Old Trafford Soapbox: quiet day at the new Highbury

Pete Sixsmith’s dispatch from Manchester United 2 Sunderland 0 was accompanied by the message: “Here it is. No photos, no anger, just nothing. A poor day out; won’t be going there again.” What on earth can he mean? …

At 3.20pm, after conceding a goal, seeing the ball thwack the post and bar and admiring three splendid saves from the excellent Craig Gordon, I would have settled for a 2-0 home win – which is exactly what happened in this non-event of a contest.

If you concede early at the Theatre of Prawn Sandwiches, it’s very difficult to get back into the game.

If you do it with a seriously depleted side, consisting of a winger playing at right back, a right back playing at left back and a Paraguayan playing his first game since long before the latest Ice Age descended on us, then you can write the game off.

So we did and stood back and allowed Manchester United to play some exquisite football for 20 minutes until we gave ourselves a shake and began to mark up, tackle and stop giving the ball away quite as much as we had previously.

Had I known that we were going into this game minus Cattermole, Mensah and Richardson I might have stayed at home – although there was no football to watch in the North East.

As it was, I could have stayed in the Wagon at Uppermill and supped Dobcross Bitter and Robinson’s Old Tom rather than sit through this dull, dull game.

Old Trafford was once a byword for passion, but there was more passion in a Mary Whitehouse TV schedule than from this slumbering crowd. At times, early on, the football was reminiscent of Arsenal at their best and I can see United emulating The Invincibles and going through the whole season unbeaten. And, like the Highbury Library of old, the crowd, bedecked in their green and gold Norwich scarves, slumber away and refusing to get excited.

Not that we gave them anything to get excited about. I strongly suspect that the mood in the camp was: “Right, let’s not do anything silly today; Blackpool and Blackburn are far more important than this.”

It allowed us to see that Elmohamady is not a full back, that Riveros is neat and tidy but is probably not going to cut the mustard at PL level and that Darren Bent should have refused to wear the vivid green boots that his mum had bought him for Christmas.

Some positives can be taken: the keeper was outstanding, Ferdinand and Onuoha did well and stuck to their difficult tasks and Henderson covered a lot of ground and looked a very decent player.

The rest were poor and the midfield especially so. Zenden and Malbranque looked slow and lacking in inspiration and until Bent dropped in to make a midfield five, United’s outstanding Anderson and Park had complete control.

Anderson looked brilliant at times and the ball he played to Berbatov for the second goal was brilliant. He looked one way and passed it the other – a bit like some of our players but ours was unintentional.

After the second goal, they preserved their energy for the rest of this very intense Christmas/New Year period and we ran around a lot and actually had a shot on target.

The crowd began to disappear 10 minutes from the end and by the time the 93 minutes was up, there were almost as many empty seats as there were at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in mid afternoon. A job well done for United and an afternoon that barely appears on our radar.

We need to make up for this waste of £50+ by winning these two upcoming games, or there shall be a venting of the spleen on this site

14 thoughts on “Old Trafford Soapbox: quiet day at the new Highbury”

  1. while we, as the opposition, were as poor at Old Trafford as Man U were good, surely the thing that gets the home fans singing and shouting is the performance of home side, not that of the away side? And our reserves didn’t play against Blackpool, our first choise eleven did, and they got beaten on our own patch, just as Liverpool (to United’s undoubted delight) and others so far this season. I suspect Mr Holloway’s brand of up and at ’em football will upset a few more teams before the seaosn’s out. Suitable replacement for Fergie when the time comes? Or would he demand a bit too much passion from the support?

  2. Martin, its not UTD’s fault who they play and what team is put in front of them, as for the noise, you are correct in one sense that UTD can be awful but against your lot we did ok as Im sure any right minded supporter of yours would agree. I’ve already said yours where the best away support weve seen this year.

    BTW how did your reserves do against Blackpool

  3. I have some points!

    Firstly to Matt – you are absolutely right when you say that TV companies modulate the sound of the crowd – but in your case it simply makes the silence quieter. Unless the TV companies were using the mute facility, except at the away end. I assumed the majority of Manchester support were Monks determined not to break their vows. Pete’s right – there’s no passion, and it’s exponentially dwindling. As for Manchester United – could it be that their merry-go-round successes are becoming all too familiar for their trophy expectant un-noisy fans? Success is customary and the lulling consequence to their personality (or lack thereof) is abundantly apparent when Old Trafford is packed. It’s a sad indictment to the game, and it’s not going to get any better any time soon.

    Drew – you’re not blowing your own trumpet when you proclaim that your fans are the best away fans in the land. You’re voluntarily publicizing your requirement for psychiatric evaluation. You’re a typical Manchester fan – arrogant and sanctimonious to the last! As for Turkey – I’m surprised you came back with your life!

    As for our boys – whilst I sympathize with you for spending the 50+ big ones, we had a skeleton crew at best!! I was relieved to come away with only 2 conceded!! Nobody can compete with that lot with only 25% of regular playing staff!! At the SOL we outplayed and outfought them, and that hasn’t happened too often in my tenure!

