Result: Manchester United 2-1 Swansea City (Barclays Premier League)
Venue: Old Trafford (Saturday 2nd January 2016, 3pm)
For the first of a trio of “high brow” games in the following week, I was heading to what is the closest ground in the league (if you accept it as such), Old Trafford. Yes, before you try with the stereotypes, I am a local United fan. So, yeah.
A couple of weeks prior to the game, I contacted Matt of LostBoyos to see if he was to be attending said game as it included his beloved Swans. The answer was the affirmative and it was soon the morning of the game and I was heading into Deansgate, decked out in my “Fletcher 24” chevron shirt where I was to initially head over to a bar to meet up with Matt and his entourage, which is beginning to resemble something of an army.
I’d not long begun my walk down past the Museum of Science & Industry that I was told plans had changed and instead it was off to The Piccadilly, pretty much sitting slap bang between the Gardens and the station. So, after heading back past the Roman ruins of Castlefield, I hopped on the Met over to the Gardens and onwards to the Piccadilly.
No sooner had I entered the bouncer protected establishment, ordered my first Cubanisto (the rum flavoured beer) and found the Swans bunch, namely Matt, his German Dortmund supporting housemate Niklas, Tom and Dan, than I was ordered to down it as fast as possible as we were heading over to a usual stopping point; the Piccadilly Tap.
The tap has been featured on a few occasions now on these pages since Matt and Gibbo introduced me to its delights on the way back from Emley back in October and I was immediately hooked, helped by the discovery of the football table on the first floor, which is sadly out of order as it stands. But, not to worry, there’s still a bar and after meeting up with further members of the Swans travelling support, “Chester Mike” (who you’ll apparently hear shouting at the top of his lungs at most games) and Martyn, I was soon in possession of a Bitburger, despite Niklas saying it was “shit” and being pretty much agreed with en masse. Used to being in the minority, I went ahead with the choice anyway.
After a pair in there, it was decided we’d move on to one of the Oyster bar (our initially intended first stop) or Corbieres, one of Matt’s hidden gems that sits down a back alley off Market Street slap bang in the city centre. The consensus eventually decided on the latter and so it was off down the crowded pedestrianised street leading to the Arndale Centre and finally down a pretty wet back passage. Oh, I say! Some steps leading downwards came upon me and down we headed into the underground cave that is the bar.
Corbieres is definitely something that is unexpected, quite different from its street-level surroundings, a comfortable place to enjoy a couple of drinks in and to be told about what “being cute and speaking French” can get Niklas. It certainly wasn’t anything he was willing to actively hide and definitely created a good laugh did that comment! After a pair of Desperados in there for me, we exited and jumped a taxi, chipping in a couple of quid each into the £9 fare, to Old Trafford, arriving at around 20 past 2.
After bidding goodbye to the Swansea crew as they headed into the away end (well, corner) at OT and purchasing a programme at the kiosk on Sir Matt Busby Way (£3.50), I headed round to the Stretford End where I would be seated for today’s game. After passing by a late running Jesse Lingard at the players’ tunnel entrance, I soon entered through the turnstile after a fair old pat-down and was into Old Trafford for the first time in over a year for a first team game. I know, I’m awful.
After climbing the stairs up into the upper echelons of the Stretford End’s top tier, I eventually clambered over to my seat three rows from the back and right in the midst of a main singing area in the stand. After 20 minutes of staring at a large flag on the pitch that was providing today’s pre-match entertainment, it was time for the big match. The players made their way to the field and past the stupid ball station and to the equally pointless BPL sign where the handshakes take place, but thankfully these were soon got rid of and we were set to go. But for now…
Founded in 1878 as Newton Heath LYR by members of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway depot at Newton Heath, they initially competed against other depots but eventually began to compete against clubs, wearing the green and gold colours of the company’s name they carried. They became founder members of The Combination in 1888 and joined the Football Alliance a year later after the former league’s folding.
Three years later, the Alliance was merged into the Football League and Newton Heath (as they were now named) were placed in the First Division but lasted at that level for just two seasons before dropping into Division 2.
After a winding up order was served in 1902, the club’s Captain, Harry Stafford, along with others invested in the club to save it and subsequently a name change was prompted and Manchester United came into being. 1906 saw promotion back to the First Division which was won two years later. The club then lifted the first ever Charity Shield at the beginning of the next year and won the FA Cup for the first time at the end.
The second league title arrived in 1911, before the football was stopped as a result of WWI. Following the end of hostilities, the club was back in Division 2 after another relegation, but were promoted again in 1925, before almost going bankrupt in 1927 (until JW Gibson’s intervention) and following a further drop in 1931 became something of a yo-yo club but were back in Division 1 by the time WWII broke out.
