Date: 1st September 2007
Match: United vs Sunderland, Premier League
Venue: Old Trafford
Edwin van der Sar
Chris Eagles *
Luis Nani **
Oliveira Anderson ***
John O'Shea (83) **
Darren Fletcher (65) *
Louis Saha (45) ***
Daniel John Higginbotham
Kenwyne Jones *
Daryl Murphy (68) *
38 mins- Grant Leadbitter
65 mins- Michael Chopra
73 mins- Nemanja Vidic
Final score: United 1-0 Sunderland
This was a game that when the fixtures were released way back in the summer was one that we all looked out for, for one reason alone- the return of Roy Keane.
We arrived at the ground quite early, so there wasn't much in the way of activity on the forecourt apart from a few early birds taking the prerequisite photo of themselves stood in front of the Sir Matt statue. We wandered over to The Lowry (shock, horror!) for lunch and actually went to the Chinese restaurant there for a very nice all you can eat buffet- good sustinance for the match! After making sure we had our money's worth until spring rolls were coming out of our ears, we then decided that as we had a couple of hours spare, we would have a look around the Imperial War Museum (North). We've actually been in there a few times but not for a couple of years, so it was really interesting to see what changes had been made and new exhibits added. Hubby and I are quite interested in history (and I don't care if we sound like a couple of geeks!), so we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was fascinating to see how many reds were in the museum too, all clearly with the same idea as us. What a cultural bunch we all are!! The time in there soon flew and before we knew it, we were heading back towards the ground. It was certainly a lot more lively than earlier- the forecourt was now buzzing, and it was almost a bit of a fight to get to our turnstile. At the turnstile, I managed to scan my season ticket first time, for the first time, which showed me that I must be getting the hang of it now (but I'm still not liking it!)
In the concourse, it was unusually heaving. Usually half an hour before kick off, the place is like a ghost town! I suppose it could be put down to 'the Keane effect' and the extra bit of bite that it had given the game. Everyone was crowded around the plasma screens, eagerly awaiting to see which team Fergie was starting with. A bit of a buzz went round when Anderson was shown in the starting 11, and similarly a murmer of agreement with the Carrick and Giggs decisions. We went over to get our programs (Keith our program guy still being on holiday), and then went up the stairs and into our seats. I was immediately delighted to hear that Alan Keegan was playing Ole songs and talking about him. 'Ole Ole Ole Ole' came blasting over the tannoy with everyone joining in, followed by the commentary of the Champions League Final and the song 'Barcelona' which seemed to bring a bit of a lump to the throat. Before we knew it, 'This is the One' was being played and then The Fanfare, which heralded the appearance of the teams. Shouts of 'Keano', 'There's only one Keano' and 'na na na na Keano' reverberated around the ground. He was getting a real legend's welcome. But as we were welcoming the return one legend, we had to say goodbye to another, who was departing. It was a fabulous gesture to get the two teams to form a guard of honour for Ole to come onto the pitch and say goodbye to the fans. The cheer when he set foot onto the pitch must have been heard for miles around and I have never heard 'You are my Solskjaer' sung with such passion and depth of feeling. It was quite clearly an emotional time for everyone inside the ground, and Ole looked almost embarrassed by the reception he received. It certainly had an end of an era feel and looking at both Ole and Keane, and then to the United players on the pitch, it made the likes of Barcelona feel like a whole other lifetime.
