United We Stand - June 2012
All pi c s b y
t’s midnight and I’ve just got back after the derby. Paid £6 to park behind Mary D’s three hours before the match and saw that the pub was bouncing with songs about having a party when Fergie dies and how much “We hate Man United”.
Head down, straight towards the ground, beyond the numerous police vans on Ashton New Road and coppers with maps to show people where’s where. A wry smile for the two young Reds (pictured opposite) having their flag checked before taking it into the United end. They were lucky to have tickets. Most of the day was spent fielding desperate texts for tickets from people who deserved them, lads who’ve been home and away all season. And no appreciation of the two weapons with impenetrable accents and United scarves who asked where the Sky TV cameras were so they could be interviewed. They found them.
Walked past Steve McManaman giving an interview in Spanish about how the Manchester derby is nowhere near as passionate as the big games in Europe. Past Reds with £250 of hard earned in their pockets and not a sniff of a ticket. Yet there were groups with tickets who looked like they’d never been to a football match before, plus a group of Italians with Sampdoria flags draped over their shoulders.
Bumped into a blue friend of the family. He said he’d never been so nervous in all four decades and 72 different league grounds watching city before a game. He also offered his fears that his club were becoming everything they had always slated.
“There’s a lad over there selling half-and-half city and United scarves,” he said. “What the fuck is all that about? I can see why you lot have been moaning for years. We might be winning, but I don’t think I like it.”
The windy walk continued beyond Kippax Avenue and Helen the Bell Street and into the ground. A Red came up. Seen him around for years at the match. Wasn’t supposed to be there but he’d jibbed in. No fuss, no colours. He just melted into the background. It was hard not to admire the cunning.
United lost 1-0 and the hopes of a 20th league title took a leathering. Against city too. And such a feckless and untypically United performance.
The celebrations started on the final whistle: blues singing Hey Jude and smiling faces everywhere. “Put that in your fucking report,” shouted a man so happy he was somehow angry. “You’d better say that city were the best team,” another. They were and they’ll probably win the league. And I can’t believe I’m even writing this but I am. city are going to win the league. Probably. The blues in the pub near the car were confident and singing about city being top of the league. Good job they didn’t see Gary Neville being smuggled into a people carrier with blacked out windows. Or the United coach as it slipped away down the New Road and onto the Mancunian Way.
So that’s it, a disappointing end to a weird season. Or is it? Maybe the Red mood will have lifted by the time you read this. Maybe city will have done a city and shot themselves in the foot again. Their club is unrecognisable on the pitch from what it was, but ours?
I was having a clear out earlier today and came across an old diary from 1992. I looked at what I’d been doing 20 years earlier. Sounded a right boring fucker, truth be told, but I’d made the following note in a child-like scrawl. “April 1992 must go down as one of the most disappointing months of my life. I’m gutted that United didn’t win the league. We threw it away. No more football to look forward to until August. I hate Leeds, Liverpool, city, West Ham and Forest. What a bunch of bastards. United forever.”
I cringed reading that back and some of the other comments. Whiteside’s testimonial was labelled “absolutely crap” and the day after West Ham away simply has the word “Devastated”. Winced that the results of a football team could dominate my life like they clearly did, but there are some similarities between now and then. Like why I am floored after another football game whose outcome I had no influence over and why have United thrown the league away again? But you don’t need to answer those questions, do you? And neither do I. That’s football, end of.
Enjoy this issue, Andy features
22-23 Matt Holland An interview with the United-mad former Ipswich Town man 24-25 Tim Burgess Transmission has a chat about United, gigging and cereal with The Charlatans frontman
26-27 Big Trev Find out what happened after we printed a blag letter about the singing section last month 31 Manchester Murders Mike Duff tells a tale about the darker side of our fair city lars 04-07 ManUvia 08-09 Guttersnipe regu
13 Jim White 16-17 Meatbag 42 GAWI
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