Upon the resumption of football, Sir (as he was later to be titled) Matt Busby was appointed manager and his first trophy came in the shape of the 1948 FA Cup. This was followed by the First Division title in 1952, the club’s first in 41 years. In 1957, the “Busby Babes” side registered the club’s record win, a 10-0 success over Anderlecht, before the tragic Munich Air Disaster took the lives of eight of the side and 23 souls in total.
The 1960’s saw the FA Cup return to Old Trafford in ’63 and two league titles followed in ’65 & ’67 before the club became the first English club to lift the European Cup, before Busby resigned in 1969. The 1970’s saw United be relegated in ’74, promoted in ’75 and another FA Cup success in 1977.
This was the last silverware to arrive at Old Trafford until the cup returned twice in quick succession (1983 & ’85). Another future “knight”, Alex Ferguson, was appointed in 1989 following the dismissal of Ron Atkinson, though he may not have lasted long had his side not beat Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final replay, if the rumours are to be believed. As it was, unprecedented success over the next two-and-a-bit decades was to follow as Ferguson filled the trophy cabinet.
Next to arrive was the 1991 Cup Winners’ Cup, followed by the Super Cup and the ’92 League Cup joined the pair. 1993 saw the first Premiership title arrive at Old Trafford and ’94 saw it retained along with the FA Cup to complete the club’s first “double”. 1999 saw this bettered with the historic treble: Premiership, FA Cup & Champions League, the latter being as dramatic as any (especially memorable for me as my footballing hero Teddy Sheringham had a rather big hand in proceedings). They later won the Intercontinental Cup to add gloss to the achievement.
Two further league titles followed in 2000 & ’01 and another arrived in 2003. The 2004 FA Cup was won in Cardiff and the League Cup was won again in 2006. The Premier League was regained in 2007 and won again in 2008, before this was joined by the Champions League following victory over Chelsea. The club later won the year’s Club World Cup and then the 2009 Premier League & League Cup, before the latter was retained. A record 19th title was won in 2011, which became 20 in 2013 before Sir Alex retired at the end of 2013 to signal the end of a true dynasty.
Since then it’s been something of a different story at Old Trafford. Despite winning the Charity Shield, David Moyes lasted all of 10 months before being sacked and after a short period under Ryan Giggs’ caretaker management, Louis Van Gaal was recruited and guided United to a 4th place finish last season.
The game began with Ander Herrera having his shot charged down almost straight from the kick-off but from there the game became a tight and rather dour affair. Wayne Rooney selfishly drove into the side-netting while Swansea seemed content to contain and see what came their way during the first half, which wasn’t much. Nor was it overflowing with excitement for the Untied fans either, but us at the top kept ourselves entertained as much as possible with the usual songlist. But at half-time, it remained 0-0, despite one clear shout from Chester Mike resonating from the away end.
After deciding against heading down into the stand for food, on the basis of large crowds, the time and the cost, I remained in my place and delved into the trusty contents of the United Review, but soon bored and couldn’t wait for the second period to start. Thank God half-time is only 15 minutes.
United again began the half on the front foot and it was little surprise when Anthony Martial struck to head past Lukasz Fabianski from Ashley Young’s whipped cross. 1-0. But this goal only spurred Swansea on to better things as they decided to go for it and began to play with purpose, becoming the better side easily for the next 20 minutes or so.
Andre Ayew was first to come close, as his drive struck the woodwork with David De Gea beaten and after a penalty appeal was turned down, Gylfi Sigurdsson grabbed a deserved goal for the Swans, as he looped a header over De Gea and into the top corner, to send the Swans fans into delirium (I presume from sound as I couldn’t see them from my viewpoint!)
But, they had their joy cut short as United burst away down the left and Martial tuned provider for Rooney to cleverly flick home (though it looked like a header to my strangely wired mind at the time) and move into second on the Premier League’s all-time scorers list and in United’s own too.
But, late drama was almost supplied from the unlikeliest of sources. Swansea were really going for it again in the last five minutes, winning two corners in the last minute of added time. Up came Fabianski and even I thought “I may even concede a win for Fabianski t-…” Jesus, he was bloody close! On reflection no. No I wouldn’t have.
That was that, and I set off round to meet the guys again, onto find out they’d already jumped in a cab on their way back to town. This, as it turns out was a blessing in disguise as it meant I could go and have some further beers and food all for free back in Urmston! Bonus! My programme didn’t fare so well as it decided to take a dip in a puddle and as such isn’t in the pristine condition I crave. Damn weather….
Game: 6- Poor first half, decent second.
Ground: 8- Bit biased here, probably, but I do like OT. Views good as are surroundings.
Fans: 8- Good to be in a true standing (er, sitting) and singing bit at Utd.
Programme: 8- As always, full of content but also bits of pointless stuff.
Value For Money: 6- Dear do at Old Trafford (£41.50) plus the extras!