By Tom Bell
After the confirmation of season tickets in the North Stand lower tier in the Summer of 2006, it seems natural to me than my game of choice will be from that season. I must admit I was close to choosing the opening game of the season where we hit the ground running, giving a lacklustre Fulham team a 5-1 spanking; my first experience of my current season ticket in those seats. (Previously we sat in the North-east corner in the lower tier) However on review, I decided to opt for one of, if not the best Champions League game I’ve ever had the pleasure of. Manchester United 3 AC Milan 2.
It was decent weather being picked up my school by my Dad. I had a buzz about me, knowing I was off to watch the Champions League whilst the majority of my mates were waiting on the Burnley v Sunderland game at the weekend. A quick change and a bite to eat then we shot off, joining onto the M66 as we headed towards Manchester. I was more than excited at the thought of, not only the tie, but the thought of seeing Maldini, Pirlo, Gattuso, Nesta, Kaka and co stepping out to ply their trade on the turf of Old Trafford. As per usual, as we came into Salford, “This is the one” by The Stone Roses was put on – the usual track of choice for us on match day.
What I distinctly remember is the atmosphere the Milan fans instilled in the ground. They took the entire top tier of the West stand. They had banners and flares and the sung with such ferocity and fire for supporting their team, they drowned out the majority of our fans prior to kick off. That soon changed.
Just five minutes into the game, our Portuguese talisman popped up with a header, smothered over the line by Gabriel Heinze, which sparked the Man United lot into life. The atmosphere exploded. Things were looking good, we had Milan under a lot of pressure, testing Dida on several occasions and we were creating a lot of chances.
Only then Kaka gripped the game by the scruff of the neck. He genuinely did put on a master class. Certainly one of the finest footballing performances I’ve ever witnessed. He single-handedly tore our defence apart. Scoring two goals two put Milan 2-1. Giving them not one, but two, precious away goals and them the lead at half time. His second goal, where he nodded the ball between Patrice Evra and Gabby Heinze and then cooly slotted it past Edwin van der Sar was something else.
Rooney on about the hour mark equalised. Paul Scholes the ginger magician, with his lobbed pass over the Milan back line which Rooney latched onto. The United fans sensed we could be onto a win as soon as the goal went in. The atmosphere was completely rejuvenated. We were like the 12th man, completely spurring on the team.
Wayne Rooney’s goal in stoppage time. I can’t recall an atmosphere following a goal during my time of going on United. He picked up a pass which was going out wide and with a snap shot beat Dida at his near post. The position in which our seats are allowed us to follow the goal straight in, almost from Rooney’s point of view. The place went wild. It was absolutely bedlam. We’d managed to overcome Kaka’s magical first half performance and win 3-2. Giving us the lead into the second leg.
The atmosphere down Sir Matt Busby Way as we walked back to the car was something to behold. I won’t forget it. My Dad simply turned to me and said “It’s games like these you’ll never forget.” He was right. It’s my favourite game of all time.
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