BPF’s resident Manchester Utd fan Ed Diggins returns this week with an intruiging personal diary into the double League Cup clash between his team and bitter rivals Manchester City, after the season-ticket holder blagged tickets for the Cup semis.
Carling Cup Semi 1st Leg, Manchester City (A) 2-1 Manchester Utd
A Text message buzzes in to my phone, “I’ve a ticket for you in the away end tomorrow night” it reads. Get f*cking in, how sweet is that?! The inclement weather last week meant that both the away and home ties had to be moved. I had my flights originally booked for the home game on the 19th anyway, so I decided to go along to the away leg and chance our luck for tickets. Now I could go and relax and have nothing to worry about.
My travel buddies today are Mark, Colin and Damian. Smaller crew than normal, but as it’s an away game, it tends to be like that. It is our 4th trip of 7 in 6 weeks, but this promises to be the biggest so far. We are on a tight schedule, flight is at 6.10pm and arrival into Manchester about 6.50. Then we taxi it straight to the ground. As we land on one wheel down the runway, the nervous flyers amongst us leave out a collective gasp. It is typical Ryanair style, rough but we get there. We hop into a taxi and off we go, it is my first trip to the council house (Eastlands) and hopefully, not my last. As its quite close to kick off, we have missed most of the traffic. Indeed, we get there fairly quickly and walk the last 5 minutes. Colin is meeting his contact at the away entrance, Mark is in the home end and Damian is already inside. I need to pick up my ticket at the ticket office, something that is quick and offers no obstacles. As I make my way back to the United end, its rough about. Its 7.50pm and you can see people kicking the shi*e out of each other outside the turnstiles. There is a nasty atmosphere about, no doubt fuelled but all the media talk and the whole Tevez saga.
Something is wrong. There are over 1000 United fans outside and not moving. The gates into the turnstiles are locked, the queue is not moving. We don’t know what is happening. 10 minutes, no movement, 20 minutes the same. The game has kicked off and we are still outside, not knowing what is going on. The cops are in the same boat. Not a steward in site, they all legged it. They are fearing a crush. At this point, it is getting dangerous as fans are rightly getting agitated. However, the United fans are well behaved. Word comes that United are 1-0 up; Giggs. Light and Tunnel, and all that. They deploy dozens of horses to keep the crowds segregated and eventually they start to leave us in, one by one, in between the poor animals that are keeping 1000 people at bay. As we go in, the cops are blaming the shambolic events on the City organizers. Some are saying that the turnstiles have failed. F*ck me, 6,000 fans going in through 4 turnstiles, in a stadium supposed to be world class. The reality is that tonight is the biggest away support ever seen in the stadium and they just cannot handle it.
22 minutes in and we are finally inside. The away end is rammed and it is hopping. Best atmosphere I have been at in a long long time. City fans are quiet and United are on top. We are stationed about 20 yards away from the City fans to our left. It is clear to see that some of them are doing their best Munich airplane impressions. This sickens me. This gives the decent City fans a bad name, but there always will be idiots eh? I look out for Mark in amongst them, but can’t see his cockney head anywhere! As we approach half time, Bellamy falls over on his backside as he tries to cross. As its cleared, the game is stopped. What the fuck? Penalty? You must be joking. The feeling of sheer disgust is clear. It soon turns to anger. We have been shafted in almost every big game this year and this is another example. The money grabbing wh*re (Tevez) knocks in the 12 yarder and its 1-1. As he peels away in celebration, coins and what not go flying over our heads in his direction. Two City fans invade the pitch and are ushered back to their seats by substitute Gary Neville. Half time and it has been riveting. We decide not to move at half time. Last week at Birmingham was mental during the break so we decide to stay put.
The 2nd half takes off at a frantic pace. Neither side are threatening, but City get on top for the first time in the game. Given saves from Giggs, then from Rooney. But we need 2 strikers on, we are having all the ball, but lacking the cutting edge. Looks to me like Bellamy puts the ball out of play and as sure as night follows day, City score from the resulting corner. Another official error and as Tevez runs 70 yards to show us all he has big ears, the hatred level rises another notch. City fans are suddenly awake and they spend the rest of the game looking towards the United end. Evra gets hit with something and then two seats are ripped up in the United end, but don’t get very far. Owen comes on and within minutes, the 4-4-2 is working. We are battering them. Owen puts Rooney in, Given saves, Owen goes close this time, but it’s off the line. Two more chances for Rooney, same result, Given saves. Valencia is wide, Diouf is wide. Another save from Given, again from Rooney. It’s a one man show for City. We all laugh at Tevez getting man on the match on the big screen inside the ground. Wow, you score a header from a yard out and a penalty that you didn’t deserve. Well done Carlos, £25 + million well spent right there. It’s an endless stream of United pressure, but City hold out and take a 2-1 lead. It’s undeserving, but not over. United were magnificent tonight, but let them have their moment in the sun.
