So having squeezed two articles out of Merseyside on my English travels let’s look at the Manchester teams which no doubt will put the red rose burghers on edge. Don’t read into it or be taking a Gary Neville line on it. On that note I had better start with my only Old Trafford trip with regards to Manchester United as my other trip was for an international.
It was as nondescript a league match as you would get in the form of Manchester United v Luton Town in November 1983. A major memory even then was simply queuing up to get in and pay your way. Tickets….pah! This was the old, Old Trafford of course so as far as I can remember I was in the terracing at the canal side – trusting I‘ve got my geography right there.
Things I remember – Bryan Robson being taken off injured which was almost part of the entrance money deal but there was little doubt he put himself about. Still on the physical, Mark Hughes’ battle with Micky Droy was a Frazier v Foreman duel and the last ‘fairy’ we should talk about was Ulster’s own Norman Whiteside who scored the two goals of the game.
Other players on display were very much classic ‘eighties’ players of the club. Gary Bailey, Mike Duxbury, John Gidman, Gordon Strachan, Frank Stapleton, Remi Moses and Jesper Olsen. If one regards this decade as being Luton Town’s most successful period there were a few Kenilworth legends in this game such as Brian Stein, Ricky Hill and Mal Donaghy. I had forgotten that Vince Hilaire had also played there.
So moving across the city I have had occasion twice to see Manchester City at home and conveniently for this exercise they have been at their two recent grounds – Maine Road and Eastlands – I don’t like calling grounds by a sponsor’s name. The first game in August 1992 against QPR has some significance as it was the first ever Monday night Sky game to be live televised.
I remember a fair bit of ‘Manc’ chat about the new league set – up as these were the first steps of the Premier League. There were a troupe of City dancing girls cavorting on the pitch and a classic cynical Manc line reached my ears – “Wonder if we’ll see thon lasses when it’s pissing down in last week of November”.
It was a 1-1 draw and I remember Ray Wilkins having a fairly influential game against City though City had much of the play. Other QPR players of note still having enduring residence were Les Ferdinand and Ian Holloway supplemented by Andy Sinton, Darren Peacock and our own late Alan McDonald who sadly is with us no more. On the City side Tony Coton, Niall Quinn, scorer David White and Steve McMahon were in light blue.
Similar to Bryan Robson being injured at the United game Paul Lake was taken off whose career was one of the more poignant careers cut short by injury. As it was the first home game of the season it was good to see the Kippax in full voice as I had heard many stories about their majesty. David White scored for City and Andy Sinton scored a left foot belter into the top corner.
My second City game was a very much different match and reflected how both City and top flight British football had changed in the intervening nineteen years. It was against Villarreal in a Champions’ League game in October 2011- in fact a few days before City famously took United apart 6-1 at Old Trafford. The City of Manchester Stadium was one different place from its Moss Side predecessor and indeed so were City.
I think I am right in stating this was City’s first Champions’ League victory and they indeed left it late with substitute Kun Aguero leaving it until the fourth minute of injury time to grab the winner after being a goal down from the fourth minute.
Things of note – a foretaste of the difficulties to come in his life was the substitution of Adam Johnson in the fortieth minute which he didn’t take kindly to. David Silva was a magician with the ball and I could have watched him all night. Other names still presently and recently relevant were Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Aleksandar Kolarov, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure and Aguero of course.
I generally have always had a soft spot for the less celebrated team in a city or duel. This would have extended to preferring United to Liverpool in the seventies for example but in the two cities I would have had leanings towards Everton and City.
I enjoyed talking to City fans about their new position at the top of football’s tree compared to their previous scrapping to compete. Many indeed felt the club had lost its soul but a bit like a lot of ourselves who despise modern football, you stick to your club for better or worse. Some felt the better was the worse if you follow me. What do I keep saying about football fans and their need to suffer.
It was the season of course that was to end with Aguero ripping the sky blue heavens apart with his last minute forever memory against QPR. Kompany, Silva and Aguero are still there doing that. I couldn’t claim in those matches in those periods to give any great insightful thoughts on the differences between the two clubs – but Manchester is one huge football city and I am happy to leave it at that.