MANCHESTER UNITED 0-0 HULL CITY 1.2.2017

On Wednesday night, it was a third trip of the season for me to Old Trafford to see Manchester United take on Hull City, having done a double header in November against Feyenoord and West Ham United.

When writing about the West Ham game, I observed that in November 2015, things were looking great for United when I went to my first game of the season, then it all went wrong by the time I returned in late January. I was hoping for the opposite effect this season, and that United’s form would have an upturn between Old Trafford visits.

Well, that’s what happened, as December and January saw a nine match winning run, though that was followed by three games without a win.

Despite that, United came up smelling of roses in that three match run, gaining a point on Liverpool and Manchester City and reaching the League Cup Final.

Curiously, this wasn’t the first time i’d seen United play on 1st February. It was exactly eleven years, also a Wednesday, that I saw United lose 4-3 to Blackburn Rovers in the freezing cold at Ewood Park, though I did get to meet Statto after the match.

That night, United faced a team they had just beaten in the League Cup Semi-Final, just as they did with Hull City.

When I booked this game last June, it was either Tuesday or Wednesday, so I booked Tuesday to Thursday to cover all bases.

With the game on the Wednesday, I was hoping to get a game on the Tuesday. Unfortunately, none of the teams on the Metrolink were at home. Agonisingly, Rochdale have a home match against Charlton which needs to be rearranged due to their FA Cup run. They didn’t arrange it for the night I was in Greater Manchester.

Burnley were at home and were tempting. The problem was, there was too little margin for error in terms of getting back to Manchester and getting across Manchester back to my hotel. I looked at getting a ticket on Tuesday afternoon and there were still some available.

Incredible that you could get a ticket to see the Champions Of England at an away ground on the day of the match.

I was there to see United, anything else was a bonus.

Other results on Tuesday night went in United’s favour with Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool all failing to win. Having been 6th for so long, now is the time for United to go for the kill and start climbing the table.

United went straight on the attack in the opening minutes, Henrikh Mkhitaryan looked to set himself up for a certain goal, only to be denied by a last gasp tackle.

However, it was Hull who had the best chance of the opening minutes when Harry Maguie headed wide from a free-kick. He really should have scored.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic got space to shoot at goal, but his shot was turned around for a corner, which was overhit but retrieved by Marcus Rashford, whose fancy flick set up Marcos Rojo, who headed over.

Daley Blind was next to try to score, but his volley went over the bar, as United were having as many attempts on goal as an already booked Oumar Niasse was committing fouls without a second yellow.

It looked like a goal was inevitible for United.

United’s last chance of the half came from when Marcus Rashford went on a run, stayed on his feet when a Hull player went in with a late tackle in the box but didn’t get rewarded for his honesty, instead seeing his attack end with the half-time whistle.

The game was similar to the first leg of the League Cup Semi-Final. United were hoping it would have a similar result in the second-half.

Having already needed an injury time when the sides met at the KCom Stadium in August, United were finding out for the third time this season that Hull were stubborn opponents.

Jose Mourinho brought on Wayne Rooney for Michael Carrick at half-time as United sought the breakthrough. Juan Mata and Anthony Martial being kept for later in the game.

That plan would bite the dust early in the second-half when Phil Jones suffered an injury in a race for possession. The game continued with Jones struggling, but Hull weren’t able to take advantage as Chris Smalling came on for him during the next break in play.

It meant that one of Mata and Martial would be sitting on the bench when United needed them both on the pitch.

Marcus Rashford got in behind Hull’s defence but could only scuff his shot wide.

Juan Mata got the nod from the bench in place of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, meaning that Anthony Martial was the man who would be watching from the sidelines.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic fired just wide, before a Chris Smalling header to Juan Mata for what looked like a certain goal.

Unfortunately, Hull’s goalkeeper had prepared for this match by watching the 1973 FA Cup Final, and picked the perfect moment to recreate Jim Montgomery’s saved.

Hull began to grow in confidence and started to believe they could win the game. It looked like they did when Lazar Markovic’s shot left David De Gea stranded, only for it to hit the post. I was behind that goal and thought it was going in. Thankfully, it didn’t.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was trying the spectacular in a crowded penalty area, that was only going the result in a free-kick to Hull.

