Like most American fans, my joy of European football is mostly experienced via my television set. So when I heard that the poor person’s version of the Champions League Final was coming to the U.S., I jumped at the chance (as did 81,806 other fans) to see Barcelona v Manchester United in person.
When the big night arrived, it was with great anticipation and my nosebleed ticket (third row from the top and in a corner) firmly in hand that I made the great schlep to my seat. The energy of the crowd in the stadium surpassed anything that has ever taken place in my TV room. But it was not without its downsides… contretemps with someone in my seat (who should have been in section 406, an even worse location than 405), some guy singing “Glory, Glory Man United” in my ear at the top of his lungs, a moron in front that just wouldn’t sit down, an announcer who mutilated players’ names—including ones like “Evra”, and people incessantly coming and going in the aisle — did they come to watch two of the best teams on the planet or eat snacks?
But nothing could take away from the thrill of seeing Rooney on the pitch. And addition to seeing Nani’s goal, it was a treat to see to his lovely display of footwork for the full 90 minutes. And, yes, it was good to see that Michael Owen has still got it, scoring a goal as a substitute. Even though Barca didn’t play Messi, Xavi, or Piqué, watching the team hold possession was pure pleasure. It was exciting to see Iniesta and Villa play. And can’t believe I was lucky enough to witness Thiago’s beautiful goal.
With only one yellow card (dos Santos), this match was pure friendly. But it wasn’t any less of a joy to watch even from the distance of section 405—the closest I’ll ever get to a match between these two great teams.