Manchester United FC – Old Trafford

My 23rd trip to Old Trafford, and the first with my beloved Bolton Wanderers. On this particular trip I attempted to sneak my pet into the stadium. I met a steward who had enough gold in his mouth to pay his mortgage, and we encountered a man who was scared to cross roads.

I’ve been to the vast majority of Man Uniteds European games over the past few years, and have seen some great teams. I have seen the likes of Inter Milan, Valencia, Chelsea, Arsenal, AS Roma, Celtic, Marseille, Lyon… the list goes on! But now, it was time for their biggest test of all! The visit of Premier League heavyweights; Bolton Wanderers!

This was likely to be my last visit to Old Trafford for a while – due to finance and the possible relegation of Bolton. So, rather than travelling to Old Trafford expecting to take some points, we just sat back, relaxed… and enjoyed the experience.

Callum and I set off from an icy Atherton at 12:45 on the dot and caught a delightful Northern Rail service to Manchester Victoria. We stopped for a quick pitstop in McDonalds, and pressed onwards taking the Metrolink to Old Trafford; £1 return.

It was whilst we were on the Metrolink that we encountered a couple of ‘United Fans’ who began to give us a non-sensical lecture on Boltons support. This seems to be a recurring theme from the red half of Manchester. They seem to care more about Boltons support than their own. This idiot concluded that we are a small club because we hadn’t sold all of our tickets. N’awwwww cutie pie. I decided to put a pair of earphones in and listen to the romantic music of LMFAO.

We arrived at Old Trafford station, and I was eager to see what work they had done at the cricket ground since last time I was there for England v India. It looked like a bomb had hit it! The ‘Chewits Family Section’ is no more; you’ll all be pleased to know! For those of you who don’t know what the Chewits Family Section is, it is the non-alcohol section which we often get dumped in for England internationals and the Yorkshire matches.

Walking down Warwick Road is always a pleasant experience. There are colourful stalls everywhere which sell your usual matchday memorabilia. There are also a number of burger vans which give you the true smell of walking to a match at Old Trafford. You then arrive on what has got to be one of the most atmospheric streets in football – Sir. Matt Busby Way.

After taking a few photos of the stadium we purchased a programme for £3. For a club who claim to be ‘the greatest football team in the world’ I really did expect a higher quality programme. I bought my programme from a woman in a bright red hut, and she obviously thought I was a huge Manchester United fan. Now, before reading the following conversation with the woman; bear in mind the fact I am quite obviously a wearing my Bolton shirt.

“Would you like to pay an extra £2 to receive the official Manchester United magazine? It gives you a saving of £1 if you buy the magazine here.”

“No love. Do I look like I want to?”

Pressing on we came to our turnstile where we were treated like cattle going through an airport. However, with us being in Manchester and all, you can still have a laugh with your fluorescent friends! I had brought my furry Russian hat to the match, and the stewards were laughing as they claimed “I had brought my pet cat with me.” – So far so good! But, as always… there’d be one steward to ruin my mood; you’ll meet him later.

So after one security check, we were rushed down this alleyway of ‘fluorescent-ness’. We were once again asked to open our bags, and I was asked to show my ticket. My ticket was quite clearly labelled ‘U-16’… which was a bit rebellious of me. Queue Old Traffords extensive ‘underage ticket use interrogation exercises’.

“How old are you?”

“15.”

“Okay. Enjoy the match.”

Easy? What was I worrying about? My close shave prior to setting out must have helped.

Walking along the away concourse was a bit of a shock. I have been in every single part of Old Trafford, and this corner of the stadium seems to have been forgotten by the club. Another thing which struck me was just how steep the steps were! I needed oxygen by the time I got to my seat!

We located our seats on Row 7, and it was a very impressive view. I was enjoying myself until I went to sit down.

As the seats were on the bend, there was a huge gap in the middle of them. You can see what’s coming up next! I missed my seat completely, and ended up lying on the floor of the row above us!

The Bolton fans were situated in the South East corner of the stadium. The away end offers a very good view; far superior to that of many home supporters! So if you’re planning a visit to Old Trafford, go with either Bolton or Wigan… as you can definitely get a ticket and it’s far more enjoyable.

To my right was the East Stand which holds around 12,000 fans. It is more commonly known as the Scoreboard End as it used to house the old scoreboard.

Directly opposite was the newly renamed Sir Alex Ferguson Stand. This is the largest stand at Old Trafford, and it holds 26,000 home supporters over 3 tiers. The problem with this stand is that the further up you get… the less of the rest of the stadium you can see. Take this photo for example, this is taken from the top of the second tier.

On the left hand side stood the iconic Stretford End. I don’t need to say anything else about this fantastic stand.

To my near left was the smallest stand at Old Trafford; the South Stand. The South Stand is where all the executives and VIP’s sit, along with the players and media. The concourse floors are made completely of renewable sources; Fergies chewing gum, and former players boots. This was done by the club in an attempt to battle global warming.

My fellow Boltonians were filling up the away end pretty well, and we had even began singing well before kick off! I could sense that we were easily going to outsing 74,000 home fans; and I wasn’t wrong.

Going into the match it had been revealed that Gary Cahill had travelled down to London ahead of his £7million move to Chelsea. This was a bit of a blow, as we were expecting him to play at least one more match for the whites. Garys departure ultimately meant that Boltons defence was even weaker… If that was even possible!

