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2006-09-13: Manchester United 3-2 Celtic, Champions League - "From Dublin to Old Trafford"
From Dublin to Old Trafford:
Fan's view of CL game v Man U, Sep 2006
This is where we should be.
If there's one thing I missed last year, it was that Champions
League music being played. At least this year it's back...
There is something you forget when you book those extremely cheap
flights and that is that (a) they usually take off at a crazy hour
and (b) they may not be going exactly where you want to end up.
My alarm went off at about 3.45am on Wednesday September 13th - it
was the sign that another european trip was about to kick off. I
drove off to pick up three other lhads and we headed for the
airport. Having checked in online (new security procedures?) we were
well on schedule.
Met up with one more lhad and five of us were set for the trip -
four Man U end tickets and one Celtic end ticket between us. Getting
tickets was a saga in itself but something we were pretty used to. I
don't know if there is a fair answer to the whole thing but the way
it is organised and distributed by Celtic has to be questioned.
Anyway - that's for another day. Europe: we were on our way.
When we booked our flights - having first contemplated, booked and
then cancelled a boat trip - the catch to the 99 cent flights was that
the flights were actually heading to East Midlands airport where we
would then have to hire a car for the road trip to Manchester. Yeah,
I know, but it seemed like a really smart move a few weeks ago.
We had a very smooth flight and touched down at East Midlands
airport at about 7.30 in the morning and immediately headed for the
car rental desk. One of the lhads managed to find out that the
friendly car rental fellow was a Hearts fan. Would you believe it.
We had a good laugh as we looked at him standing there admitting
this with a big 'Hertz' sign in the background over his head.. you
had to be there!
We picked up the car and headed off down the road. Not very far,
mind you as we'd booked into the Travel Lodge hotel beside the
airport. It was too early an hour to get into our room so we grabbed
some breakfast before they had a room ready for us. We threw
the bags into the room and headed for Manchester which was about an
hour and forty minutes away. Traffic was fine and we found our way
to Old Trafford handily enough (after a brief tour of the local industrial
Old Trafford already looked like there was a big game on. It was
only about midday and there were stewards, touts and fans out and
about around the place. We had to get to the ticket office to
collect one of the tickets and we were directed up towards it and
allowed to park outside the door, having been reminded we couldn't
stay there all day (compare and contrast to the Celtic Ticket
Office). Their ticket office was modern and spacious and, more
importantly, it had a very short queue. It only took a few minutes
to pick up the ticket and there was absolutely no problem, despite
our Celtic colours. Not a question asked.
As we walked from the ticket office we went for a look around the
stadium. Nobody was stopping us and there was a very relaxed mood
all round. We found their club store and decided to give it a visit.
Again it was fairly spacious but we didn't buy anything. A girl who
was selling credit cards seemed baffled by our accents. In her own
best 'Coronation Street' accent she asked : "you're from `southern'
Ireland, right ? - and Celtic are from Scotland, right ?...so how
come you follow Celtic then?" As we saw snapshots from endless
messageboard postings and mailing lists reappear before our eyes we
all laughed and wondered how much time she had. We gave a very brief
answer but it was amazing to meet somebody who really knew nothing
about our club as she stood there in the middle of one of the
largest football club shops in Europe. We were still wondering about
all of this when one of the lhads had asked her if she knew where we
could park our car for the game. Unbelievably she produced a car
park ticket and handed it over to him free of charge. It was for the
Old Trafford car park, a couple of hundred yards from the stadium
gates! Don't you just love those credit card girls! And, no , we
didn't buy a credit card - sure weren't we from 'southern' Ireland!
We parked the car - literally just a little further down the road
from the ticket office - and felt fairly smug and full of self
importance as we got out. Then we noticed a car with an Irish
registration plate parking beside us from which a couple of lads got
out decked in those horrible new Manchester United shirts. We looked
at them. Actually we stared at them. "We're in the Irish end" we
told them. We got a muffled reply that hinted that the Irish end was
the Stretford end. Bullshampoo. "Wrong, a chara, - we'll be under the
tricolours and singing our own National Anthem while you'll be under
the Butcher's Apron paying homage to one of England's teams", we
pointed out. There was no further discussion.
As the car was parked we were free to head off and grab some food or
drink. We had to meet some lhads who were on the coaches coming from
Glasgow and we rang to find out that they'd be arriving at about
1.30 or 2.00pm. There was a hotel across the road from Old Trafford
(noted for our next visit!) and we headed over to the bar until we
got word that the coaches had arrived. Once we got the word, we
linked up and finalised the ticket situation. The Celtic end ticket
had been collected for us by a Tim who we didn't know that well but
who had gone well out of his way to make an emergency collection for
us the day before, due to a bit of a cock up at the Ticket Office.