In the first-half, it looked a goal for United was inevitable. As each minute passed, it was looking more and more like another frustrating evening.

Marcos Rojo and Paul Pogba forced Hull’s keeper into a save, while Abel Hernandez was unable to take advantage of being behind United’s defence by only firing weakly at David De Gea. This came during five minutes of injury time, Hull’s reward for persistent timewasting.

Hull held on for a point, as United were left to rue more missed opportunities, both metaphorically and literally.

This result wasn’t fatal, no real ground was lost, but United need to start taking advantage of teams above them playing each other, of teams above them slipping up. A top four finish is still a realistic target. Beating Hull at home is a minimum to achieve this.

A disappointing start to February, a month that could see United finish with a trophy, a place in the last 8 of the FA Cup and the last 16 of the UEFA Cup. There is still a lot to play for.

However, a nine match winning run has become one win in six. On the plus side, it might give Hull a confidence boost before facing Liverpool at the weekend, and then Arsenal next weekend.

Sadly, we’re relying on a lot of favours at the moment.

I’m next due back at Old Trafford for the Crystal Palace game on the last day of the season. Three points to secure a top four finish ahead of two Cup Finals. That’s what i’m hoping for.

Photo Album

Manchester United v Hull City November 2004

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-1 WEST HAM UNITED 27.11.2016

Having gone to my first game of the season at Old Trafford against Feyenoord, it wasn’t long to wait for my second game, just three days later, as West Ham visited in the League.

I’d waited until the UEFA Cup Group Stage draw was done and hoped for a double header, and got lucky with this one.

Too many dropped points, especially in drawn games at Old Trafford, meant this was a must-win game for United, especially with Spurs losing the day before, presenting United with an opportunity to close the gap on the side in 5th, especially as they visit Old Trafford in mid December.

It was West Ham who were straight on the attack, winning a soft free-kick in a wide position. It all looked so sluggish from United, and it continued when Diafra Sakho got to the ball from that free-kick in front of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to head home.

The was not the start United needed, especially against a side they had only beaten once in their last five meetings.

United responded eventually, their first shot on goal came from Juan Mata.

The pressure built up, and an equaliser came when Ibrahomovic made up for his shoddy defending by flicking hom a Paul Pogba through ball.

Pogba’s next involvement came when the referee booked him for deeming to have dived, which resulted in Jose Mourinho beiung sent to the stand for kicking a water bottle.

Mourinho’s departue didn’t affect United, as they had chances to go in front. Rashford having a shot saved while put through, and Jesse Lingard and Zlatan Ibrahimovic having shots blocked.

More chances came, with Rooney and Lingard having shots saved before Lingard had a goal disallowed for offside.

It looked like being one of those days for United, as West Ham seemed to get bodies in the road every time the ball was in their penalty area.

As much as I enjoyed being able to do a Thursday-Sunday double header, it’s not something i’m planning on doing next season. I’d rather United be playing their European matches on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Last season, I made my first trip of the season to Old Trafford in November and things were going fine, but an awful December saw their season in tatters by the time I visited again in late January.

This season, i’m due back at Old Trafford in late January for the League match against Hull. Hopefully, there’ll be a reversal in fortunes and the league table will have a better look to it.

Photo Album

2016 IN PICTURES – JANUARY

2016 began the same way as 2015, by watching Linfield take on Crusaders. Like the previous year, it was a home win, but thankfully the game was at Windsor Park this year.

Over the next ten days, there were two more visits to Windsor Park, with Ballymena United the visitors both times, once in the Irish Cup and once in the County Antrim Shield.

David Bowie died during the month, and he got a tribute mural in Belfast, which I went down to see get painted, and then snap the final results.

Towards the end of the month, I headed to Manchester, to see United take on Southampton. While there, I took advantage of some Street Art, plus I also went to see The Kooks in concert.

The month ended by heading to Windsor Park to see Linfield beat Carrick Rangers.

