Archive for February, 2002
Nantes came to Old Trafford believing they deserved to beat us in France. However, my memory of events seemed to suggest we had spent 90 minutes tearing them apart and were unlucky not win. So both sides entered this match with a point to proove, fortunately the French to feel hard done by yet again.
Due to traffic we arrived at the ground later than planned, but just made it in for kick off. Nantes started brightly and in typical fashion our sloppy defence gave them an early lead. This lead only lasted for a few minutes though, thanks to a spectacular Beckham free kick that smashed into the net. From that momengt United took control of the game and before too long were 3-1 up due to headers from Silvestre and Ole. Nantes were not out of the game and smashed a shot against the inside of the post before half time, which would have put the pressure on United had it gone in.
In the second half the reds took total control. A penalty from Ruud and another Ole header put the shine on a good victory, with some strong individual performances. Blanc was steady yet again at the back, and Keane as usual worked his socks off. But most notably was the improved performance of Veron who stroked the ball about beautifully ,spreading the play and controlling the pace of the match. Becks must get praise for scoring his free kick and assisting a couple more. Ruud also deserves credit as he worked hard all night and was more than worth his goal.
Whilst United cruised to victory Liverpool were held to a draw in Turkey. We top our table whilst they prop up the bottom of theirs. Form is temporary, class is permenant. Champions!!
United have a bad record in games immediately following European ties, yet against Villa it was the crowd who were still hung over. After exhausting trips to Nantes a lot of the United faithful could simply not find the energy for another morning kick off. (see Nantes away fans view report for details)
The players, however, looked fresh and passed the ball around well. Most notable was Veron who for 25 mins controlled the game superbly and showed why he is a class player. There were few clear chances in the first half, Ruud missed a one on one that he should have buried, and Villa offered little to the game. At half time 0-0 seemed a reasonable score.
United started brightly in the second half and it was not long before Ruud was on queue yet again to roll the ball into the net. There really is something special about him, he is a born winner.
As the game went on United took control of the game ansd passed the ball around with ease. Villa rarely looked a threat, with the exception of a great run from Darius Vassel. The final whistle went and it was 3 points, a clean sheet, and an injury free game. Results like these win championships, now roll on the return leg with Nantes.
We arrived in London at 5pm tuesday afternoon, but it was not until 11pm that James realised he had left his passport in Leeds. So at 4am he picked me up again having been back to fetch it, and we set off (again), this time with Stoopid Jonny and Wisey on board. The ferry journey from Portsmouth to Le Havre was pretty awful, made all the worse by Wisey atempting to do his uni coursework that involved multiplying various numbers using the formula lbf/in2-N/m2. The following 4 hour drive to Nantes was uneventful, yet due to bad timing we double parked on the motorway hard shoulder and only made it to the ground just before kick off.
The stadium itself was impressive, yet the home fans had only come to see United. The reds built up the atmosphere and a great match followed. United looked shaky at the back but made up for it with attack after attack. Wisey had suggested just after half time that he fancied Ruud scoring a penalty in stoppage time, and score he did. He sent the travelling contingent of reds into a mad frenzy confirming his hero status.
After the game we sung our way back to the car, now with Scorah joining our adventure. First on the agenda was food, and after a couple of steak and chips later it was time for drink. On return to the hotel it became clear that a few reds were taking advantage of a barman who kept leaving his bar unguarded. An hour later his fully stocked bar was down to a couple of bottles and songs filled the bar, namely “ooh aah free bar”!
Waking up early thursday morning on Wisey’s hotel room floor we set off having had little sleep. The five hour journey back to Le Havre involved driving straight through a 1 Euro toll (about 60p!) on pure principle that we had already paid enough of them. The 2 hour ferry delay was no suprise, but this was made up for by the ferry having amazing facilities. We took full advantage of the fact that for £20 each we were given a swimming pool, sauna and gym; although the pool was virtually empty due to the boat rocking. Next we piled into the onboard casino that won me back the entire cost of the trip due to my pontoon playing ability.
We made it back to Leeds for 4am. It was a classic Euro away and it didnt even cost me a penny in the end. Bring on Boavista, but remember your passport James.
United were at their very best today. This was a scoreline that flattered the visitors, and they could do nothing to stop wave after wave of red attack.
The day started on a rather more sombre note with a few hundred fans singing under the Munich memorial to mark the anniversary of the death of Sir Matt Busby. It was a great tribute, organised by GezM, that Sir Matt himself would have been proud of. Once inside the ground the atmosphere was far more cheerful, as United were presented with the Premiership trophy to mark winning 3 titles in a row. We questioned why we were given it only now and not earlier, and the more cynical amongst us suggested it was because a change of sponsor meant a new trophy was needed anyway.
The game itself was one to savour. Fast, fluent passing tore Sunderland apart time after time. Keano drove forwards, Giggs turned defence inside out, Beckham fired from all angles, and Ruud was typically dangerous up front. It only took 5 minutes for United to take the lead; a great team move finished with a lethal finish by none other than Phil Neville. Mocking cheers of ‘Phil will tear you apart again’ echoed around Old Trafford and the tine of the afternoon was set.
Sunderland equalised soon after; a great solo effort from kevin Phillips. Yet it did not take long for United to take control of the game and a fantastic free kick from Becks put the reds back in front. Soon after Ruud received the ball with his back to goal, but in a second he turned and smashed the ball into the net. It was no more than a half chance but he made it look easy. Soon after Giggs was held back in the area and Ruud made it 4 from the spot.
It was quite incredible that United did not increase their lea in the second half. For 90 minutes they poured forwards with terrific fast flowing football, the type of play they dream of seeing at Anfield. Most notable was the return to form of David Beckham who worked hard and apart from scoring a great free kick also hit the post, forced a good save from the keeper, and set up many other red attacks.
As was sung below the Munich memorial, ‘Man United will never die.’ And today was a great example fo how United cannot be kept down. Arsenal dropped points and Liverpool face Leeds tomorrow. The title race is hotting up all the time, and judging by today’s performance the bookies are right to make United favourites.