MANCHESTER UNITED 4 CITY 3
Barclays Premier League
20th September 2009
Ref Martin Atkinson
City Given, Richards, Toure, Lescott, Bridge, de Jong, Barry, Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Tevez, Bellamy – subs Petrov(80) Taylor(unused), Zabaleta(unused), Garrido(unused), Sylvinho(unused), Weiss(unused), Ball(unused)
United Foster, O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Park, Fletcher, Anderson, Giggs, Rooney, Berbatov- subs Owen(78), Valencia(62), Carrick(92), Kuszczak(unused), Neville(unused), Nani(unused), Evans(unused)
…Old Trafford was baying for blood and two minutes into the game, Rooney scored. They were laughing. Same old City, always losing. They were expecting a rout. We all looked at each other. It was the last thing we needed. The last thing Sparky had said was ‘don’t concede early’. Well, Plan A was straight out of the window. We dragged our way back into the game. Some hard work by Carlos caused a mistake in the United defence and Gareth Barry equalised. We went 2-1 down just after half-time but three minutes after they had taken the lead, I equalised. Ji-Sung Park and John O’Shea came out to the edge of the box to try to close me down but I cut inside O’Shea and hit a screamer around Rio Ferdinand, across Ben Foster and into the top corner. It was one of those goals where I knew it was in as soon as it left my boot. It was a superb end-to-end game. Ten minutes from the end, they went ahead when Darren Fletcher headed in a Giggs free-kick. Set-pieces were City’s Achilles heel under Sparky. We couldn’t mark and if we did mark, we got it wrong. But then in the last minute, Rio tried to chip a cheeky pass over Martin Petrov near the halfway line. Petrov fed it to me and suddenly I was one on one with Rio. Down the years, it had been hard to outpace him but I found myself sprinting away from him this time. He was an outstanding player, Rio. He can annoy me but he is one of the best players I have played against. As I bore down on Foster, he came off his line to try to narrow the angle but I knew he would be anticipating that I would try to curl a shot round him. I think he got a bit disorientated because he left a gap at his near post so I jinked to the left and slid it past his right hand. That was 3-3 with 90 minutes gone and I thought I had saved the day. I thought I was the hero. But the referee played six minutes of injury time and in the last of them, Giggs played a beautifully weighted pass through our defence. It went to a red shirt. I thought ‘who’s that?’ and then realised it was Michael Owen. I didn’t even know he was on the pitch. ‘When did he come on?’ I thought as he controlled the ball. He’d come on 12 minutes from time for Dimitar Berbatov but he’d hardly had a touch. Still, that was Michael Owen. He didn’t need many touches to score. He controlled Giggs’ pass with his first touch and, with his second, he slid the ball past Shay Given. It was 4-3 to them. It was obvious time was almost up. But the game had been such a thriller I thought anything might still happen. Then I saw a United fan running on the pitch. Some stewards had grabbed him and wrestled him to the floor but he was delaying the restart. I marched over to where he was standing. I was thinking about getting my hat-trick. “Get the fuck off the pitch,” I yelled at him. “Fuck off,” he said. So I pushed him in the face. I didn’t punch him, like some people said. I just couldn’t be bothered with him. I didn’t even get asked to see the FA. A few people tried to make it a problem but the police didn’t want to speak to me. Then the final whistle went. I couldn’t believe we had lost. It was a great game. A joy to be a part of but we had lost. United and their fans were exultant.