Exterior view of Old Trafford
When my parents came over to visit me in Boston on my 21st birthday, they told me that my birthday present was a trip to Old Trafford
to see Man United play Liverpool
in the following Premiership season. As you can imagine I was delighted and couldn't wait for it! When the schedule for the season came out, the match was due to be played on October 22. My parents bought tickets for me and Dad, as well as accommodation in nearby Sale and flights from Cork to Manchester
. The trip out was pretty painless, our flight left on time, and we got a taxi from the airport to the hotel in Sale without any problems.
Sir Alex Ferguson applaudes the crowd
I can't remember the name of the hotel, if you want to know leave a comment and I'll find out. It was situated in Sale, very close to the town centre. It is a family owned and run hotel, and all the staff were very pleasant, and friendly. The room was clean and was exactly what you would have expected. There was doors out into a garden but unfortunately the door was jammed. I was able to pick up a very weak wi-fi signal by the window, which allowed me to (slowly) get Google Maps to find our way around. The stadium was 3 miles from the hotel, and hotel reception told us the best thing to do was to get the metro and follow the crowd of supporters.
We arrived the night before the match, and my Dad has an uncle who lives near Manchester, so we gave him a call to see if he wanted to meet up to get something to eat and have a few drinks.
Giggs, Saha, Fletcher, Rooney, Carrick for United...Reina, Finnan, Alonso and Hyppia for Liverpool
Wouldn't you know it, he lived in Sale, less than a 5 minute walk from our hotel! He came and picked us up and brought us to his house for a few drinks and we caught up. The conversation went on for quite a while and it was a bit late to head into Manchester, so we got a bite to eat in the local pub. While there we met a couple who lived across from my granuncle for 17 years, and they had never met! The lady was from Ireland too, and we had a good laugh! Then we headed back to his house for a few more drinks before heading back to the hotel. Dad was on the phone to Mum, so I went down to the hotel bar and ordered us a couple of pints. I waited for a while but there was no sign of Dad. After finishing both the pints I went upstairs to check on him, and he was sound asleep! I wasn't too tired yet though, so went back down to the bar, where I had a great conversation with the barman and joint-owner of the hotel.
When I told him our row number for the match, he told me that they were excellent seats, and that we'd have a great view of everything! I was delighted to hear this, and it made me even more excited about the following day!
I woke up bright and early on the day of the match, and if I remember correctly, it was an early kick off so we headed off in plenty of time for it. Getting there was easy, we just went to Sale metro station and like the receptionist said, a sea of red jerseys acted like a pathway from there on. It was only four stops, and we were there within 15 minutes. It was a good 10 minute walk from the metro to the stadium, but it only added to the atmosphere as the fans were in great spirit! We also got to see some interesting grafitti along the way, the likes of "F*** Scousers" and "Love United, Hate Glazer" were quite common! The latter refers to United's owner, Malcolm Glazer, who recently took over the club.
There was a period of extreme hostility towards Glazer when he first took over, with some hardcore fans even setting up a new club in protest of the takeover. This has since died down, mainly thanks a very successful season for United so far!
I have been to a lot of stadiums around Europe, Nou Camp in Barcelona, San Siro in Milan, Stade de France and Parc des Princes in Paris, Olympic Stadium in Rome, Olympic Stadium in Barcelona, Wembley and Croke Park, and I can honestly say that Old Trafford was like none of the others. From the outside it didn't look like a football stadium at all, it looked more like an enormous commercial building! On the inside, however, it was exactly as I expected! A sea of red seats, fans flooding in more and more every minute, and a great atmosphere.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
When we finally made it to our seats, I immediately knew that the barman I was talking to the night before was not lying, we were in the second row from the touchline, and could almost reach out and touch the pitch! We were right next to the tunnel where the players come out from before the game starts, and it was brilliant getting to see them coming out all fired up for the match!
At this point I should probably point out that my Dad was born in Liverpool, and is a lifelong Liverpool supporter. He agreed to try his best not to cheer for anything from Liverpool, which was more for our security and safety than anything else! A Liverpool supporter in the United section? He would have been lynched, and I would have been lynched for being the son of a Liverpool supporter! The match was excellent, with United cruising to a 2-0 win.
Liverpool were pretty poor and never looked threatening. The atmosphere was brilliant, and the chants were hilarious. My favourite was the abuse the Stretford End gave Steven Gerrard as he waited to take a corner while a player was receiving treatment. "Steve Gerrard, Gerrard, he kisses the badge on his chest, then puts in a transfer request, Steve Gerrard, Gerrard!". This was in reference to the previous season, when after saying he could never leave Liverpool after they won the Champions League, asked that the club accept an offer from Chelsea as he wished to move. The deal broke down and Gerrard later explained that he never really wanted to leave, and received poor advice from his agent. Of course, the United supporters weren't going to let this go under the rug like the Liverpool supporters did!
After the match we got the metro back to Sale.
Edwin van der Sar warming up before the match
There was a big crowd waiting at the station, and my Dad and I got split up, with him being on a squashed full train and me getting on an empty one that came right after it :) We then stopped in at a pub in Sale where there was some dreadful karaoke going on, got some food and headed back to the hotel. My Dad didn't feel great that evening, suspecting that there was garlic in his food, which wasn't settling well with him in recent times. So again I went down to the hotel bar for a few beers myself, where I met some United supporters from Belfast. What I intended to be one or two pints turned into a night of it, and I headed to bed pretty late that night!
The next day I felt like shit, and that's putting it lightly! Totally hungover and sleep deprived, I soldiered on and got up early to head back to Old Trafford to do the stadium tour and visit the club shop.
John O'Shea, Patrice Evra, Ryan Giggs and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Unfortunately the stadium tour needed to be pre-booked (which I thought was ridiculous) so we didn't get to do that. We did go into the museum, which was pretty unimpressive to be honest. I mean, compared to the likes of the F.C. Barcelona Museum in the Nou Camp, it was a waste of money! Still, it was good to be back on the ground again, and I picked a few bits and pieces in the club shop, aswell as a new United jersey with Solskjaer (number 20) on the back. I have a tradition that everytime I go to a football stadium I buy the club's jersey, and get my favourite player's name on the back. So far I have 3 Barcelona kits (Saviola, Xavi and Messi), 2 Inter Milan kits (Adriano and J Zanetti), a PSG kit (Rothen) and now a United kit aswell. As a kid I owned every United jersey that came out! I was fanatic about them when I was young, my room was decorated with United wallpaper, bedclothes, curtains, the works!
Dad's Uncle rang us and offered a lift to the airport, which was very handy.
He picked us up from the hotel and we were at the airport in what we thought was plenty of time. We went to get a cup of coffee when my Dad decided to double check the times on the tickets, which we then discovered we had completely messed up, and that we were due to board in 20 minutes! Luckily the check in desk stayed open, and we rushed into the departure lounge and made the flight on time! It would have been annoying but quite funny had we missed the flight. I could only imagine the humiliation calling Dad's uncle back and asking him if we could crash in his house for the night cos we missed our flight! :) A close call!
The trip was brilliant and I loved every minute of it (even the ones I spent hungover)! I'll definitely go back to see another match there, and I will definitely stay at the same hotel (once I find out what the name of it was!)