This was a great win for United. Lucky, very lucky but a great win, and the luck has been overdue this season. Arsenal can (and knowing them, will) moan endlessly about the referee, Mike Dean, missing Marouane Fellaini’s push on Kieran Gibbs. This in turn led to United’s first goal, and then to Wojciech Szczesny’s rib injury. They will, like Match of the Day, conveniently ignore Jack Wilshere sticking his beak into Fellaini in the 30th minute. This was twelve minutes after Wilshere had sniffed at a chance of putting the home side in front when one-on-one with David de Gea.
United fans celebrating outside the stadium after the match
The longer Arsenal went without scoring, the more the anxiety rose within their team and supporters. United, with an inexperienced and makeshift defence, were in a state of siege in the first half. David de Gea was again outstanding. When United went in front with a Kieran Gibbs own goal in the 56th minute, the home side and fans visibly lost heart. The goal, which came from an Antonio Valencia ball which he just clobbered across the Arsenal box, was as comical Continue reading No Pleasing Some People – Manchester 22nd November 2014
United haven’t lost at Villa Park since a League Cup match in October 1999, which resulted in a 3-0 win for Villa. I say this as if ever United could’ve come a cropper at Villa Park since that night, it would’ve been today. Everton and Newcastle have both recently lanced long held unbeaten records at Old Trafford for United. With those results in mind, it wasn’t beyond the realms of ridicule that Aston Villa could end another long unbeaten run for United. That was the feeling ’til just after kick off.
United beat Shaktar Donetsk last Wednesday night in as low key a game as you can imagine at Old Trafford. Maybe the midweek result, courtesy of a rare Phil Jones goal, gave a United a badly needed confidence boost,something that had been badly lacking in the previous two games. The talk quietly emanating out of Aston Villa fans before the game was that United were there for the taking. There weren’t many United fans of my acquaintance who disagreed with that opinion. What nobody had banked on was just how bad Aston Villa would be. I’m sat here scratching my head like Stan Laurel wondering how Villa have somehow managed to beat both Arsenal and Man City. From what I saw today, Villa are garbage.
View from my seat amongst the Villa fans in the Witton End, as Wayne Rooney is about to take a late corner for United
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).
Three weeks ago, United played City and for the first time ever, I didn’t see a single ticket tout working a United game. The same thing happened yesterday at Arsenal’s stadium at Ashburton Grove. The circumstances though between the two games and lack of ticket grafters were radically different. For the derby, the local plod had decided on a zero tolerance policy for the enterprising free marketeers who work on Warwick Road, doing as the government tell them to do by going out and earning a living. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Yesterday at Arsenal, I did not come across a single person selling a ticket until the game had kicked off. The concourse was flooded with reds desperately trying to get tickets and there was absolutely nothing about. Through desperation, I tried jibbing my way into the ground. Twice I got in and twice some over-enthusiastic and underpaid jobsworth woke up at the very second I didn’t want them too. On the third attempt, I was clocked by a Policeman who’d saw me getting kicked out five minutes earlier. After he compared me to a feature of female genitalia, he advised me in Anglo Saxon language with all the humour you’d expect from a copper that I’d be spending some time courtesy of his friends and her majesty at Blackstock Road Police station if he saw me again. I didn’t want that to happen as they have a habit of releasing people minutes after the last train has left so you don’t even get a nights stay out of them. With resignation, I was walking towards Holloway Road to find a pub showing the match when I bumped into an Arsenal fan who offered me a spare for £200.00. Seconds after I told him this amateur once a season tout which orifice he could place his ticket, I heard a faint cheer go up and I was convinced United had scored. Due to the local mobile phone masts going berserk, it was a good five minutes before I could phone somebody to be greeted with the news that it was actually Arsenal who had scored with a goal by Theo Walcott. Continue reading An Old Fashioned Charabanc…Islington 29th of April 2013