By Mark Young
There are very few moments in world football that give you goose bumps, all over goose bumps. Moments that make you feel proud to say, ‘I was there.’ Moments of genius where you wish you had a replay but at the same time, jumping for joy thinking or in some cases, shouting, ‘holy s#*t, did that just happen!?’ In my opinion my favourite game had this all rolled together in one moment.
It was the visit of Manchester City last season to Old Trafford that had the moment that had Old Trafford jumping for joy and the goose bumps all of a sudden forming all over my body. February 12th 2011, will go down in history for that one moment of genius from Wayne Rooney. The man who couldn’t pass the ball, even in the lead up to the goal silenced the noisy neighbours in spectacular fashion.
The day started in the early hours as we travel to the Theatre of Dreams with a supporters club in Kent. My best mate and I go as often as we can, whenever we can afford it and considering we had already seen a Dimitar Berbatov hat trick from the Stretford End that season, we wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary. A boring 1-0 win we would take. We were joined by my dad whose birthday weekend happened to fall on derby day, so he came along.
An early morning call with an early morning pick up could only be matched by one thing. An early morning Strongbow, however disgraceful that sounds, we were buzzing. We had a five hour journey ahead of us.
Mutterings about what could happen that afternoon circulated the coach and most of it was about Manchester United’s number ten. An awful World Cup, followed by a slow start to the season, a transfer request (with a link to City), a sudden change of heart meaning a new contract at United, an injury and a lack lustre return meant that it probably would have been best if the ex Everton man sat out on this occasion. But one phrase rang true, In Fergie We Trust and whoever he picked would be supported. Wazza played!
We eventually arrived at Old Trafford and it really felt like derby day. The atmosphere was intense but both sets of fans were clearly going to sing as hard and as loud as they can. We were up for it. A quick bite to eat was followed by a swift half or two and the walk towards the ground. We were in the heavens for this match but we were there. My dad didn’t appreciate the long walk up the stairs but what we were about to witness would make it all worthwhile, if he could catch his breath!
We got to our seats and as soon as we sat down, we stood right back up again, and our backsides did not see the red, plastic, fold down chairs until half time. The roar around the Theatre of Dreams as the players walked out the tunnel was deafening, this was not going to be just another game.
It was a tense game with very few chances, different to the 4-3 of the season before. City were stronger than they had been that day with Yaya Toure and David Silva pulling every string possible. Vincent Kompany was a rock and was extremely impressive but United did not allow City to gain an advantage.
The singing was relentless and Man United’s later to be crowned Player of the Year, Nani stepped up to the plate. He was put through on goal and calmly slotted past Joe Hart. Cue euphoria from the reds and silence from the blues. It was a great feeling.
But little did we know, what would be happening after the interval.
Half time and the score line read Manchester United 1-0 Manchester City. I’d take that.
The second half was going to be nervy, big games make me a nervous wreck and this was going to be no different. The game started to slowly grind to a halt with United looking comfortable. Mancini had introduced Edin Dzeko and for the first time in the Premier League, he looked dangerous. David Silva eventually equalised for City and Old Trafford was stunned. We were stunned and the perfect day was going to end on a sour note, with disappointment.
United bounced back and started controlling again. Short passes trying to break City down. The ball came to Wayne Rooney and it deflected off his shin. I turned to my mate and said, ‘I think it’s time he went off.’ Ohhh how wrong was I just about to be proved?
As the ball was played out to the earlier goal scorer, Nani, the ball was whipped into the area but it looked as if nothing was going to come of it. Until the moment came. Rooney rose, and with an audacious attempt at an overhead kick got above everyone and the next thing I saw was the net bulge. With that one moment of genius, the single best moment of my Old Trafford visiting career took place.
Jumping up and down, hugging random people and the sheer disbelief of not really knowing what we had just witnessed plus the before mentioned goose bumps, Wayne Rooney had done it, he had beaten City, with improvisation and sheer brilliance. Simple passes were not coming off for him but an overhead kick did, really? It just didn’t make sense to me. We were all confused as to how it got to that point but the fact that that very point existed, was brilliant.
The final whistle went and the ‘White Pele’ chants that had started with the goal continued. They continued from the stands, to the street, to the coach. The next morning it was in my head and I don’t think it has really been out of it ever since.
The feeling of that goal and the timing of it along with who it was scored against and who scored it is the equation for my favourite game. It was an amazing day and a birthday I know my dad will never forget. One word to describe that goal would be too difficult to put into one, tiny insignificant word, it deserves more than that. The goal is now in the history books and will be replayed, year after year after year and it just replays day after day after day in my head and I’m sure I am not the only one.
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