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Ballymena United

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

David Bowie Mural

David Bowie Mural Photo Album

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Southampton

Manchester United v Southampton Photo Album

The Kooks live at Albert Hall Manchester

The Kooks live at Albert Hall Manchester Photo Album

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – JANUARY

Like in the previous season, January began with a game between Linfield and Crusaders. Again, it was a home win, though this time, it was at Windsor Park instead of Seaview.

The following Saturday, it was the Irish Cup at Windsor Park, with Linfield edging out Ballymena United after extra-time.

Three days later, same venue, same two teams, but a different competition, the County Antrim Shield Final, with Ballymena winning 3-2.

A frozen pitch saw Linfield’s home match (YES! another match at Windsor Park) against Dungannon Swifts postponed, so my next football was the trip to Old Trafford to see United take on Southampton.

The football watching month ended with Linfield’s routine win over Carrick Rangers at, you’ve guessed it, Windsor Park.

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Ballymena United

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Manchester United v Southampton

Manchester United v Southampton Photo Album

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

MANCHESTER UNITED P-P AFC BOURNEMOUTH 15.5.2016

I Headed to Old Trafford today to see Manchester United take on AFC Bournemouth as they tried to win the 4th Place Trophy. As you now know, there was not a competitive ball kicked in anger.

I travelled over with my dad and we were due to be sat together but we made our separate ways to the stadium. I preferred to go into the City Centre on Sunday morning and make my own way to the ground, and we would meet in the ground.

I did my usual Old Trafford pre-match ritual, waking around the stalls, having a look at the stuff in Red Star Sports, before heading into Old Trafford just before 2pm for a 3pm kick-off.

I was sat in my seat, reading my programme as the teams warmed up when there was a PA announcement looking for the Head Of Safety (or some job title like that) to report to somebody. I found it a bit odd but carried on, admittedly having a look at he people around me.

It would have been around 2.40pm when stewards were evacuating people. There was no panic amongst fans were I was, all very calm and orderly. I overheard one supporter saying to their child that it was probably an alarm accidentally set off.

I was in the Family Stand, just above the players tunnel, and was evacuated to the Car Park where the Ticket Office is based, being evacuated further back to the point that I was at the bridge as you walk towards the stand.

When the stadium was evacuated, my dad wasn’t with me, so I made a quick phone call to tell him I was ok. He was trying to get into the stadium when the evacuation happened.

After that, I phoned family back home to let them know I was ok.

Thankfully, we live in a digital age, so I began checking Twitter to see what was happening. It was clear as mud.

The early indication was that kick-off would be delayed by 45 minutes.

At about 3pm, the scheduled kick-off time, stewards around me began shouting that the game was off. I headed to leave the general Old Trafford area, while checking Twitter, which had still not confirmed anything relating to the status of the game.

When I travel to Old Trafford independently, I usually stay at Salford Quays, so I know the area relatively well. It was near to where I was, so I naturally headed there.

By the time I was facing the Premier Inn, there was confirmation the game was off.

The bus I would be taking back to my hotel was parked at Trafford Hall Hotel. To get there, I would have to walk along Sir Matt Busby Way.

Unsurprisingly, that street was all one way traffic, and I was heading in the wrong direction.

I phoned my dad to tell him of this, and now my plan was to get a tram from Salford Quays to Trafford Bar.

I got the tram, albeit having to stop off at Cornbrook as it wasn’t direct, before heading to the bus back to the hotel.

There was plenty of time left in the day to go to the City Centre, it was more of a hassle given the circumstances. If I was travelling on my own, I probably would have went to the City Centre for the afternoon.

Naturally, it was disappointing for the match to be postponed. I’m not a security expert, so I have to respect the opinions of those that are.

Whenever people go to a football match, there is always a possibility that it could be postponed. I managed to spend some time in the City Centre on Saturday and Sunday, got some Street Art photos, so it wasn’t a wasted trip.

I even walked past the Bournemouth team in the City Centre this morning.

Onto the football, Manchester City got the draw they needed to secure the 4th Place Trophy. The damage was done for United over the past 37 games, and most fatally on Tuesday night at West Ham.

We didn’t deserve to win at Upton Park, but being 2-1 up with so little time left, we should have had enough smartness to see the game out, especially having won there 2-1 in the FA Cup last month. That result gets even worse when you see that West Ham lost their games either side of that.