Fair play to him and he was extremely decent to help us out. We met
up with him and some others and when we were all sorted we headed
off to indulge in some local grub and beverages. Having been
rejected by the nearest spot "sorry mate - locals only ", we
eventually found `Frankie & Benny's Restaurant Bar' on Trafford Road
which was about ten minutes from the ground and we settled in there.
There was a good gang of us at that stage so we set up tent for the
afternoon with the thought of moving on to the Irish Centre for a
concert later on. Needless to say that never happened as we were
able to move outside and sit in the sun after eating! That was that -
with apologies to those we didn't meet up with at the Irish centre.
Eventually after a good bit of food, chat, sing song and bevy we
headed for the game. I like getting in to the ground early myself to
soak up the atmosphere and so I headed in about an hour before kick
I was amazed to see how many Tims were in before me and already
singing away heartily. Those coaches must have been good craic! Old
Trafford looks pretty impressive but it helps when you're in the
Celtic end (guess who had that ticket, then?). The players got a big
welcome when they first came out for the warm up and the singing was
getting louder by the minute. In contrast the Manchester Utd fans
seemed to be fairly subdued.
I looked around me as the stadium filled and filled. I could see
Celtic colours everywhere amongst the Man Utd sections so this was
clearly going to be a bit like Anfield in the UEFA Cup. I was just
hoping it might be a similar result. I'll never forget that night.
I stood there, stomach churning, in the Celtic end at Old Trafford
in the Champions League and then that easily recognisable and
lovable theme music started. The music that really sent the spine
tingling. Yes, the Champions League music started up and the kids
shook the large circular flag over the centre circle as the teams
marched out. The Celtic fans roared and as I was looking around me I
was thinking "this is what it's all about, this is where we should
be. This is where we must stay".
After the teams lined up and headed for the kick off, I took a wee
glance at the referee. I wondered if the guy knew how much he had
contributed to all those weeks of footballing depression in my life
and, no doubt, in many other lives? A man who saw diving as a
footballing art form. How the feck was this man supposed to be one
of the best referees in the world? Was I the only one who thought he
was pretty poor every time I saw him? Little did I know what was
ahead of me.. little did I know..
The game started off fairly well. The Celtic fans were certainly
winning on the terraces or should I say seats and the team was
playing fairly safely. They seemed a little nervous at first and
under a bit of pressure and but for a couple of efforts from Saha -
Boruc wasn't really being troubled. Then at one uneventful moment
Boruc got the ball, trotted around and gave the ball an almighty
hoof into the air. Feck me, I don't think I ever saw Wimbledon hit
it that far. Then JVoH seemed to attack and control the ball all in
one movement which made Rio `Big Wages' Ferdinand fall on his arse.
Now if I was to be hopeful about anybody approaching a shot at goal
these days, it would be JVoH. However I presumed that Van de Sar -
who I rate as a super goalkeeper - would palm it away or even hold
it. Having said that, the one thing that I've noticed lately is that
when JVoH hits a ball - he bleedin' well hits the ball!. and
next thing I know is that the net is bulging at the far end of the
ground. Brief silence. Eyes link up to brain: we've scored. Pande-
feckin-monium. Up on the seats, down the steps, hugging, dancing and
thumping people I don't even know- but we are all part of the same
footballing family. What a feeling. what a feeling. We are winning
at Old Trafford in the Champions League. This is what it's all
about. This is what it's all about.
The game moved on. A second was like a minute. A minute was like an
hour. We seemed to be doing okay but there was a feeling that the
goals weren't over. Another longish ball was thumped up to Giggs -
it was going nowhere really. I saw Boruc run across his area, right
there, down below, in front of me. I presumed Boruc was just going
to do one of those dummies and let the ball run out. But suddenly
Giggs seemed to try to control it by stretching his leg, Boruc then
decided he had to avoid Giggs, Giggs went down and the feckin ref
decided to award a peno! What is going on here? It happened so fast
that I decided that, well, maybe I missed something? I'll ring home
later for the TV replay and the 'pundits' (note the inverted commas)
opinions. I was shocked but was a little unsure as were many of
those around me. We thought we must have missed something - how else
would the referee award it? I wouldn't mind but Blessed Artur wasn't
far from saving that penalty either - he got a hand to it but after
all of that, they were level. The bassas!
The game moved on and we're still doing alright. Giggs goes off and
has me thinking that maybe he was indeed fouled for the penalty - I
just wasn't sure at the time. The ball then comes out from the
Celtic defence. McGeady passes it through the centre, towards
Gravesen and Tommy G. seems to get caught in possession. The ball
appears to bobble around before being knocked through. Saha gets a
touch and it seems to roll - no, crawl - directly below me into the
net. But it was like slow motion. I expected somebody to slide
across the line and to clear it - you know the way you see it on
some highlights packages. But it never happened. I looked at the
ref - you owe us ya fecker. But nothing. No signals. No offsides. No
fouls. It's a goal. 1-2 down. Bollox.
