All right then, it’s time I finished my series of reports from Manchester. A number of my readers seem to be interested in football, some have expressed their hatred towards United, others have spam filters making sure this type of blog posts do not infect their RSS feeds.
We check out of our hotel after breakfast and bring our bags over to Piccadilly Station to make sure we are able to get the earliest possible train to London. I try to make seat reservations, but it turns out it’s not possible. It might be the football game, we eventually find seats anyway.
A word of advice: Do not use the left luggage facilities at British railway stations. In Manchester it costs you £ 7 per bag, at London Victoria £ 8. You are not able to pay as you hand in the luggage, so you have to line up again to get it back. In Brussels, on the other hand, I paid € 2 for a locker with enough room for three bags.
The tram towards Old Trafford is not packed, as we are arriving two hours before kick off. The only tickets we were able to get were hospitality tickets with a meal and drinks included, so we pick up our vouchers and find our way to the tent where we have our seats.
Champagne on arrival, a surprisingly good three course meal including a nice steak. There is free beer also, but the choices are basically Budweiser and Guinness. The only beer with a local connection is canned Boddington Bitter, ice cold, full of gas and tasteless. Everything else is nicely laid out – a hand pump with a decent ale would have been a welcome addition. The last time I was in Manchester – 15 years ago or so – I had some splendid cask Boddington. Looks like that is gone forever.
Half an hour before the match starts we find our way to our seats. The refreshment kiosks inside the stadium are filled with offers of Budweiser/fast food combos. I remind myself that this is big business, not something connected to quality.
It had been billed as one of the most important of the season. United was at the top of the Premier League, but visitors Aston Villa was not that far behind. It was vital for United to win the match.
78.000 spectators, it looked like 90% of them were home supporters.
The first half of the match was not that exciting. Aston Villa was actually playing very well, and for us Norwegians it was fun to see how John Carew scored one goal and was involved in the other. At full time the result was 2-2.
Then the miracle happened. 17 year old Italian Federico Macheda, in his debut match for United, managed to score a goal. The crowd went wild, and with this fairy tale ending to the match we found our way out of the stadium as soon as possible.
We were lucky enough to find room on a tram towards the centre without any incidents, and were on the 7:25 train towards London before the majority of the crowd had arrived. A few ice cold Heinekens from the buffet car were just the thing now!
I promise – it’s back to beer blogging after this!