In terms of the rearranged game, all it will decide is if United finish 5th or 6th. Still, got to go out and try to win it to avoid ending the league season on a low note.

European football is confirmed, the next two games in the season will decide if United qualify for the group stages of the UEFA Cup automatically or not.

If United do reach the group stages, I would be tempted to head over on Matchday 5 or 6, especially if I can do a double header with a home Sunday match.

It’s been nearly 23 years since my first trip to Old Trafford. Today won’t put me off.

Whatever you’re opinion of Louis Van Gaal’s employment prospects (personally, I think there should be a parting of the ways as soon as the season ends), he deserves better than for his Old Trafford finale to be in a behind closed doors match.

Hopefully, he gets a nice send off at Wembley next weekend.

I haven’t had much luck with my trips to Old Trafford this season. I’ve been three times, only seen two games, and haven’t seen a United goal.

I chose this game over the Leicester game because I don’t like going away in March/April when the Irish League season reaches it’s finale at the same time. It’s easy to say I made the wrong decision in retrospect.

The postponement might be inconvenient, but as the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

In 30 days time, the 2016-2017 fixture list will be published and I’ll be plotting my next trip to Old Trafford. Hopefully, I’ll be writing about the football.

MANCHESTER UNITED 0-1 SOUTHAMPTON 23.1.2016

Last weekend, I headed to Old Trafford for the second time this season. The last time I headed over, things were looking great. United were top of the league and knew that a home win over PSV Eindhoven would send them into the Last 16 of the European Cup with a game to spare.

And then it went ever so slightly wrong. An eight match winless run followed, elimination from the European Cup and falling behind in the league.

Then, a five match unbeaten run, progress in the FA Cup and everything was looking great again. Well, not quite, but it’s all relative.

I’d waited a while for this game, having booked the weekend away last July. I’d hoped (and thought) that this game would be moved by Sky to a Sunday, freeing me up to take in another game in the Greater Manchester area on the Saturday.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. On top of that, Suede were doing an instore gig at HMV at 2pm on Saturday. So that was two things I was missing out on to see United. Let’s hope it was worth it.

Not a lot was going on in the early stages, United’s best moment was a speculative long range shot from Daley Blind.

That was as good as it got for United in the first-half.

Despite not having a clear strike on goal, Southampton looked the most believable team to score, getting the ball forward and having players make runs in attacking positions.

It didn’t always come off, but if you keep doing the right things, eventually, you’ll get it right.

It should have done for Southampton when a one-two between Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic saw Sadio Mane be through on goal, but he couldn’t get the ball under his control to shoot at goal.

Half-time, 0-0. Boos rang out at Old Trafford. I can’t say booing is something i’d do. I couldn’t put up an argument against anyone who did.

When at Old Trafford, I usually head out to the concourse at half-time to watch the highlights of the first-half on the TV screens. There were none I could think of that i’d want to watch again.

As is now tradition, Social Media lit up with the stat about half-time scores at Old Trafford, all 0s barring Norwich City’s goal in December. The only people who would be excited by that would be Binary Code enthusiasts.

I’m not sure if lots of 0s and a solitary 1 is a good thing in Binary Code. It’s certainly not a good thing in football.

Things can change so easily in football. Having left the field to jeers, United returned to cheers. The first-half was forgotten about. The game was level, and there was 45 minutes to win it.

Juan Mata came on for Marouane Fellaini. Old Trafford universally approved of this.

There was a brief flurry from Untied, but it died down, and reverted back to the first-half performance. Southampton looked to have the first chance of the half from a counter attack. but where thrwarted by a clearance from Matteo Darmian to deny Shane Long, who got injured making it.

Again, more backwards passes. Old Trafford voiced it’s disapproval. There was actually one occasion when a pass backwards was booed even though it was the right decision.

However, once the player who received the ball had it, nobody ran for him. He had nowhere to play it to. Suddenly, a good pass to keep possession and build to go forward became another bad pass going backwards by a lack of forward movement.

Even when United did go forward, they would soon lose it, giving away possession cheaply. Even worse, a lot of the time, it came from their own throw ins. One incident summed up the game for United.

