Heads Held High, We’ll Never Die – Manchester 5th of March 2013

Walking down Wharfside Way* tonight towards Old Trafford, the lights on the East Stand seemed to shine a little brighter than usual. I’m sure it was just an optical illusion but there was a real air of excitement and nervous anticipation tonight for the game and the senses were heightened. Besuited and grizzled old school reds, one or two smoking a stogie were hanging around on the forecourt and the tickets on the black market were coming to figures that could pay for some peoples season tickets. It’s been a while since a match involving United had such a magnitude of excitement in the build up. Even with the corny mosaic and plastic flags left in United Road and the officially sanctioned Manchester United banner without the legend ”football club” being in the crest, the atmosphere in the ground was the best I’ve witnessed since the semi final against Barcelona in 2008. Old Trafford is made for nights and matches like the one we had tonight.


Real Madrid won tonight with a certain dignity and I have no bad feeling towards them. I won’t exactly be rooting for them to win the tournament, but compared to Bayern Munich in 2010 when I happily cheered the leathering they got off Internazionale in the Bernabau, I wish Real well. As for the Turkish referee, Cüneyt Çakir, whoever delegated him to officiate this game wants sacking. United didn’t lose tonight due to a referee who had a preference for Real Madrid but due to a referee who was officiating in front of the biggest audience he was ever going to be in front of. Ronaldo, Kaka, Giggs, Van Persie et al, worldwide renowned and respected footballing superstars were out on the pitch but tonight Cüneyt Çakir was going to the star of the show in front of the inestimable millions watching around the world on television. Bill Shankly once said that the best referees were the ones you didn’t notice, you had no chance of that with this prick in the middle. You can play a team as good as Madrid and get a result but even with a goal start, it’s very hard if not impossible to play them with a man down with over half an hour to go. When Nani went for that fateful ball with Álvaro Arbeloa on 57 minutes, he injured himself as much as anybody else. He may not be my favourite United player (to put it mildly) but he is not a malicious player. Whilst Nani was on the floor being treated by United physio Rob Swire, I could tell by the referees body language that a card was eventually going to be shown. That he waited ’til Nani was back up on his feet and walking to the touchline to brandish the red card was in his sense of theatre. There was a disbelieving gasp around me and I originally thought that Nani must’ve said something out of order.


When United went in front through a Sergio Ramos own goal, not a lot changed. Real Madrid came into the match needing to score at least once but this goal gave United a buffer after a cagey and mutually respectful first half. Ronaldo and Kaka looked as dangerous as you’d expect but they were well marshalled by Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. Whilst not impregnable, United’s defence looked solid and disciplined in the first half. After the Nani sending off, the United half of the pitch began to resemble the Alamo. There was a resigned inevitability amongst reds about Luka Modric’s equaliser nine minutes after the referee’s intervention. I believed it would be a miracle after the sending off for United to keep the score to 1-0 but now I was praying in the forlorn hope of United somehow holding out for penalties with 10 men and 25 minutes of normal time to go (not to mention extra time). Cristiano Ronaldo took care of that hope a couple of minutes later by turning up ghostlike on the far post to turn in a low Gonzalo Higuaín cross. While Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo missed good chances after Ronaldo’s winner, Madrid stand in keeper Diego Lopez made some great saves from Nemanja Vidic, Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney. United lost and a loss it was, no messin’ about with moral victories, leave that to the smaller clubs but United go out tonight with heads held high, we’ll never die!

 *formerly Trafford Park Road

10 thoughts on “Heads Held High, We’ll Never Die – Manchester 5th of March 2013”

  1. Glad you’re sticking to you guns and not claiming moral victories (You’ve got to drop to the third tier before you can start claiming these 😉 …
    I only saw the highlights – what was the ref like other than “the decision” – was he consistent/ poor/ indifferent?… interesting that the same ref sent off Balotelli against Kiev for us the other year… for kicking someone in the chest…admittedly he was eyeballing the player at the time…oops!
    See you soon Tony

    1. I thought the referee had a poor game throughout but the most memorable decision is obviously the Nani one. I don’t believe he was on the take or favoured any team and he may be good referee under normal circumstances but as far as I was concerned, the occasion got to him and he was more interested in leaving his mark on the game than actually refereeing a top match of football. Apparently this fella is in the so called elite list of UEFA officials, that’s the most worrying thing, we’re bound to come across this dickhead again.