Looking around, not everyone seemed to be in 'K' this week. Royal Mail guy was there, still minus his Royal Mail jacket (has he left Royal Mail?! Or has he lost his jacket?! Updates to follow!), Ian MUFC's mate was there, Shouting Guy was behind me as always and Tall Bloke and Quiet Bloke were next to me as usual (Tall Bloke telling me about his plans for Lisbon as he has a villa in Portugal), making it on time today so obviously no tram problems! Missing this week were Bolton Paul once again (am starting to get genuinely concerned that he has given up his ticket now), the guys who sit in front of us (am guessing work shifts didn't allow them to be at the game), the annoying people who sit next to hubby (although the people that were in their seats were up and down the whole time going to the concourse. They must have missed so much of the game and if that wasn't bad enough, they left before the end too. So I am now convinced that whoever sits in those seats, has to be a pain in the proverbials and never sit still for more than 2 minutes!) and most shockingly of all, there was no sign of Little Guy and Drunk Bloke!! I found that very disturbing and wondered what could have happened to them! The game kicked off to a roar and it felt like the United fans had more belief and confidence than last week against Spurs. The Sunderland fans certainly made themselves known too. For the first time this season, an away team had brought a full 3,000 allocation and they were definitely letting us know! It was their big day out- they were acting like kids at a party who had been gorging on sweets and fizzy pop- all totally hyper. The game, however, didn't exactly match up to that level of excitement- well, at least not in the first half. It was a bit of a laborious half, truth be told. Of course we had a few chances, but the way Sunderland played hardly added to the spectacle. I can hardly remember them venturing into our half in an attacking fashion to be honest. The referee perplexed us all with some random decisions and Shouting Guy (who ALWAYS has a go at the referee above all else) was not best pleased at all! We all piled down into the concourse to watch the half time highlights and once again, the general atmosphere was one of deflation. It is very hard to describe but the atmosphere and feeling within the fans just seems different this season. Hopefully some good performances will change that! On the way back up to my seats, I heard a shout of 'This is not a gangway' (it's a kind of private joke in our block)- it was Little Guy, with Drunk Bloke! Turns out that they got into the ground a bit late (and merry, I would imagine) and instead of trying to fight their way to their seats, they just decided to plonk themselves down wherever there was a space! They managed to get back into their usual seats for the second half though!
At the start of the second half, Saha was brought on to big cheers which was nice to see. I don't think he has always been the most popular player amongst match going reds but it was evident that he was just the player that we needed on the pitch. The change in the team was evident as soon as he came on and the fans were getting more and more encouraged. Over in the away corner, the Sunderland fans were starting to hack us all off completely. Apart from generally singing obnoxious songs, they then started up with 'You'll Never Walk Alone' which went on for about 10 minutes. The whistling and booing that greeted that from around the ground was deafening. Yet they still carried on so predictably, renditions of 'You scouse_____', 'Sign On' and 'Who the____ do you support?' were aimed in their direction. Somehow, they seemed oblivious to the fact that they should have been singing their own songs as opposed to songs from rival teams so they then proceeded to sing 'Blue Moon' which just underlined their level of intelligence. The atmosphere became moodier and moodier between the fans and we all then gave up trying to educate them and put all of our effort into roaring the team on. The breakthrough then came through Saha and strangely when the goal went in, it was almost a stunned celebration somehow. We all looked to the referee initially (which may show you what kind of afternoon he'd had in giving us any decisions) and when we knew it was ok, celebrated properly then. It didn't quite feel the same explosion of relief as when Nani scored against Tottenham the week before- maybe that was just more intense because it was our first win of the season. The game was thankfully, seen out in a very solid fashion by the lads and I'm sure I saw Van der Sar playing I Spy with the linesman, such was his lack of involvement in the game (only joking!). The final whistle went to happy cheers from the reds and a couple more Keano songs to send him on his way knowing that he was still a hero at United.
Now normally, I would have ended this AVFTS by now, but I'm afraid a little bit happened after the game had finished. We all left the ground feeling happy enough, and I headed back to the car which was in the car park opposite the East Stand. I sat in the car and could hear the Sunderland fans coming out, singing YNWA (AGAIN!) and still thinking it was hilarious. They were acting up quite a lot, and being quite abusive and aggressive (my theory is that they're not allowed to leave Sunderland much and have no idea how to behave as normal people). Then this guy stood right in front of the car and starting singing 'YNWA' over and over again. That's when something inside me snapped. I wasn't having some idiot person stood in front of MY car in MY car park at MY ground singing THAT song. So, I got out of my car and said 'Is it Sunderland you support or Liverpool?'. He then retorted, 'Well at least I'm singing. We didn't even hear you. Where's your passion?'. I then let rip a little bit! I said, 'If you're questioning where my passion is, I'm afraid you've picked on the wrong person. I follow United all over the country and in Europe- I'm one of the most passionate United fans you could meet. You know Europe don't you? Oh that's right, you've never been in it have you?'. At that point, he mumbled something and started to walk away and I shouted after him, 'Ok well, see you next season. Oh no that's right- WE WON'T! Have fun in the Championship'. I never saw him again.
So what can I say? A moody end to a mediocre game. The main thing? 3 points!!
"We all agree, K-Stand is better than J-Stand"