Firstly, to any readers of these articles, visitors to the site or those who lurk in silence, please accept my apologies that I didn’t bother with an account of the trip to Goodison for United’s first game of the season. Sky’s insistence to ruin what was always a great opportunity for a day out in Liverpool by moving the game to a Monday night meant there was not a great deal to say following a quick dash home from work and to the game.
And the less said about the game and result the better to be honest!
So now on to Southampton away. A lengthy trip for a Sunday 4pm kick off meant options for travel were restricted by both duration and cost. We decided to take a coach down, run by Champion Sports Travel, because we’d used them before and the cost was reasonable…it was easily the best option. We set off from the meeting point around the corner from Old Trafford just before 8am on Sunday morning, I don’t think there’s anything else other than United that could get me up so early on a Sunday! Four hours later and we were pulling up for our stop for the day. Rather than heading into Southampton we were dropped in Winchester. Just imagine the scene if you will, a picturesque old English town on a Sunday afternoon with shoppers milling around going quietly about their business when two coach full of lads (and a handful of women) pile off and into the nearest pubs. It was quite a sight. A few hours were spent around the town enjoying a few beers and watching the first half of the Liverpool vs Arsenal game before it was back onto the coaches and towards Southampton…and the game.
We got down to St Mary’s shortly before kick off and made our way into the ground. The United end was in good voice as the teams made their way onto the pitch. The game starts and with our positioning in the stand we were right next to the Southampton fans which made for an interesting afternoon of wind ups and trading insults. The home fans appetite for which was amplified when Ricky Lambert put the Saints 1-0 up. But the United end wouldn’t have to wait long before we were back in the game when Robin Van Persie equalised on half time. Cue celebrations, arms flailing and turns to acknowledge the disappointment that was etched on the faces of the Southampton fans. Half time is blown and it’s into the concourse beneath the stand for a beer refreshment and a recap of the goals from the first half.
The second half starts and within a few minutes United are behind again, another defensive slip up and we’re 2-1 down. The home fans are in full voice and despite the United fans efforts to inspire the team to get back into the game the tempo seems laboured and uninspired. Cue the Ginger Genius’ entrance to the field and with his first touch he plays Van Persie in for a decent chance. An error from the home side’s goalkeeper that was quickly followed by a heavy challenge from one of their defenders gave United and Van Persie a lifeline by way of a penalty kick. I stood in the stand, hoping for the best but fearing the worst.
And it happened…Van Persie missed.
The United Faithful stood stunned as the home fans screamed with delight. The time ticked by as I anxiously looked at the clock, 86 minutes were up when my mate turned to me to remark “We’re losing and we’ve got a five hour journey home”. The combination of the two suddenly seemed so horrific it didn’t bear thinking about!
Then United did what they have done to teams so many times down the years.
With the clock approaching 90 minutes Van Persie stuck away his second of the game, the away end erupts…and the earlier penalty kick error was almost forgiven. Cries of “attack” bellowed out from the United end as we willed on the players. The game moved into stoppage time when Van Persie strikes again. Bedlam erupts in our end as a couple of thousand United fans erupt with bodies and limbs flying everywhere! We take the opportunity to make light of the look of sheer shock and disappointment amongst the home fans as chants of Van Persie’s name rang out amongst the travelling United fans. The full time whistle goes and the singing of United’s goal scoring hero’s name continues, fuelled further by Van Persie approaching the away end…clapping along to the song bearing his name with the match ball as his prize for hitting a hat trick. The missed penalty now well and truly forgiven!
The singing continued out of the stadium and into the street with United fans bouncing around as far as you could see. Then it was onto the coach and with the aid of a police escort out of Southampton for the long journey back North, made far more enjoyable with the latest of United’s late shows.