This match was the home return of United legend Paul Scholes. He retired from football at the end of the 2010/2011 season, and had become Reserve team coach. We had met him a few weeks prior to this fixture, not even dreaming of seeing him in the Premier League again.

The teams were lead out by the mascot for the day – JOSEPH GIBBONS! Don’t worry though, it wasn’t me unfortunately. The long walk to the halfway line was accompanied by the distinctive Premier League soundtrack, which sent my hairs on end. The sound system at Old Trafford is extraordinary.

It was Manchester United who started the match the better of the two teams, and Adam Bogdan was bombarded with shot after shot. The home side had started with Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney up front.

On 21 minutes Adam Bogdan had to be at full stretch to keep Rooney out. The ball was heading for the bottom corner until the young Hungarian clawed it away from the line.

Zat Knight is known as a liability, and he lived up to this expectation when he blatantly shoved Danny Welbeck over in the area. Wayne Rooney took the resulting penalty, and Adam Bogdan saved it down to his near right. The Bolton fans went ecstatic, and we ALL stood up singing!

Now, this is where my fluorescent friend with a G-Star Raw beanie hat began to be a jobsworth. He made ALL of our block sit down, despite the fact 30,000+ other people in the ground were stood up. I may have sat down without a fight if he didn’t look so smug whilst he was lecturing us. Well, don’t worry United – we’ll just make sure we are complete idiots when you next travel to The Reebok. It may be a few years! But we will!

It was again Bogdan who saved Bolton when he denied both Welbeck and Rooney with fantastic saves. Scholes also had a shot, but dragged it terribly wide; much to the amusement of Bolton fans.

The fourth official put up his board for added time, and as is so often the case at Old Trafford – the away team were punished. Wayne Rooney ran down the wing far too easily before crossing across the face of goal. Paul Scholes was left unmarked at the back post to score a tap in.

The half-time whistle came, and despite being dominated; the Bolton fans were probably the happier of the two sets of fans. This was because Bolton actually looked bothered for once!

We didn’t do much during the interval, all we did was sit there reading our matchday programmes. Exciting or what? To be honest, I couldn’t be bothered fighting my way on to the dark, forgotten concourse. However, despite it being forgotten… United did try making us feel at home. They did this by putting up a huge ‘WELCOME’ sign above the refreshments outlet.

It was Bolton who started off the second half the better of the two teams. Mark Davies beat the United defence, and pulled the ball back to David N’Gog who found himself in space just 6 yards away from the goal. N’Gog somehow managed to fire the ball into ‘Row Z’. It was that bad that Match Of The Day found an excuse to show a Bolton shot.

More Bolton pressure came as Martin Petrov saw his volley towards goal blocked, and Gretar Steinsson saw his header cleared off the line by Rafael. One thing stuck in my mind – “I saw Rafael a couple of weeks ago and he laughed at me!”. I had asked him if he liked pies. He looked down into my hands where there was a half eaten Butter Pie, and he laughed before saying “No”.

Rooney should have put the home side two goals in front just moments later. The ball was fired across the face of the goal from Antonio Valencia and Rooney somehow hit the sidenetting from only a few yards out.

However, United did double their lead on 74 minutes when Rooney played a fantastic through ball to Danny Welbeck. After fighting off a couple of challenges Welbeck guided the ball into the far corner to give Bogdan no chance.

United scored again just 8 minutes later when Michael Carrick was left unchallenged on the edge of the box. He took full advantage and finished confidently past the helpless Bogdan.

Now, this is where the fun started with a fluorescent friend like no other.

Jonny Evans is hated amongst Bolton fans due to his tackle which left Stuart Holden injured for nearly a year now. So when he went down holding his head I thought it would be an apt time to start singing ♫ Let him die! Let him die! Let him die! ♫

It was at this point a big black steward with gold teeth approached me and started shouting in my face.

“It was a clash of heads! Sort it out mate! Stop singing that! Sort it out mate!”

I then asked him what I was actually allowed to do at Old Trafford. He wasn’t happy with this, so he continued to shout at me.

“Don’t get smart with me mate. I’ll throw you out.”

It was a typical case of the steward threatening the young lad because he doesn’t have the balls to do it to a grown man. It got to the stage where the men in front of me had to stick up for me! The man a few rows in front took it a bit too far, but it did the job. I won’t repeat what he said, as the FA will no doubt investigate.

So, after all that entertainment it was back to the football.

Bolton should have grabbed a consolation goal near the end when both Petrov and Pratley wasted their opportunities. The match ended 3-0.

The match had been an exciting end to end affair, even if it was dominated by United. The most pleasing aspects of the day had been that we outsang 75,000 United fans, and Bolton had given a credible performance for once.

It was now time for the journey home! Unsure of which way we were going to do it, we braced ourselves for an adventure which could have gone completely wrong. We could have walked back to the cricket ground, and caught the Metrolink back into Manchester. We could have caught the Metrolink from Salford Quays back into Manchester, or we could embark on the 2.2 mile walk to Salford Crescent Station.

We chose to walk back to Salford Crescent, and along the way we met a man who was scared of roads. This man was not only scared of roads, he also didn’t know how to use pedestrianized crossings. After having a good laugh at this man we had a quick pit-stop in McDonald’s before catching the train back to Atherton. I got back home at 17:59 and had a nice cup of tea before doing a spot of baby sitting.

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