Like a Salmon

Monday 21st November 2016

Coming away with something from a trip to Old Trafford should always be seen as a positive. And when you have been second best for large chunks of it and equalise with a towering thumping beauty of a header with time nearly up, the satisfaction increases considerably. Having seen us totally dominate many many games down the years and come away with less than we deserved, I’ll have that thanks very much.

My local airport these days is Southampton and using it is simplicity in itself. With these departure points in major cities often being the busiest and most stressful locations you can ever have the displeasure of passing through, the one nearest my abode could not be more opposite.

With direct flights to and from Newcastle it has made our numerous trips to play the Geordies and Mackems far less daunting journey wise over the last 6 years or so and in recent times we have also considered the similar options available to Manchester.

The lunchtime kick-off on Saturday and a flight available departing so early that if cancelled we still had the opportunity to jump in the car and make the game made it a total no brainer on this occasion and although one or two jars on Friday meant it wasn’t exactly comfortable getting up that early, the full English in Manchester’s city centre just 2 hours after our flight was due to depart emphasized just how simple the whole idea is when it works.

A few late morning ales soon had us all buzzing for the next couple of hours and the travelling Gooners certainly seemed confident we were well capable of getting a positive result from the day.

The rivalry between Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger was well documented down the years but it only matched similar situations all over the pitch, arguably starting back in Georgie Graham’s days. The Nutty Nige/Brian McLair altercations are hugely memorable to all those who are old enough to have experienced them culminating in the infamous ‘brawl’ at Old Trafford on a day where a cheeky Anders Limpar strike grabbed us the points. Keane/Vieira, Van Nistelrooy/Keown and numerous overs continued that trend of course.

Interestingly however, as time passed, the respect between the majority of those involved became hugely apparent and looking back these types of characters were born winners. Their competitive nature might have gone beyond the boundaries at times but you don’t hear many of them uttering any bad words about their past rivals these days without admitting their respect for them too.

Even as a fan I begrudgingly look back at the likes of Roy Keane as someone who enjoyed the battle and hated losing and I would definitely put Alex Ferguson in that bracket too.

But Jose Mourinho lacks respect and class and in my opinion is not worthy of managing a club such as Man United. His managerial and tactical skills cannot be questioned due to his record but the way he goes about the other aspects of the game when it comes to how he treats many of his fellow professionals leaves an extremely sour taste in the mouth.

And that makes any game where he is involved with our opponents have added ‘spice’ I guess.

That alone, even with every other aspect adding to the final ingredients, meant Saturday’s encounter was going to be more than just tough. And nobody can argue that is exactly how it panned out.

Our hosts certainly started on the front foot but we had our moments, in particular a header that Alexis failed to turn goalwards midway through the half. In a game of very few clear cut openings however, us surviving a debatable penalty shout and Petr Cech making a couple of saves are enough evidence that we were pretty pleased to get through to the break on level terms.

With even fewer clear chances, the second period certainly saw our hosts dominate possession once again but we looked strong defensively and nil nil was looking more and more likely the eventual outcome. After knocking on the door for a while however, we eventually cracked and left ourselves with it all to do if we were to not go away empty handed.

The Ox came on against Spurs last week and would be the first to admit I’m sure, he was pretty poor. With one drop of the shoulder and a short burst of pace on Saturday afternoon he certainly gave a brief cameo of what we all know he is capable of. A fine cross to the far stick followed and you will not see a better jump and thumping header anywhere in the world than Olly’s. In a game where it had looked hugely unlikely, the intensity of the jostle in an away end where we have seen us win the league in the past was a perfect demonstration of how much the goal meant to all those who had made the journey north. Get in.

The fact snatching a late equaliser in a game where you have been largely second best almost feels ‘like a victory’ might be one of the many football clichés. But from a fixture where in any season you would take a point it definitely felt just like that.

In today’s football games never get any easier and taking on Paris St. Germain falls well and truly into that category. Admittedly we are through. We all know that. So even if we lose our last 2 games we will still be in that hat. But a win on Wednesday would see us top the group, even if we lost 15 nil in Switzerland in a couple of weeks time.

And that has to be incentive enough to put in a good performance

Come on you mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

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