Adam Bird


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Monday, 27 November 2006

A Taste of the High Life

After days of painful soul searching, I decided that I could afford to take the risk and go to Manchester and watch the game vs Chelsea.

As it turned out, the baby is still safe and warm and being incredibly well looked after. If there was any hint of an appearance, I would have course stayed at home!

Despite the long journey, which included a monsoon at Heathrow scaring the bejesus out of me and Reaso, we arrived at Old Trafford at 3.30, dry and in one piece.

Having parked seemingly in Macclesfield, or Altrincham we faced a long walk to the stadium which we could see tantalisingly in the distance. As at Arsenal earlier on in the season we had to walk along a similar looking road, consisting of fried chicken eateries, cab offices and parades of boarded up shops.

I have been to Old Trafford only once and on that occasion I was overwhelmed by the shear amount of people walking to the ground, congregating outside pubs and on corners close to the ground. That was before they added another 9,000 seats, and both sets of supporters were coming in from elsewhere! This time around it was on a much bigger scale. As we approached the South/East stand quadrant where we were due to enter the stadium, a couple of thousand or so people were congregated outside a couple of local pubs drinking cans of beer and singing Man Utd or anti Chelsea songs. There must have been a small ruckus or something as we were passing because a couple of unfit, puffed out Police Officers ran past out looking slightly red faced and worried!

Once inside the ground, we headed straight for our seats. As I have mentioned before the best part of going to any ground is walking out of the concourse and out of the concrete walkway and seeing the stadium bowl for the first time. (Or if it is a Gillingham away game, past the fat bloke eating a pasty, over the dog peeing up the wall, and through the rusty gap in the corrugated sheeting).

The view as you walk out at Old Trafford is amazing, especially now that they have added the two new quadrants, which gives the ground a slightly more "complete" feel to it.

Our timing was impecible, as we arrived just in time to see the players finishing the pre match warm up, so it gave me a chance to take a couple of photographs. Admittedly, the photo's have not come out too well this time around! Must have been the northern air....

I was looking forward to hearing the Manchester Utd fans singing and creating a "wall of noise", but all the way up until they scored the was hardly a song to be heard from the United faithful. When Saha opened the scoring for Man Utd the noise was deafening, almost on the verge of frightening. 73,000 people screaming with delight creates a hell of a noise I can tell you! I was hoping that this would be the beginning of a sustained vocal performance from the Stretford End, but it remained all Chelsea, who were a credit. They never stopped singing, they had quite a good range of songs and there was nothing in terms of malicousness toward United or any Man Utd player - which I was suprised about.

One thing I have noticed, and it happens at Gillingham as well is a lack of imagination when it comes to songs about a player. All the players have the same song sang about them, which consists of the players name sang in the same sort of tune. Not at all inspiring, and can cause sleepiness when repeated more than three times!

The game itself was throughly enjoyable, despite the fact that we had four planks sat infront of us, whom were all drunk, stank of booze, had wind problems and could not decide whether to keep seated or to stand up. It never really bothers me, as I am normally with the Gills and either join in or find it amusing! It wouldn't have been so bad if they had stood all game, as I wouldn't have minded standing up behind them, but at the final whistle I felt as if I had been on a Gareth Rout fitness workout the amount of times I was up and down!

Having been to Old Trafford and the Emirates this season I could possibly try to compare the two, but I don't think it would be fair to do so. Manchester Utd were playing Chelsea, and Arsenal were playing an already qualified European game, so atmosphere wise it was chalk and cheese. Plus I was sitting in the home end at Arsenal and with the away fans at Old Trafford.

What Old Trafford does have, and it is evident throughout the walk to the ground and the surrounding areas. History.

You can walk past the "United Café", down "Sir Matt Busby Way", tell the time from the "Munich Clock". Hundreds of people selling memorablia, ranging from George Best t-shirt, Cantona flags, Busby Babe badges and all kinds of other things.

Arsenal have this too, but there is a defined history there, you can feel it, smell it and all the people around you have been part of it. Something Highbury had, and Anfield too, which was evident during the stadium tour and museum. Something that I am afraid will be lost when the new Anfield becomes a reality at the end of the decade.

Having tasted the high life I can safely say that I enjoyed it immensley, and would love to see some more top flight action!

Will I see it with the Gills? Highly unlikely!

Old Trafford is called the Theatre of Dreams.

For ninety minutes on Sunday afternoon that was my dream.


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