Morgan Schneiderlin took a quick free-kick which hit the referee and set up a Southampton attack. It was United’s best attacking move of the game, and it was for the opposition.

Frustrated by what they were seeing, United fans chanted for Adnan Januzaj to come on. Eventually he did. Soon after, there was a goal. Unfortunately, it came for Southampton, when Charlie Austin headed home from a free-kick.

87 minutes on the clock, there wasn’t a lot of time for United to strike back. In truth, if Southampton had scored in the first ten seconds, United wouldn’t have looked like getting an equaliser.

Five minutes added time was signalled for, Old Trafford roared United on with this news. It was false hope.

United’s only moment came when a Adnan Januzaj shot went wide. It looked closer than it was when you watched it in real time.

That was it, a win for Southampton. United’s feint title hopes suffered a blow, as did their top four hopes.

People will tolerate bad performances if you are getting results. People will tolerate bad results if performances suggest the results will get better.

United are having the (im)perfect storm of bad results and performances. Only one shot on goal, and it was a speculative one at that.

In terms of Old Trafford visits, i’m hoping to head over for the Bournemouth game in May, United’s last game of the season. Well, in the league, hopefully there’ll be at least one cup final after that.

It’s all the hope we’ve got at the moment.

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL YEAR : 2015

My football watching for 2015 is now over, so, it’s time for a statistical look back at the football I watched.

Games : 54

Goals Seen : 143

Red Cards : 10 (Doesn’t include Caoimhin Bonner being sent-off in the tunnel after the game)

Missed/Saved Penalties : 6

Hat-Tricks : 2 (Andrew Waterworth, Linfield v Dungannon Swifts. Andrew Waterworth, Linfield v Warrenpoint Town)

Teams Seen : 40

Arsenal, Ballinamallard United, Ballymena United, Bray Wanderers, Carrick Rangers, CE Europa (1st time), Cliftonville, Coleraine, Crusaders, Dundee (1st time), Dunfermline Athletic (1st time), Dungannon Swifts, Espanyol (1st time), Finland, Glenavon, Glentoran, Greece (1st time), Heart of Midlothian, Hibernian, Hungary, Institute, Latvia (1st time), Linfield, Manchester United, Masnau, Northern Ireland, NSI Runavik (1st time), Partick Thistle (1st time), Portadown, PSNI, PSV Eindhoven (1st time), Qatar (1st time), Rangers, Romania (1st time) Scotland, Sligo Rovers, Spartak Trnava (1st time), Tobermore United, Valencia (1st time), Warrenpoint Town

Stadiums Visited : 23

Ballymena Showgrounds, Carlisle Grounds, Drumahoe, East End Park (1st time), Estadi Cornella y Prat (1st time), Ferney Park, Fortwilliam Park (1st time), Gresty Road (1st time), Hampden Park, Ibrox, Milltown, Mourneview Park, Newforge (1st time), Nou Sardenya (1st time), Old Trafford, Seaview, Shamrock Park, Solitude, Stangmore Park, Taylor’s Avenue (1st time), The Oval, Tynecastle, Windsor Park

Competitions : 13

European Championship, European Cup, FA Premier League, Irish Cup, Irish League, Irish League Championship, La Liga, League of Ireland, Scottish Championship, Scottish League Cup (1st time), Scottish Premier League, Tercera Division (1st time), UEFA Cup

Curiousities :

No real curiousities, other than a match with kick-off delayed for an hour due to the weather

UEFA 102 Club : Espanyol, PSV Eindhoven, Valencia (now at 35 clubs)

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : MAY/JUNE

As the season was winding down, the matches were less frequent, now a fortnightly thing.

I began May with the Irish Cup Final in the Portadown end, getting drenched, having to park at The Odyssey and the barrier eating my ticket, and to compound the misery – Glentoran won the cup.

Two weeks later was my second trip of the season to Old Trafford, with Arsenal being the visitors in a game that finished 1-1.

Two weeks later, I was back in the North-West of England, to see Northern Ireland take on Qatar in Crewe. Most of the appeal of the game was the opportunity to visit another ground for the first time.

