harrassed the Chorley keeper, Russ Saunders, in the first half, got his due reward on 64 minutes when he curled a beauty from the D of the eighteen yard box into the top left corner of Saunders’ goal. Near to me in the Pilling Lane end of Chorley’s Victory Park stadium, a distress flair goes off in celebration of Norton’s fantastic goal. Ten minutes later, Chorley thought they’d equalised but the goal was disallowed for what I later found out was a handball. I originally thought it had been a very harsh offside call, one thing I do know is that the referee hadn’t originally seen the linesman’s flag as the goal wasn’t actually disallowed for at least three/four seconds; an eternity when a goal’s been scored.

FC’s Astley Mulholland replaced the excellent Carlos Roca on 75 minutes and within six minutes of his introduction, he sealed the match with a dribble and a dink to completely bamboozle the Chorley defence and another distress flare went off. By this point of the match, I’d moved from the terrace to get a cup of coffee from the still open catering stall. Standing near the segregation line, I saw two coppers, one with a long lens camera and one with a camcorder filming the Pilling Lane End, aiming for the flare. I really hope the kid who used the flare covered his face up when he held it and the miserable bastards filming it didn’t get a decent picture.

There was such a heavy police presence at the Victory stadium today that I think that any local villainy would have been well advised to take the day off. The backdrop was of an antiquated stand where FC were allocated, a sealed off grass terrace but my favourite was shower of bog roll which rained down on the rear of the Chorley goal pre-kick off. It brought back memories of the Stretford End years ago. The most stark memory of all though was the image of the Chorley skyline – basically a chimney which had somehow escaped Fred Dibnah’s cull. The chimney had the logo of Morrison’s running down the side of it, resembling drool.

Chorley skyline

Judgment day Derby – A preview of a night of air that’s thick in downtown Beswick

You can always tell it’s a big match when there’s an announcement in the media that a load of tickets have been stolen for the forthcoming game. The first time I heard this was in 1983 when United were playing Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Cup final and an envelope containing tickets for the match had apparently vanished from Gary Bailey’s car. The fact that I have never heard of anybody being convicted for selling, being in possession or attempting to use a stolen ticket tells me that the police have been, at the very least, spectacularly unlucky in all these years of chasing the thieves who’ve stolen the tickets. Only the most cynical of people would think that these announcements were made to scare people from buying tickets off the child eatin’, puppy drowning, mother trading *ticket touts (City fans, please look to the bottom of the page). Ticket touts as we all know, use the proceeds from their labours to fund terrorism, the importation of drugs and facilitating prostitution.

Next Monday will be without doubt, the biggest Manchester derby to have happened in my lifetime. I first went to a Maine Road derby in September 1985, shortly after City’s promotion from the second tier, for a match which United won 3-0. It was the last time United ever outnumbered City in their home ground. In those days, virtually every United fan that wanted a ticket for Maine Road, got one. Over the years, particularly since the 5-1 in September 1989, it’s been harder and harder getting tickets for City away but this match next Monday, is the first time I can say that no United fan of my aquaintance has, to my knowledge, got a ticket for the game. I don’t even know anybody who knows anybody that’s got one either. Some of the more outlandish claims have been, that tickets for the United end, have been changing hands on the black market for £800.00. Hence the sheer coincidence of the announcement that tickets have been stolen, alluded to in the last paragraph.

I can’t say for sure who’s going to win Mondays match or the title. One thing I know is that whoever wins the title between the two Manchester clubs, the other team will spend all summer rueing a blown opportunity. City fans have recently been frantically washing the towels they threw in after their loss at Arsenal nearly three weeks ago. At the time, they tried being philosophical about United’s impending coronation. Suddenly, they were saying it’s a season too early. Absolute rubbish, City’s form in the first half of the season was that of champions, playing good football and winning games when they weren’t playing well. As for United, a dreadful performace at Wigan was compounded by losing a two goal lead to a mediocre Everton side last Sunday. I’m confident of one thing, if United defend as badly against City as they did against Everton, Monday night will be a horror show. We could have a situation where the league title is decided on goal difference for the first time since Arsenal’s magnificent win at Anfield in May 1989. SKY TV, never slow to hype up the most tedious of events, suddenly have a bona fide classic on their hands.