We leave the ground and walk into town. No segragation, though suppose it makes sense. The walk into city center takes about thirty minutes and by the time we get in, all the pubs are closed. We manage to get a sip of our pint when we are told to leave. “You need to leave lads, theres trouble at the ground and the cops are closing all the pubs”
The city is shut down, so no choice but to grab some much needed grub and leave. As we head off to the airport, it’s that first time that, after a defeat, I am in a positive mood. I have seen enough tonight to ensure that we willl progress next week. We had chances galore and only Shay Given prevented a United win. I think we will knock three past them next week and go through. City have had their night, but as we come through the arrivals lounge in Dublin I turn to Colin and Mark and predict next week we will walk through, with our passage secured for the Cup Final. Only time will tell. Sleep is needed, until then, Au Revoir.
Carling Cup Semi 2nd Leg, Manchester City Home 1-3 Manchester Utd
I barely slept last night. Ryanair to Mancester at 12.50. The airport is quiet, deserted in fact. United fans make up the majority of the people around the departure gates, you would be wondering just how quiet the place would be on a normal Wednesday. Hector is sitting beside us, he is the center of attention as lads take turns laughing with him and at him. He is a good lad though, well able to handle everything that’s thrown at him and he has the last laugh. Some lads make right idiots of themselves and he’s able to take full advantage. Today’s crew is eight with three more lads meeting us over there. As we depart on time, we are all set for what should be an epic trip. This is not just a Carling Cup semi-final, if United don’t progress, its big. City are “back”, and all that. If United win, it will be news for about twenty minutes and then, sure its only the League Cup. Either way, there’s pride at stake. It’s a must win game.
The plane trip is not so straight forward. As we taxi out towards take off, something is amiss. We are heading back in. “apologies folks, we have spotted something wrong and we are going to get ground crew to sort it out”. As the engines go off, we start to get worried. It would not be the first time Ryanair have cancelled a flight. Luckily, its not too long a wait and we are off to Manchester finally. We have more time on our hands today, so we check into the hotel and have a few pints. We pretty much talk about everything possible United related. We also fear that there will be an alcohol ban in the city, so we get a last round in before we head into the ground. Traffic is absolutely mental. Some of the lads abandon their cabs and walk, its much quicker. Just as we arrive at the usual spot, the offices are being closed. Typical, no beer to be had, anywhere.
It is a bit rowdy about, but tame at the same time, plenty of police presence. A bus approaches and suddenly all hell breaks loose. It is being ambushed with cans and what not. We don’t know why. As it passes yards in front of us, it becomes clear. Its full of city fans and they have been taunting other United fans up the road. The side window is smashed in now as the driver tries to speed off. Its mayhem. As he does, we can see more Munich taunts inside the bus. Idiots. Surely they can keep their heads down and keep quiet until they reach the car park …… anyway, a few minutes later, Gabriel Obertan comes by. He aint in the squad, so he is out for a stroll in his tracksuit. He greets us all and waves us on, as we sing his song.
We decide to head down to the ground. The place is buzzing and as we walk towards the Strettie alongside the away entrance, its nasty there to say the least. Inside the ground is lightening. The noise is reaching epic levels as the game kicks off and that’s the way it stays. City are content to sit back, 4-5-1, playing on the break with Twat up top on his own. The first half is pretty boring stuff, little created with both sides enjoying plenty of the ball. Something has to give. 60 odd minutes in and queue pandemonium. Rooney’s orgasmic turn and pass sets Giggs free and after being forced wide, the ball falls to Scholes via Nani and Carrick. Its there! 1-0! The place erupts. Gary ends up getting sent flying over the seats and lands two rows away. Highest bounce rating at Old Trafford since the same man netted against Barcelona twenty months prior. It’s game on and the place is rocking. The players join in and are feet away from us with the look of sheer delight on their faces is clear to see. Bang, 2-0, Carrick! Now we are singing, this is more like it, 3-2 over the tie and one foot in Wembley. A sublime first time finish into the bottom corner. Rooney misses a sitter for 3-0 and that would have settled it. It was easier to score, but looks like it just hit him, rather than he striking it cleanly.
City pull one back and its all square, where the f*ck did that come from? I am relaxed though, I know there’s more to come. The 2nd half has flown by, its hard to believe as I look up and see four minutes left. Carrick has just missed a sitter. This is a little agonizing. As we hit injury time, Given pulls off a wonder save from Fletcher and he is delighted. His gloves are barely cooling when Giggs knocks in the cross of the season for Rooney to head in. Bedlam. Absolute bedlam. Before we know it, it is over. The City fans are stunned and it’s priceless to see them locked in as the United songs beat out over the tannoy. I think 4-3 flattered them slightly over 2 legs and I don’t think they can complain, the better team is going to Wembley.
The trip back into town is a little dodgy. There is a good gang of us walking into town, but unfortunately, looks like we have met up with a bad bunch, intent on starting a fight, with anybody. The cops latch onto it immediately and for the first time in my match going days, we are all segregated off and have a police escort all the way into town which takes about fifty minutes. The City fans are held back and ushered down a side street as we get closer to town and then everybody disperses. A few celebratory beers are had, before we head off back to the hotel for the redeye flight home.
It has been an epic week. Mission accomplished and passage secured. The battle for Final tickets won’t be easy, but I am confident they will surface.