By Joe Maloney.
Being a southern Red you have to be prepared to endure a number of tests. The most well known to supporters, such as myself, is to put up with the constant ‘glory hunting tag’ and the other the amount of time you find yourself driving on the M6. Of course those two minor irritations do not overshadow the excitement and love you get when supporting Manchester United. Out of all the early morning drives I have done to a game, the match against City in September ‘09 seemed a little different to them all. Sure, I have been to plenty of matches against the jealous blue half of Manchester previously, however there seemed to be something ‘special’ in the air.
I usually listen to the radio for most of my trip and I couldn’t help but notice the excitement building around City and how this was going to be the first match in ‘the changing of the guard’. United had still recently only just lost Ronaldo to Real Madrid and of course Tevez who was set to lead City’s attack. Not to mention, ex United striker Mark Hughes who had made a promising start to life managing City. I got into the ground late and as I walked up the steps it was just in time for Tevez’s name to be read out. I was not too sure if the Stretford End would just ignore him but those thoughts were abruptly put to bed with the deafening ’boo’ that went around Old Trafford. It just increased my feeling that something out of the ordinary was going to take place.
Two minutes in and Wayne Rooney had United in front. A nervous start from City’s, still relatively new, backline allowed Rooney to pounce from close range. It was apparent that the reds were set out to make a statement. After soaking up a number of attacks, City were to equalise swiftly after. Tevez, who was always known to United fans’ for his non-stop work ethic, reminded Ben Foster of how dangerous he can be by closing down the goalkeeper’s clearance leaving Gareth Barry with a simple tap in.
City was the better side for the remainder of the half, Tevez himself guilty of an excellent chance right on the whistle. Shortly after the second half began Darren Fletcher’s header put United back in front after a great cross from Ryan Giggs. Minutes later however, once again, City levelled with a stunning drive from the impressive Craig Bellamy. Man United then mounted countless attacks on the City goal, only to be denied by the heroics of Shay Given. Giggs was beginning to be instrumental with every attack that was made giving right back Micah Richards a torrid time.
By the hour mark I had realised the unique smell in the air wasn’t just my imagination and that we were witnessing a classic unfold. Around ten minutes from time Fletcher was to grab his second, almost identical to the first. Giggs cutting in from the left beating Richards with ease before finding the Scot’s head for the second occasion. Every game my Father and I travel together and whilst the game is takes place we rarely speak. Our minds are so wrapped up in the game the only sort of dialogue we have with each other is ‘great ball’ when Scholesy plays a pass from 40-50 yards. Although I found myself grabbing him every time City crossed the half way line after the way United had already thrown away leads.
I did not think there was any need to grab him when Rio Ferdinand was in control of the ball approaching the half way line. Often he has such a great distribution with his passing I felt there was no need to panic. Nevertheless, he looked to have thrown away the points after cheaply giving away the ball to Martin Petrov, who played in Bellamy for his second. I sit directly opposite the away supporters and all I could see was a sea of blue celebrating wildly in jubilation. I thought to myself this is what the special feeling was going to be. Almost getting caught up in the belief this was going to be the start of ‘the new era’ culminating in a dominant and successful time for City.
Martin Atkinson signalled for six minutes of added time. However City’s equaliser and celebrations came within the first minute and United brought on Michael Carrick for Anderson, so there was set to be an addition to added time. I must admit I had given up hope, I could see thousands of disappointed United fans leaving the stadium and City singing in merriment. That was until the ball fell to Ryan Giggs 40 yards out, who then placed a magnificent ball through to Michael Owen who became a Derby Day legend by slotting the ball home confidently, just like he has throughout his career. And an irate Hughes, who was already unhappy with the time added was likely to explode by the time Owen scored he looked like he was going to explode. It didn’t help his mindset when he saw his opposite number Sir Alex Ferguson joined by Gary Neville down the touchline. The fans left in the ground jubilant and thankful they had stayed for the remainder of the game. As was I, with the thought of never leaving Old Trafford early, because you never know, you may miss something special.
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