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Tottenham fan’s first-hand account of Old Trafford experience

Nevertheless, the atmosphere was still intimidating. Old Trafford has double the capacity of White Hart Lane and four times the capacity of the venue of last week’s venue, Loftus Road. The only other stadium with a capacity over 55,000 that Spurs have to play an away match at in the Premier League is The Emirates. There were also a lot more banners hung over the rafters between the upper and lower tiers than any of the stadiums I’ve been to. Most were for specific supporters clubs around the world but there were two in the corner adjacent to the away end that stood out to me. The first said “20 titles, not stuck on 18 forever” which was clearly a dig at fierce rivals Liverpool who have not won the title since 1990. The other said “European Capital of Trophies” which was a very strong statement. The attitude continued when the public address announcer declared Manchester United as “the most famous football club in the world”, which may or may not be true.

The away support were in full voice through the opening exchanges, despite Spurs looking a little lost and on the back foot, unsure with how to cope under the big arena and bright lights. I have come to realize that the first 10 minutes of every match is always the best in terms of atmosphere because both teams, no matter the gulf in class between them. Start out on equal pegging and both sets of supporters are equally hopeful that their team will be able to pull off a result no matter how improbable. Unfortunately the good vibes and high energy started to subside rather quickly as on nine minutes, United went ahead through Marouane Fellaini. It was pretty poor defending from Spurs as no one was certain who was supposed to defend the through ball, and in the end no one did, which saw Fellaini put the ball past Hugo Lloris in the bottom corner. The goal put a dagger into the away support as it so often does, but the Spurs fans continued to sing albeit with a reduced vigor. Then United scored again through Michael Carrick off a corner where I swear Fellaini jumped on Eric Dier’s back, but no foul was given and Spurs were two down inside of 20 minutes. The second was disastrous both in terms of the outlook of the match, the season and also the quality of the away support. The United support used the opportunity to crank up the volume as more of the ground started to get involved with the singing. This led to the Spurs support chanting “We’ll sing when we’re sh*t, we’ll sing when we’re sh*t, we’re Tottenham Hotspur, we’ll sing when we’re sh*t”. Every time United fans started cheering, the Tottenham fans would sarcastically applaud them. About 30 minutes in, Andros Townsend was abruptly pulled off in favor of Mousa Dembele, which further highlighted our problems. When a team makes a substitution before halftime for a reason other than injury, you know things are wrong.

Well, in this situation that was not entirely true as a minute later Nabil Bentaleb made a picture perfect pass to Wayne Rooney. The United striker then waltzed around three Spurs defenders before scoring into the corner and celebrating by pretending to knock somebody out – referencing a story that came out that morning of him getting knocked out by Phil Bardsley. 3-0 to United – game, set and match and it wasn’t even halftime yet. I’ve never left a sporting event early, but for the briefest of milliseconds I considered leaving this as I had trouble coping with the triple sucker punch. I had never cried watching a soccer match before but this was by far the closest I’d come to really letting my emotions out. At least when I saw Spurs lose to Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, the team showed signs of promise and some attacking instinct but were undone by a couple of defensive mistakes and a defensive masterclass from Jose Mourinho’s men. In this situation, they showed nothing. No chances of note, misplaced passes all over the place, shambolic defending and three goals down to a team that were supposedly in crisis mode. But I love Tottenham, and made the obvious decision to stay. It may have ended four, five or six nil but I love Tottenham and support them through thick and thin. This was classic Tottenham, just when there was a ray of hope that this season would be glorious and memorable, it comes crashing down in the space of 35 minutes at Old Trafford. Understandably, the away support was silent for the rest of the first half, we were shell-shocked and couldn’t comprehend what we were seeing. Not a single player had a good first half and Kyle Walker and Dier were made to look like amateurs by Fellaini and Ashley Young. The fan standing behind me spent most of the match criticizing each and every one of Walker’s moves and decisions and sarcastically applauded him if he didn’t mess up. I’ve come to accept that this is typical behavior when Spurs go down as Roberto Soldado got similar treatment in Florence.

Halftime came and went with a supporter shooting penalty shots at the Manchester United mascot to raise money for charity. The 15 minutes of respite seemed to do the trick as far as the away supporters were concerned. The second the second half kicked off, we were back in full voice singing our usual songs but also adding in a song that went “We’re gonna win 4-3!”, which was obviously not serious but still comical. The second half was mostly forgettable, United were focused on preserving their lead while Spurs were lacking in ideas of how to break down the United defense. The Spurs supporters continued to sing throughout up to and after the full-time whistle, while the United fans didn’t really feel the need to sing as the crucial three points were well secure. However, I did hear the fans immediately adjacent to us try singing “Worst Away support” and “Champions League you’re having a laugh”, but neither of those caught on in the home ends of the stadium. As things looked bleaker and bleaker, some chants of “Let’s pretend we scored a goal” were heard in various parts of the away end. At the full-time whistle many of the players came over to applaud us for our support and we chanted “Yido” at Harry Kane as he came over.

The strong support for the vast majority of the 90 minutes provided the only consolation for what was a very trying afternoon to be a member of the travelling Tottenham support and reminded me why it is worth it to always come out and support my club win, loss or draw. Watching soccer really is more than about the end result. How well you support your team can really add to the experience of the match no matter how dire (or amazing) the performance on the pitch is and in that regard Tottenham deserved a 10/10 even though the on-field performance deserved a 1/10. Overall, it was a good day out in a soccer mad city that in the end was ruined by the result.


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  1. Tony Butterworth

    March 18, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    Nice write up.

    Regarding Cantona, perhaps you have to be an MUFC fan to appreciate it, but he changed everything. He changed a team that kept finishing second into one that finished first, he influenced and change the mindset of every player on the team, so whatever came afterwards was sourced back him. His creativity, his dedication to training, the lack of fear when playing, transferred to the other players and to the fans.

  2. christian

    March 18, 2015 at 10:26 am

    Good read. I visited England last year and got up to Manchester to see City play Bayern Munich. Loved Manchester much more than London but they are two very different places obviously.

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