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My First Live United Game



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TheRepublikofMancunia.com asked me to write up a description of my first live Manchester United match for his new project, My First United Game.

Being from America, it was always going to be a big ask to get the money together for a trip to see Manchester United, but, finally after I landed first full-time job, I was able to realize that dream in December 2003.

I always lived under the assumption that it was pretty much inconceivable to get a match ticket to see United live at Old Trafford, but that all changed after I met Peter Holland from the Manchester United Supporters Club USA (MUSCUSA) in the summer of 2003.

Up until I met him, and being so far displaced from Manchester, I could only watch a rare game here, eagerly listen to them on the radio over the internet or catch their highlights on the television, which was just starting back then to make its way on to American sports channels again.

In December of that year, I was set to make my first trek to the Theatre of Dreams My first live match Old Trafford was none other than the Manchester Derby, but I almost did not make it.

When I first arrived at the airport, the guard at security check-in asked me what I was doing in Manchester, and when I told him it was for the derby he asked me, “Blue or Red?”

Ahead of my trip, I was strongly advised not to wear any of my colors out in public, but that did not stop me from proudly saying, “Manchester is red,” and he was obviously a sour, dejected Blue, and left me there standing at the gate for 25 minutes.

Fortunately, he eventually came back, and I was able to get a taxi to United’s training ground to meet up with some of my fellow American Reds, who I never met prior to my trip.

The security then was not as tight at Carrington as it is now, and we were allowed to watch the team train, and it was a typical December day in Manchester with the wind whipping, and the rain pelting your face and wanting to change to snow, but that did not stop me from getting to watch my heroes up close and personal.

It was Cristiano Ronaldo’s first season at the club, and he was the most forthcoming player, because he wanted our group to watch him perform some of the many tricks that he would eventually use to bust Ashley Cole’s ankle with – unless you have the opportunity seen him train in person, you will never realize just how good he is.

The training session lasted about an hour, and the players were heading to the heated comfort of the facility, but a bundled up United official, so we thought, came over, and ask me in a very thick Scottish accent, “Were you part of the group that was here yesterday?”

I was left completely dumbfounded, because it was none other than Sir Alex Ferguson – the man who I was only able to admire from afar – but I was eventually able to muffle the word “no,” which, at the time, seemed like an eternity for me to say.

Without hesitation, the Gaffer whistled over to his freezing players, who could almost feel the warmth of the building, to come over and graciously signed all of our memorabilia.

After that unanticipated shock, we, ourselves, headed into the building to wait for a our bus to take us to our hotel, but while waiting I was again faced with a teeny-bopper, cat’s got your tongue moment as I was again greeted by Sir Alex – and he smirked at my hesitancy.

So all of the travel troubles that I was faced with getting there were now long forgotten, because I was finally living the dream that I longed for.

The next day was matchday, and because of the significance of the derby, United was given the late kick-off, so I made my way through the vendors, picking up a couple of t-shirts along the way, to Old Trafford.

As part of the tour, we had a pre-match meal in one of the suites at Old Trafford, so I was unable to get the experience of the pubs prior to the match.

Eventually I made my way to my seat in the South Stand – 25 minutes before the match – so I could take in what Sir Matt Busby called his heaven.

When the match started, United were bossing the possession, and you could just sense a goal was coming, and it did.

Only five or so minutes into the match, Paul Scholes, who is my all-time favorite player, got Old Trafford on their feet with a bullet header that flew passed a Scouse-heavy City line-up.

I could not contain my excitement, and jumped around like a Mexican jumping bean, and embraced the strangers who I just met as though I knew them throughout my entire life.

Twenty minutes or so later, I was reacting like Brian Kidd did when Steve Bruce scored in 1992, as Ruud van Nistelrooy added a second to give United a very healthy lead.

Just after half-time, though, City’s Shaun Wright-Phillips cut the lead in half with a neat finish from the right-hand side of the box.

However, Scholes again popped up in the City box to head home again, and United did well to see out the match for a 3-1 win.

After the match, I returned to the suite where I had a couple of room-temperature adult beverages, and it was announced that both the Man of the Match for both teams would be making an appearance in our suite.

The first one to come in was Wright-Phillips, who was a much better player back then, which also well before he played musical chairs with Chelsea and City, but I honestly had no interest in mingling with the enemy, so I was patiently sat in my seat waiting for United’s best player to come in.

I was quite anxious because I thought that it would have been Scholes, who scored two well taken headed goals, but I was clearly mistaken, as well as, somewhat disappointed when I found out it was not going to be the Ginger Prince.

However, it was more than likely because he is very family-oriented, and normally goes straight home after the matches, so we were to be greeted by another United legend, but it was all hush as to who it was going to be, so we had to wait even longer.

Because I was enjoying the Cider a little a bit too much, I had to use the toilet, so when I came out I walked straight into Roy Keane.

Thankfully, I washed my hands, because I shook his hand to congratulate him as I walked by.

The next day, I perused through to see what else Manchester had to offer before my flight back to the States, but I already had enough wonderful memories that are still ever-present and fresh in my mind seven years on.

My first time seeing Manchester United live was everything that I could hope and dream for, and knew when I left that I would be coming back on a more regular basis, because Old Trafford is where I belong.

What was your first United game? Submit your stories at MyFirstUnitedGame.com.

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"The United Religion: A Manchester United View From Abroad," www.theunitedreligion.com, is a blog that delivers an American perspective on one of the world's most successful football clubs. Since I have an opinion about anything and everything, I decided to put many of my off-the-wall ideas as well as passionate feelings about the ongoings of United into words. In my writings, you will discover that I do my best to back up all of my outlandish opinions, and finicky analysis with statistical and/or factual evidence. If you wish to publish any of the articles, or have any questions, please contact me directly at theunitedreligion[at]gmail[dot]com.