      As for Balotelli in Kiev, do you mean the night Kolarov gave him a smack in the face at half time and Balotelli came back out for the second half with a swollen kisser and blaming it on a grass alergy? I don’t remember Balotelli getting sent off that night but I’ll bow to your superior knowledge. One thing I will say while I’m here is that you are well rid of that clown. Sure he’s a good player but the cons outweigh the pro’s with him

  2. It was a very dubious decision and I thought very harsh (Ironic that Keano and Souness, 2 of the hardest midfielders ever to play the game thought it was a red though) yet I don’t think we should focus on the ref, let’s face it Rafael handled it on the line also.
    We only have ourselves to blame, we (RVP) missed too many chances at the Bernabeau, we couldn’t score in the first half at OT when Madrid were woeful. To a certain extent Madrid only had 10 for a lot of the match as Ronaldo was a ghostly figure.
    Nope we lost this by not creating or taking enough chances, it was there for us to win and we didn’t.
    I will never understand the Rooney omission.

    1. Maybe so regarding the Rooney ommission but United were doing alright without him until the sending off. There’s definetly something political though with Rooney, it’s well known that things were never the same between him and Fergie after the transfer request fiasco of October 2010. Add to that, we all remember the disciplinary thing that happened over Christmas last season when he and Darron Gibson went out with their wives for a drink in Southport on Boxing Day and for which he ended up serving a club fine and suspension (Gibson was sold post haste). The same night Giggs was pictured in Mulligans having a pint a nothing was done about it. Cards were clearly marked.

  3. UEFA did it again. The world looks on, and they put a incompetent in charge. His fault. No. Out of his depth?, no question. A match of different footballing cultures needs the most experienced man. It makes you wonder why the biggest game on the planet, was given to such as him. Would UNITED have won without his misjudgement,nobody knows. What we do know is that everyone in the UNITED squad will have learned a lot last night. Experiences like that are not available on any training ground. How they recover in time for the tie with chewc will give us fans an idea who has got the bollox for a fight. And Fergie will be looking for some kind of reaction. ROONEY! are you up for it.

  4. I was at the match last night, it had all of the hype and anticipated spectacle that one would reasonably expect when two of the biggest clubs in the world prepare to do battle. Jose was superb by the way and looked like a man waiting to take the throne..
    Anyway, the bigger talking point for me was the Rooney decision – the referee was crap and spoilt the whole game for both teams and managers – and of course some of the fans – thats what happens when we have a racist, outdated octogenarian deciding that football would be ruined by video replays.
    Sir Alex is a genius and who are we to criticise a decision but as a season ticket holder I’d like to think I was entitled to ask why? Why on the biggest stage, with the biggest game for the biggest prize would you leave out Rooney? On his day he is worth 2 players which means we could have afforded to lose one and still have 11!

    Be interested to hear the tacticians (I’m not one) explain it in words I could understand.

  5. I think the most disappointing aspect of the situation is that it was so beautifully poised. We were ahead but they had more of the ball and were pressing. For all we know, the scoreline might well have ended up the same anyway, but with Nani off, Danny Welbeck had to cover on the left and Xabi Alonso, a shadow of his normal self up until that point, suddenly had the freedom of Old Trafford. Mourinho was smart enough to bring on Modric to ram home their advantage and the outcome was inevitable.

    Really it’s just a shame that a genuinely fascinating contest was ruined by a dismal piece of refereeing. Still, it has happened before and will no doubt happen again. As for Roy Keane, he may have been a legend as a player, but as a pundit he’s just a self-opinionated eejit who’s trying to carve out a niche as Mr Controversy. Have another prawn sandwich, Roy, and shut up….

  6. You’re right Andy, the result could’ve ended up the same with 11/11, personally I don’t think Madrid would’ve got anymore than a draw but it’s all hypothetical, the referee’s had and is still having his fifteen minutes. As for Roy Keane, he’s a bit like Mark Hughes, a grudge with the manager has jaundiced his whole view of the club. Like Hughes, he was a great player for United and also like Hughes, he can now fuck off.

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