    So Drew/Matt – congratulations for beating our bench warmers. Tremendous achievement. Tell Sir Alex we’ll take any of his best players on loan next year too.

  4. For the record, Salut! Sunderland is evenly divided on the issue of reduced allocation for United fans at the Sol as a punishment for standing, as many past posts here and at Republik of Mancunia testify.

    And while United fans cannot be expected to trawl back through all the post match coverage here, they should be aware that the “lameness” of our side yesterday, and the great superiority of United, has been mentioned over and again.

  5. This game also saw the Premier League debut of Hetton School’s Jordan Cook, only a few short days after the sad passing of another former Hetton Lad – namely Ralph Coates. Coates was surely the best footballer ever to come out of my birthplace and had the best Bobby Charlton hairstyle since Bobby Charlton. Jordan could do a lot worse than emulate that man’s achievements. RIP Ralphy.

  6. I have to say its constant standing in tier two of the stretford end so the H&S people can go and chew thier rule book up, as for noise I’m sure all of you have been to games where the noise level is really high only to get home and hear a more muted sound on the TV, this is because the TV companies have thier sound mikes around the pitch and then they modulate the sound so the commentaters are not drowned out, Im not saying its the cause of the ills at Old Trafford but it does happen, anyone who goes to live football will have seen its effect.

  7. Of course I knew that Cattermole wasn’t playing, Drew, but the days when you could just turn up on a Saturday morning and go to the game are long gone. Tickets for the game and the coach were pre paid and I wasn’t keen to spend £50.00 and not go.,especially as there was no football at all in the North East.
    I know we did not play well. I hope that this was a calculated response by Bruce and Black, realising that the Blackpool and Blackburn games are more important and are winnable. And yes, if that is the case, they are cheating us.
    I saw a Rugby League Grand Final at OT in 2009 and the atmosphere was electric – far better than you generate. Away fans are by their nature more vociferous (I have been known to sing the odd song myself on foreign soil) but the spontaneity is no longer there.
    The best I have heard Sunderland fans in recent years was at Villa Park in 2008 when we roared the team home after Chopra had scored. No songs, no chants, no bloody stupid anti-Newcastle rubbish, just real fans getting behind their team.
    You don’t get much of that now. Do United still do it if things are going badly or do they moan? I suspect the latter.

  8. What amazed me was how poor the “wise old heads” of Malbranque and Zenden were in and out of possession. Once again after an away match the pre match posturing of our players looks like playground comments. I hope the players paid as much as us to watch Man Utd because thats all they did for the first half hour. I found myself checking the clock to see how long was left, not because we looked like scoring but in the hope that they wouldn’t.

  9. When compared to some games in Turkey which I have been fortunate enough to attend, the atmosphere at any stadium in the UK would fall into the ‘Library/Dissapointment’ category. However disappointed you were with our yesterday, an article about how lame your side was ( which you touched on, very sparingly), and how much that may have contributed to the atmosphere, would possibly be more appropriate and constructive.

    Without blowing my own trumpet, I would say our away fans are the best in the land, in your post you have on one hand claimed the moral hightground brandishing us as rule breakers, yet on the other, long for the days when H&S was almost non-existent.
    Having just read through your piece again, you surely knew that at least Cattermole wouldn’t be playing.?

  10. It’s a properly run club, Drew. Rules are made to be kept to. Your fans stand at away games but not at Old Trafford which, to my admittedly jaundiced and cynical eye, suggests that you feel that you can transcend the rules.
    Football has changed so much. I like the opening credits on Match of the Day, which show noisy crowds and not the regimented, self satisfied and incredibly demanding attendances that we have now. The SoL is no better or worse than many others, but there was little noise made for a home crowd of 72,000. Look at the length of time it took for your fans to come back after their half time refreshments.
    United played some splendid football and will pip City and Chelsea for the title, but this is football without passion. I feel that the time is coming when I shall turn my back on it.

  11. What is the point of having a go at the crowd again after a loss?

    OK we are not passionate and you are !!! but we don’t need it fellas!! Once again we sit top of the league with our players having to endure complete silence from our support (according to most uninformed out there) so my only advice is shut your mouths keep quiet and let the team on the pitch do it for you anyway OUR BOYS DO!

  12. Yeah, must be strange after watching your football at that cauldron that is the SOL. What’s the policy there again?…… Bums on seats please or we take your tickets away….. A real madhouse that is.

  13. On the live radio coverage, Matt, you could barely hear United fans whereas the SAFC lot kept up a constant racket. Not bad considering how awful their team was. And from memory, the press box is not located bang in the middle of the away section.
    If the sedate nature of the home support was what struck Pete Sixsmith, it is hardly cliched for him to note as much (along with some very fair comments about the class of the team).

  14. mmmmmmm well doen for following the cliche that OT was quiet, it wasn’t from where I sit but hey ho that doesn’t fit with the myth. I do concede you where the best away fans we’ve seen or heard this year but its not an award you win every time you come.

    As for the prawn sandwich eaters at least they are still turning up, where have all yours gone.

Comments are closed.

Next Post