SKY Sports going for their usual understated subtlety

For years, City have been the cause célèbre of visiting southerners (love of the underdog), wacky students (hey, we’re ironic), groovy dudes that say cool a lot and people who finish their sentences as if asking a question? One thing City have done brilliantly over the last twenty or so years is manage to convince people that don’t live in Manchester that they’re the most popular team/club in Manchester. If you read the backpackers bible, the lonely planet (UK edition), they claim Manchester is mostly populated by blues. 18 year old fresher students who move to Manchester for three years are given info packs making the same claim, that the lonely planet make. It’s no wonder that so many of them end up getting a slap in their first couple of weeks in Manchester. We’ve also got ex cool cat (sic) and one man 1980s crimewave, Noel Gallagher, brainwashing everybody with his cat sat on the mat staring at the moon in june lyrics and re-cycled Beatles melodies, that Manchester is blue. We have the southern dominated national media spinning the same rubbish. They know very well the truth but the truth to them in this case, dosen’t make a good story (or in any other case come to think of it). They’re quiet happy to have the world believe that Manchester is inhabited by a load of rain soaked, flat capped, half witted and downtrodden lovers of mediocrity. The subtext of the mischievous media manipulation is that mancunians are not worthy of such a great club as Manchester United. Manchester people don’t appreciate the type of football played by United or the success the club enjoy. The reason that Old Trafford is mostly populated by southern tourists, is because they’re the only people in the UK sophisticated enough to appreciate the football. To use a culinary metaphor, United are the Kobe beef compared to City’s steak and kidney pudding. Us earthy northerners don’t go for that poncey rubbish, but of course…

*To any City fans that may be reading this, a ticket tout is somebody who trades in tickets at sold out events for a premium. Obviously the only time they normally get seen at Eastlands is when there’s a rock/pop concert on 

Toffees provide a sticky day at Old Trafford – Manchester, April 22nd 2012

This game had banana skin written all over it. If form and logic held sway, United would’ve won without too much of a problem but you can never take anything for granted when playing a side managed by David Moyes. On eighty minutes, the K stand were singing a new song to the tune of Down by the riverside, about winning the title at City’s ground. Seven minutes later they’d stopped singing that song as Everton, through some suicidal defending by Rafael had come back from 4-2 down to make it 4-4 with goals from Nikica Jelavic and Steven Pienaar.

football3: Manchester United v Everton - Premier LeagueSteven Pienaar pokes home from close range to draw Everton level (4-4)

A nervous and subdued Old Trafford had watched a poor first half end 1-1 after Nikica Jelavic had put Everton in front on 33 minutes. I couldn’t say this goal was against the run of play because the game was so scrappy, there was no run of play for it to be against. What it did was to wake United out of the previous inertia, Scholes went close a couple of minutes later from 18 yards and Wayne Rooney equalised against his boyhood club on 41 minutes.

football: Manchester United v Everton - Premier LeagueEverton’s Nikica Jelavic rises at the far post and loops a header over the stranded David De Gea into the far corner of the Stretford End net to make it 1-0 for Everton

Coming out honours even in the second half and United finally played with some aggression. A fantastic goal from Danny Welbeck on 57 minutes calmed some nerves although it was particularly controversial with Everton fans over my right hand shoulder due to United playing on when Steven Pienaar was lying injured nearby. Three minutes later, United looked to have had the game in the bag when Nani dinked the ball over former United keeper Tim Howard. For the next five minutes, United look good for running riot but the first real doubts of the afternoons outcome arrives when Marouane Fellaini volleys past David De Gea on 67 minutes. When Wayne Rooney re-asserts Uniteds two goal lead, two minutes later, there’s a sense of relief but I knew there was a long time to go. As long as there was though and as well as Everton attacked to blow a two goal lead at home in the last ten minutes against a team as ordinary as them is sacrilegious. The most annoying thing is that as mediocre a side that Everton are, they deserved this draw.

