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Welcome to Partially Obstructed View. We are each restrained by the limits of our own perspective, but when we meet to share information a clearer picture of the truth can be revealed. Comments & criticisms are welcome.

Friday, 2 December 2011

POV-FS - On the Road - England - Day Seven: Old Trafford Upset

The view
    Having been up so late and traveling for much of the pervious day, Thursday morning was a write-off. A quick snack in the hotel room - some cheese and bread procured at the Xmas market previously mentioned, a rest then we're off.

    A short, but ram-packed ride on the Metrolink - I have never been so crammed into a mass-transit as I was then - to the area surrounding Old Trafford.

    At each of the grounds the march to the match has felt like an event in and of itself. The hastily assembled food stands grow in number, as do the souvenir shops and sellers of programs and scarves with the proximity to the site.

    There was a particularly large police presence at his match, not due to any expected troubles - Palace and United could hardly be said to be the most heated rivals - but due to the massive amount of away support expected.

    Old Trafford in itself is a sight to be seen, gargantuan in stature, but understated in design, I was not the only newbie to the dance that evening.

Exterior facade; quite the sight
    Everybody was snapping pictures and admiring the historical memorials that surround the ground. Aside from the museum, the building itself is adorned with all sorts of nods to the great history of the club.

    The Munich Tragedy memorial spans an entire series of walls underneath the South Stand, and for such a large and updated building the appreciation of the past is evident.

    Paired with all the modern necessities are structures of the past; the individual turnstiles are positively ancient and the seating recalled those I'd encountered at Maple Leaf Gardens and the old Tiger Stadium.

    It was a place of very bright lights, in every sense. The grand nature of the occasion, the players held up on the pitch as if on a pedestal; my eyes were blinded by it all.


A little too close to the pitch
    Again I had selected seats way too close to the action, the sixth row, perfect to see the expressions on players faces, but the geometry of the match obscured by the angle.

Stretford End and players tunnel
    Even though United were represented by what could be termed an under-strengthen side, the expectancy of the home fans was palpable. Their occasional outbursts of support were measured as they awaited something magical.

    It was not to be to their liking when it did finally come round. An unbelievable strike from Darren Ambrose, out of nothing from forty yards opened the scoring, much to the delight of the bastions of traveling Palace supporters.

    They had made the trip by the thousands and crammed the upper section to my right as the train car had been in much smaller scale. One got the sense that this trip to Old Trafford was the pinnacle of their season - if that's not too harsh a thing to say.

The Away Support
    United quickly leveled when Macheda was pulled down in the box. But lost both of the Da Silva twins to separate hamstring injuries - though the possibility of twin sympathetic strain is a concern.

    Smalling was immense and it was easy to see why he is thought of so highly. His poise on the ball, his reading of danger, and recovery speed on the rare occasion he made a mistake was impressive.

    The talk prematch had been of the two young midfielders on the verge of breaking into the first team - the Frenchman Paul Pogba and the troubled starlet Ravel Morrison.

    I kept a close eye on them during the prematch, hoping to expand my knowledge of the pair. It struck me as interesting that they were grouped for every exercise - the potential for them as the central midfield of the future for United is ripe, if still underdeveloped.

    Pogba must have grown six inches since I last saw him play for the reserves; he was absolutely towering, a physical specimen that will inevitably be compared to Patrick Vieira, a curse every young French midfielder must bear. He is without doubt the holder of the two, cluttering up the midfield in front of the defense, distributing well, providing cover when required and not afraid to get forward and have a go with a strike from distance; though his accuracy still needs a bit of work.

    In the prematch there was a nice scene when Pogba's ball rolled toward the departing Palace players, who were greeted with a sporting thank you upon returning it. He also was quite affection towards several fans who showed favour his way. Clearly stardom has not yet affected his kindness.

    Morrison is the more talked about of the two - his Englishness and trouble-making is the sort of thing that attracts attention - and I was very curious to see the wonder kid in action.

    He came on at the half, and you could see the spark of intelligence in his game; he was all clever flicks and deft touches, finding teammates in space with excellent vision and a confidence unexpected in one so young.

    He's a ghoster, one of those players who finds space wherever he goes. At times he was up top as a forward, others he was deep in the central midfield working with Pogba to advance the ball upfield. He made one play that almost lead to goal where he fed a pass to his left, then juked back a few yards the other way as he defenders followed the ball leaving him clear for a return through-ball.
His finishing still needs work, but he is definitely one to look forward to and considering his reputation he got on with the match well, though he did clash meekly with the Palace keeper on one occasion; whether by accident or design is a matter of opinion.

    The referee Chris Foy had decided to let both sides play - each had fouls and shouts overlooked - but the physical match better suited the bigger, more experienced Palace. It was a surprisingly open match, perhaps to be expected with United so young and Palace giving it a real go.

    At the ninety's conclusion the score was level, and the two sides braced for extra time. The South Londoners grabbed the go-ahead goal in the first half; headed in from a cross by Glenn Murray. Despite piling on the pressure for the remainder of the evening - including two game-saving clearances by Palace defenders - United could not find another.


    The less than sold-out crowd came to life at their team's hour of need, gradually getting louder as the requirement grew more desperate, but they left disappointed in the end. The Palace section went mental as the final whistle was blown and their side had knocked out Manchester United at Old Trafford.

    The jubilation continued on the chilly, wind-swept, cobblestoned plaza in front of the hallowed ground. Their cheers turned to absolute, unabashed hops of joy upon circulation of the news that they had avoided City and Liverpool in the semifinal draw and been paired with Cardiff City.

    An excellent night out for the away fans, one that will long live in the memory of the club; something I was happy to have been present for.

    A long line of fans searching their transport back to the city centre was joined, and in no time at all it was back on the tram and off to the hotel for a good nights rest.

    Our last night in Manchester; an early train back to London, then off to the launch of Issue Three of The Blizzard, hosted by Jonathan Wilson, Gab Marcotti, and Philippe Auclair at Foyle's flagship store at Charing Cross Road.

Enjoying the result from above.

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