One of my readers went to the derby and sent me a story. Since I’m short on time, I gladly post it, as I think it’s much more interesting to see it through the eyes of someone who was actually there. During the week, I’ll post an update about the latest games, since finally my gruelling schedule at uni has come to an end.
February 10th; DERBY DAY
Having had tickets purchased for us 6 months ago, this day hit us like Christmas morning. The sun beaming in our faces. We jumped up and were ready to go in minutes, dressed in our jerseys and makeshift black armbands. Lee and Carrie arrived at Mike’s to pick us up and we were off to the metro. Over the course of our 4-stop trip from Brooklands to Old Trafford, even though we were almost two hours early for kickoff, the metro filled with supporters from every corner of human demographics. Adults with young children, senior-citizen couples, grandmothers with grandchildren, adult children taking their elderly mum and/or dad, a few lads who resembled junior members of the firm, most in some degree of club colours.
If the train was busy, then going down Warwick Road made you think an exodus was at hand. As we proceeded towards the ground down Warwick Road, it became more and more difficult to stay with Lee, Carrie and Jordan. Dreams of getting into The Trafford Pub or The Bishop’s Blaze for a pre-kickoff pint were immediately wiped out.
The Flowers of Manchester were laid out on the opposite side of United Road. Heaps of flowers were grouped with scarves – mostly United, some foreign – teddy bears, poems written in marker on bristol boards. A Manchester City flag laid amongst the flowers was a particularly classy and appropriate element of the display. Hundreds of supporters cued for their turn to look and take pictures.
Immediately after ?United Road? was played over the PA, it was time for the teams.
With the warm sun beaming into Old Trafford, the teams were escorted from the tunnel by a lone piper playing ?We will never die?. The Stretford End lead the stadium in song. The ceremony was respectful and appropriate. We held up our commemorative scarves. City fans raised theirs. The moment of silence was announced. Howard Webb blew his whistle.
Although the ?fireworks’ were loud and completely dispicable, they did nothing to distract the 75,790 paying respects inside the ground. Not a sound made. Not a word spoken. Howard Webb’s whistle blew again. The stadium exploded in applause. Sir Alex walked over to the visitors’ corner and applauded their supporters. Unprecedented. Amazing. Deep inside I think Sir Alex knew they had it in them!
As the match progressed, our play started to remind me of a particular United that sometimes show their faces. A United where we cannot get anything going. I’ve seen this game before, I thought. Wolves vs United at the Molineux. Four years ago now? When Wolves scored and soaked us up until full time it became a unique and special day for them. To beat United at home. I was in the third row then. This day began to remind me of it.
We were difficult to watch this Derby day. Wayne Rooney banned, an all-attacking midfield with Scholes and Anderson unable to find their rhythm and Ryan Giggs (rating 4) and Nani (4) virtually ineffective. Rio Ferdinand’s (4) two sloppy turnovers were more than I’ve seen all year, and John O’Shea, who although is quite solid, lacks the attacking ability of Patrice Evra and gave us virtually no overlapping option down the left flank behind Giggs. Giggs was isolated most of the match and often gave the ball away, not to mention missing from six meters to put us in front early on. Our bright spots, as always, Van der Sar (8) did everything he could to keep Darius Vassell’s effort out, but with no immediate defensive assistance, he could not save the second effort. City deserved the lead. They were energetic and were not put off by the occasion, venue or their opponents. Deep inside, I did not mind the goal, since I was certain it meant we would have to start to play now. The beast must awake. We’re certainly not losing at home on derby day. City’s fearless play continued such that a colour-blind fan would have difficulty distinguishing City from United. They made positive runs and were composed in defense. They played simple football involving pressuring for turnovers and making the simple pass. The calm in their play made Sven-Goran Eriksson look brilliant, for the team talk must have prompted these tactics. ?Be relaxed, play simple balls, get the ball into the danger area, don’t be afraid of them.? Carlos Tevez (6) was our brightest star. He showed well for the ball and held it up well. He was energetic and creative. However with little support and creativity from the players around him, he was rendered ineffective. Ronaldo (3), appeared tired, under-motivated and threw up his arms in a show of frustration when we lost the ball, rather than tracking back to defend.
My mind slowly began to deal with the idea that there may be no comeback today, not as a result of a lack of time (who would we be kidding), but rather at the lack of improvement in our play over the course of the match. That the calibre of the event, the importance of the day, the build-up and the distraction from pure football would all combine to let Sven-Goran Eriksson get the better of us at Old Trafford for the first time since 1974. And as the noise from the Stretford End receeded, the sounds from the visiting corner continued to grow. In the end, the several thousand United supporters that remained, joined the City fans in applauding the Sky Blues off the pitch into the tunnel. Something I never imagined possible!
A day like this helps us remember how trivial football is. When we think about those whose lives football took, it’s easy to see this derby loss as nothing but a bump in our road to the title. For it cannot be compared to the adversity the club has faced in the past … as far back as 50 years.
From Old Trafford,