football: sportWayne Rooney heads United level on 41 minutes

Sir Alex Ferguson will no doubt be livid about this collapse. Uniteds next match is against City at their stadium. How he can inspire confidence into United after this debacle with City now looking to have found their form again is where we’ll see his legendary man management skills come to the fore. Next weeks match at City is now far bigger than we thought it was going to be fourteen short days ago. That it’s come to this is typical United. This title run in is begining to resemble the title run in of 1992 in regards to the premature overconfidence of United fans, particularly at the Blackburn game three weeks ago.

football: Manchester United v Everton - Premier LeagueNani makes it 3-1 for United, seems like a lifetime ago now

One other thing I heard this week was a proposal from some United fan with more money than sense to pay for trumpets, trombones and drums to be used by reds in the mooted singing section in the newly re-vamped and re-allocated Old Trafford Paddock. When I first heard it, I thought it was a belated April fool joke but it appears that this idea is for real. While this guy might be doing this with the best of intentions, we’re United and don’t need somebody blowing a f$ck%n horn to try and get the atmosphere going. We’ll leave that to the collective of village idiots that follow England. I remember being at a match between United and Portsmouth in April 2009 where a pompey fan just over the segregation line from me, spent nearly all game blowing a cacophony into trombone, which slightly got up my nose. I intend on getting a season ticket in this section next season and if I find somebody using a trombone or trumpet near me then I’ll stick it so far up their arse they’ll be farting in the key of E#.

Northwich Vics beaten by big bad Wolfenden – FC United, Gigg Lane, 21st of April 2012

FC United needed to beat Northwich Victoria today at Gigg Lane and hope that Hedenesford lost at home to Worksop to qualify for the promotion places. FC kept their side of the bargain by beating a hapless looking Northwich Victoria 4-1 at Gigg lane but Hednesford drew 0-0 at home to seal the final place in the play offs.

That should really be it but due to due to all the shenanigans going on at Northwich Victoria of such a complex nature, that it would take a book the width of a wagon wheel to properly explain, FC United have a faint chance of qualifying for the play offs. I was listening to FC’s general manager, Andy Walsh, being interviewed on Radio Manchester and he was clearly uncomfortable with the possibilty of FC United inadvertantly profiting due to the demise of one of the oldest football clubs in the world. Prior to Andy Walsh’s comments, there was a report on the goings on at Northwich that had Radio Manchester presenter, Jack Dearden so bamboozled that he was almost lost for words when he had to take control of the programme, once the report finished.

Today before the kick off at Gigg Lane, there were people handing out A4 sized red cardboard, the intention being to register protest at the going’s on at Northwich Vics. On the 18th and 74th minute of the match, to symbolise the year of 1874, the year of Northwich Vics formation,  fans of both FC and Northwich Vics in a show of solidarity, conscientiously held up the red cardboard as requested. The pragmatist in me wonders what good if any will come of the protest due to my belief that the hard faced bastards who have placed Northwich Vics in such peril, will not be too concerned that a crowd of 2542 proles expressed dismay or anger at what’s going on. Nobody will be happier than me if I’m proved wrong on this.

Red cards held up by FC United fans in solidarity with Northwich Victoria followers

As stated before, FC demolished an apparently demoralised Northwich Vics team 4-1. FC were 2-0 up at half time. On 24 minutes, Jake Cotteral smashed in a half volley from six yards and nine minutes later Stephen Johnson made it 2-0 for FC despite howling protest from Vics keeper Ben Hinchliffe. A goalmouth scramble akin to what’s seen on Turn Moss every Sunday morning and a howler from Vics keeper helped Matthew Wolfenden make it 3-0 for FC three minutes into the second half. Fifteen minutes later, Wolfenden got his second of the afternoon and from this stage, FC took their foot off the pedal. Ryan Clarke did claw a consolation goal for a well beaten Northwich late in the match.

FC United’s Stephen Johnson being challenged by Northwich midfielder Tom Field. Picture: Paul Simpson

Today’s match programme at FC had, amongst other things, an interview with Man Uniteds poet laureate Eric Cantona. A man who speaks with a prose similar to Bob Dylan and has the rebellious iconoclasm of John Lennon & Morrissey, anybody who knows me knows I can’t give any higher praise, this was a great coup for FC to have this interview in their programme. As you’d probably expect, it was a great interview. I’m not going to repeat any quotes from Eric here, if you want to read it then buy the programme from the link below, while you can.