Archive for September, 2001
The phrase ‘it’s a game of two halves’ was made for this encounter. Three down at half time, and we still managed to win by two goals; United are back. Yet again Ferguson’s gambles paid off, with three new signings grabbing vital goals in this memorable comeback.
Apologies to all those who wanted to read my report on the Ipswich game last week, due to a heavy work load I never got around to writing it. I did not travel to Corunya but I hear it was a great trip despite the final score.
For me Spurs away is a very attractive fixture. Traditionally Tottenham are an attacking team and United always seem to score. The away fans are given a good section of the ground and the games are always entertaining; today was no exception. And on a personal note White Hart Lane is only a couple of miles from my house so it’s a luxury to be home 45 minutes after the final whistle!
As seems to happen in far too many games recently United started off slowly. It was not too long before the champions were 2-0 down and the part time Spurs fans started to actually get behind their team and sing. Just before the break United conceded a third and it seemed to be the killer blow. It’s been a long time since I’ve witnessed such a sombre atmosphere amongst the travelling reds at half time, but quite simply it was a dismal performance.
I have no idea what Sir Alex said in the dressing room but it certainly did the trick. Within a minute of the restart Coley had pulled one back, and then goals from Blanc and Van Nisteltrooy sent the away fans into ecstasy. Memories of Hillsborough on Boxing Day 1993 came back, yet this time Veron and Becks gave us even more goals and we walked away with all three points. With ten minutes left on the clock most of the Spurs fans had left and the away end was full of happy bouncing Mancs going through the full range of songs all at full volume.
I’ve watched the highlights several times now, and quite clearly this was one of the greatest comebacks ever. As Clive Tydlesley commentated on ITV in Barcelona, “Down and out not a bit of it, they’re never out.” Lets just hope his other claim, “name on the trophy,” can also be achieved. This victory could be just what the lads need to make their mark on this year’s Premier League. Champions.
Due to a family dinner I had accepted that I would have to miss the Lille game. Yet at the last minute I jumped on a train to Manchester and hoped that I wouldn’t suffer the consequences too much. Unfortunately for me the only serious repercussion of going was having to sit through the worst performance I’ve seen United put on at home for a very long time. If it had not been for Beckham’s stoppage time winner I would certainly have preferred to get my teeth into my aunt’s cooking than watch the game.
United put out a full strength team and without being too confident I expected a fairly comfortable victory. Lille were a much better team that I had contemplated, and it should be noted had knocked out Parma to qualify for the group. They held up the ball well and made some promising attacks, but they were still a side that United should not be worried about.
For the reds it just seemed to be one of those days where nothing quite worked. The players worked hard but it seemed every fifty-fifty ball fell to Lille player, and all the nifty touched did succeed. Surprisingly, after his excellent performance at Newcastle Veron looked under par, and with one exception Giggsy was dispossessed ever time he got the ball. My mind started to cast back to the home game against Zagreb a few years ago which similarly ended 0-0, and as the crowd headed to the exits I realised the goal just was not going to come.
Just as I accepted we were not going to score up popped Becks and we had won the game. Suddenly on reflection certain players HAD played well, notably Wes Brown, and we had kept our first clean sheet. Yet despite the scoreline any red who witnessed the game will admit that Lille were unlucky to walk away empty handed.
On the journey home I sat on the train with a Stockport fan on his way home having just seen his team lose 2-1 at home to Sheffield United. However much I complain about our poor performance it’s reassuring to know that it is only because we have come to expect so much in recent years. Ed the Stockport fan will probably never see his team play Juventus, Bayern, Inter Milan and some of the other names that we have beaten in recent years. None of us can be sure of what lies ahead, so make the most of the present. Look every Scouser in the eyes and think ‘Champions’, look at every Leeds fan gloating about their European run last year and think ‘Treble’, look at every other fan in the country and laugh out loud. United, loyal and proud.
The train up to Newcastle from London was surprisingly trouble free. It arrived on time and most people were heading up for the Great North run; there was hardly a Geordie in sight. We pulled in to the station at 2ish and walked straight to the ground, which looked very impressive from the outside. After a ridiculous climb to the top of the highest tier we clambered to get our breath back and found our seats with an almost bird’s eye view of the pitch.
The game itself was fantastic if you were a neutral or a Geordie. Much is said about the part time support of the Newcastle fans, and they were baited about their low Worthington Cup attendance midweek, but no one could deny their fanaticism against us. The crowd was the loudest I have heard for a long time and the United response was impressive too with renditions of all the usual songs.
The United fans went crazy when we equalised but as usual of late we threw it away and were 3-1 down soon after half time. Our defence looked shaky throughout but due to Veron and Keane’s magnificent determination, goals from Sabre and Giggs soon brought us level. The game deserved at least a draw and unfortunately it was Newcastle who got a winner despite valiant efforts by Scholes.
After the game there was a cup final like atmosphere in the city. Beating United was the most Geordies could hope for in a season that has seen them already get knocked out the Intertoto cup to part timers Troyes. As usual they’ll win fuck all and we will probably win the league, in which case they can have their three points for now.
The journey home was tedious. Trouble on the train by a bunch of racist West Ham fans who abused the rail staff on their way back from Boro meant the train was held up by the police, and we did not get back until midnight. But despite the vile Hammers fans and the result it was a good day with an exciting game and a great atmosphere. Bring on Lille midweek; we don’t look as shaky at home.
As usual the journey up from London was awful; a 5 mile tail back on the M6 meant that I missed a meeting with Peter Kenyon and Paddy Harveson. We got to the ground at about 2.30 and, as can be expected when we play Scousers, there was a buzz around Old Trafford. We had a quick sing on the forecourt and then headed up to the Strettie tier 2.
When the teams came out I was surprised to see so many players rested, and it seemed there would be a lot of responsibility for Veron, who was our only proven creative player on the pitch. He lapped up the opportunity and from the very start controlled the game with his unique ability to put through defence splitting passes. Equally awesome was Wes Brown who stood tall at the back, and alongside Laurent Blanc our defense looked very assured.
The atmosphere was the same as usual; loud in tier two but disappointing everywhere else. The Scousers were taunted with anti-Scouse songs culminating in ‘If you all hate scousers clap your hands’ and ‘get to work you lazy twats’. A few us tried to get a new song going but it never took off. It was worded ‘You are a Scouser, an ugly scouser, you’re only happy on giro day. When dad’s out stealing, your mam’s drug dealing, please don’t take my hubcaps away.’
Mid way through the second half when United were 3-0 and cruising suddenly the mood changed. Everton got a soft goal back and our defense started to look a bit vulnerable. The Scousers got all giddy and got behind their team for once. Becks came off the bench and grabbed a goal to put the game out of reach, and the scousers got bitter. They started singing Munich songs at which point the whole of Old Trafford replied with cries of ‘You Scouse Bastards’.
Despite the slight lapse of concentration in the second half United looked like they had rediscovered their form. As an added bonus Liverpool lost, and Chelsea, Leeds, Arsenal (and our temporary challengers Bolton) all drew. As usual it seems all the tabloid talk of a crisis at United was unfounded, and even with out poor form we are second in the league. ‘We’re shit, and we’re champions.’ Here’s hoping that the big guns return to shoot down Olympiakos midweek.
More from me when I get back from the Toon next Saturday.