I started to doubt things then. Please God, not one of those 4-1 or
5-1 games, where the losers were winning. I've seen them on La Liga
games on the television. It's funny what you think of. We hang in
there and I'm thinking if we keep it to one goal at half time we'll be
well in there. My fingers are crossed (luckily I'm not in
As half-time approaches, the ball is passed around and ends up at
Jarosik's feet. He appears to get caught as he attempts to knock the
ball beyond Brown. The ref awards a free kick. That's alright -
we'll take it. Now in recent weeks I've always thought that Nakamura
might be good for a free kick goal at Old Trafford - particularly
when he hasn't put one away lately. So as he steps up, along with
the rest in the Celtic end, I'm murmuring - 'c'mon Naka, put in the
corner'. There's a sort of silence in the Celtic end as he sets it
up. Come on.. please.. please. I'll eat sushi every week for the
rest of my life. Jarosik trots up and stands in the wall. I'm
thinking - 'get out of there, ya tall eejit - you'll block his shot,
knowing our luck'. Nakamura then trots up and hits the ball - the
keeper doesn't move but the net is bulging. So I'm thinking - he
took it before the whistle - feck that! But no, the net is bulging -
what? - the net is bulging. The ref is pointing for a goal. All
hell breaks out in the Celtic end - if it was a film it would be
called Pande-feckin-monium 2. Down those steps again, jumping,
hugging, cheering, screaming. Old Trafford, 2-2, nearly half-time.
Bhoy, it's great feeling. Reminds me of Anfield again - written off,
snooty English journalists, men against boys, blah, blah. Get it
right up you. Can you hear me Maggie Thatcher? Your boys are taking
one hell of a beating! (or something similar - like drawing).
Half time whistle next. I'll be fecked if I'm gonna leave my seat
for some manky toilet. I'm gonna enjoy this! I stay there, ringing,
contacting anybody - a wrong number will do. I want to talk to the
world. We're doing alright here and this shower aren't looking too
over confident now.
The second half starts. Tims are still finding their seats. The ball
is given away to Nakamura - feck me, they're at home and they're
still nervous - giving the ball away like that. Naka then passes to
Gravesen who attempts a difficult pass which is intercepted. They're
not the only ones giving the ball away. It's knocked forward - oh
bollix, its Saha again - it ends up with Solskjear. Aawww, nooooo -
the net bulges. Same end - wrong team. For fecks sake the half has
only started. Bollox.
We quietened down briefly but the singing starts up very quickly
again. The game moves on. They have chances as we do but they seem
to have more opportunities. Boruc makes some good saves from Rooney
but his best save of the game is from a teammate ! Time is edging
away. I suddenly feel we might not do it. What about a peno? No -
how could I forget - its Lubos Michel. The final whistle goes. Don't
give me any of this brave valiant losers shampooe. As an Irishman I'm
well used to it in various sports. Feck that stuff- we could have
taken this game tonight but for silly mistakes. As ever, we cheer
the team anyway. " We are Celtic supporters, faithful through and
I head out towards the car. I ring home to be told about all the
plaudits from the pundits. Feck them - you'd be happy if you thought
they knew anything about football.
At the car we all meet up again - all down but not out.
Manchester United might be a big club but I'll tell you one thing -
they don't know how to clear a stadium. Not a cop in sight outside
(unlike Celtic Park) and everybody is left to sit for over an hour
or so without moving. Ridiculous stuff and then you have to try to
force your car out anyway. An utter shambollix of a set up and one
you don't need at that hour of the night, particularly after a
result like that.
We eventually get away and do about three tours of the Trafford area
before we find a road that seems to head towards the M6. To simplify
matters I'll put it this way : we got back to the hotel near East
Midlands airport after 2am! Lashing rain, flooding roads and of
course, Celtic had lost. Not quite the mood or weather we had had as
we headed towards Old Trafford earlier that day. Sometimes I wonder
if these games are all about the build up!
We eventually reached our hotel and crawled into bed but only to get
up about four hours later for our flight home.
It was nearly 7am as we headed out the door of the hotel. It's
raining as if it was a tropical storm. We lost - we all know God is
a Tim - but come on - I've never seen rain like that before!
We move down the road towards the airport. We've already checked in
online so we find ourselves boarding fairly quickly. Nobody is in
any great form as the plane smashes through the dark rain clouds.
We had departed Dublin at 06.35 on Wednesday 13th September 2006. We
were arriving back in Dublin at 09.15am on Thursday 14th
September.We'd only been away just over 24 hours but it felt like it
had been much, much longer. What a trip.
As we landed all I could think of was `roll on the next game'. We
can definitely get through this group.
We left the plane and headed towards the car with that Champions
League music still ringing in our years. Two home games ahead -
let's win them!
This is where we should be.
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