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United 1 Espanyol 0 - Ole’s farewell

Oh how good it is to be back at Old Trafford. A summer without any proper football has seemed to last for an eternity and this was a chance to re-group and sing once more for both the European Champions and for Ole. Why we played Espanyol for Ole’s testimonial I don’t know, but it was almost an irrelevant factor anyway. This was about the man himself and even though he only played 25 minutes, his name was sung throughout. The celebrations started before kick off when Peter Schmeichel came on the pitch to talk about Barcelona and his time with Ole at United. This was followed by the teams coming onto the pitch and forming a tunnel for Ole, who then emerged from the tunnel with his kids, and more importantly also with the European Cup! He looked almost embarrassed to be the centre of attention but that was not going to stop anyone giving him the adulation he deserves.The match was dull and the atmosphere was pretty flat. It was clear the crowd was not the usual hardcore, and the cries of Ole were rather high pitched at times. My part of the Strettie- the lower tier for a change as when I had applied my own seats were not on sale- was full of children and happy families which is great but not so good for the noise levels. Whilst Ole got an ovation every time he warmed up at the side, it was almost as if Moscow had never happened as the crowd made no reference to John Terry’s penalty or VDS’ dramatic save from Anelka. There were a few cries of stand up for the champions but that aside this was seemingly about Ole not the fact this was the first game since Moscow. On the pitch things were not especially entertaining although it must be said that Tevez was phenomenal. The first half ended as a draw and at half time we were treated/ subjected (delete as appropriate) to a rendition of Barcelona by a member of G4 and then, more suitably, to an interview with Teddy Sheringham. Teddy was class- cheeky and cocky as ever- and when asked about being a possible number 2 coach at United he replied ‘well I’ve heard there might even by a number 1 job going soon’. He recalled the last few minutes at Barcelona and said him and Ole had both wanted it to go to extra time as they had just come on and still felt fresh. He also suggested Ole had grabbed all the headlines and stopped him being the hero!! The second half was terrible, with constant substitutions and an indication that the teams were both far from full fitness. However, with 25 minutes to go Ole emerged to take his place on the pitch. The noise was fantastic and he was given the applause he warranted after over a decade of fantastic service, unquestioned loyalty and shear class. No one expected him to be any good, due to both a lack of match fitness and injury, but he really turned on the style. The whole game changed as he made chances, floated in crosses, twisted players inside out on the edge of the area and had two shots that he was incredibly unlucky not to score from. Why or how the keeper saved his first ferocious shot I don’t know. Ole may not have scored but his introduction changed the game and inspired a passage of play that United did indeed win the game from. The goal itself may have been a Giggs threaded ball to Frasier Campbell but of the ten chances created in the last fifteen minutes, Ole was at the heart of most of them. The final whistle sounded and hardly anyone left the ground. Ole’s speech was emotional and he was typically modest saying how easy it is to be a striker with such great players around you. He did a lap of honour to cap off his special day and as he came past the Stretford End there was a tear in his eye. The roar was fantastic as each of us thought of the memories he has left us with. Not just Barca, so many more too. When he reached the tunnel all the players were waiting for him to give him a pat on the back and off he went down the tunnel, his last steps in a United shirt on the turf. Ole is a real legend. The word is overused but his ability, nature, loyalty and record all ensure he will never be forgotten. Whilst the Moscow celebrations were absent and will have to wait until Wembley and the Newcastle home game, this match was all about one Norweigan who captured our hearts and who we all hope will remain at the club for many many years.

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