Near to a train station and with a programme shop, Crewe gets a thumbs up from me.

The next day was spent in Liverpool. I had some spare time on my hands, and headed to Goodison Park, in search of a mural of Dixie Dean i’d read about, but doesn’t appear to be there anymore.

Undeterred by this, I decided to get some photos of the exterior of the ground.

Two weeks later, one last game, Northern Ireland’s European Championship Qualifier against Romania, and an opportunity to experience the new Railway Stand at Windsor Park for he first time.

It was the only 0-0 draw I saw all season.

Glentoran v Portadown

Glentoran v Portadown Photo Album

Manchester United v Arsenal

Manchester United v Arsenal Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Qatar

Northern Ireland v Qatar Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Romania

Northern Ireland v Romania Photo album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November’s football began for me on the first day of the month, with a road trip to Lurgan to see Linfield take on Glenavon, hoping to end a run of three successive defeats, which they did, on a very wet day.

The following weekend, I was at Windsor Park to see Linfield get a routine win over Dungannon Swifts.

The Saturday after, I was back at Windsor Park to see Linfield throw away two points in a 2-2 draw against Glentoran.

Back on the road the following weekend, to Warrenpoint, to see Linfield pull off a late escape to record a dramatic 2-1 win.

November ended with a trip to the North-West of England, primarily to go to Old Trafford to see United take on Hull, but I also managed to squeeze in a trip to Accrington Stanley for their match against Exeter City.

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Dungannon Swifts

Linfield v Glentoran

Warrenpoint Town v Linfield

Accrington Stanley v Exeter City

Accrington Stanley v Exeter City Photo Album

Manchester United v Hull City

Manchester United v Hull City Photo Album

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-1 ARSENAL 17.5.2015

For the second time this season, I was Old Trafford bound. This time, it was to see United take on Arsenal as they aimed to secure a Top 3 finish and automatic qualification for the Champions League group stage.

After last season, it wouldn’t take a lot to improve on it, so a jump of 3 places isn’t to be sniffed at. Hopefully, the same will happen next season.

It is particularly frustrating though, to hit a brick wall after some of the best performances of the season which means they will more than likely finish 4th, and face a Qualifier to reach the Champions League.

It’s not a new experience, having reached the groups by this method in 1998, 2004 and 2005. Thankfully, unlike in 2004 and 2005, it won’t cause postponement of Premier League games, meaning United fall behind at a time when teams are jostling for position.

Thankfully, Liverpool let United away with a poor run of form by only claiming one point from trips to West Brom and Hull, meaning United secured a Top 4 finish with two games to go.

It was my third time seeing United take on Arsenal, both the previous games finishing 0-0 draws. I was really putting my record of not seeing a 0-0 draw this season on the line.

Arsenal had a few early attacks but nothing that caused panic, as Untied grew into the game and were the stringer team.

Phil Jones almost scored an own goal by attempting a backpass from too close to De Gea, whose outstretch clearance set up an attack. It was classic Phil Jones.

Alongside him in defence, Chris Smalling, captain for the day, had a fine game.

United’s best player was Ashley Young, being at the centre of all attacking play, most often cutting onto his right foot and playing a dangerous cross.

The one time he crossed with his left foot resulted in United going 1-0 up as his cross went beyond Arsenal’s defence for Ander Herrera to volley home. It was a deserved lead.

Falcao was given a start. It didn’t happen for him. The effort was there, but the goal wasn’t.

Arsenal came out in the second-half a changed team, offering more in attack in the early moments than they did in the whole of the first-half.

United needed a second goal, they weren’t able to get it.

The second-half was in danger of becoming De Gea v Arsenal. The one time Arsenal got past him, Marcos Rojo was there to win the ball inside his own six yard box.

De Gea was injured in that incident, and was replaced by Victor Valdes, who made a long awaited debut for United.

By this point, Robin Van Persie was on for Falcao, as United chased a second goal.

It was Arsenal who got the second goal of the game, to square it at 1-1 with an unfortunate own goal from Tyler Blackett. I was at the side of the pitch where he scored and thought he squeezed it in from a tight angle. TV footage would prove me wrong, that it was an own goal instead.

After that, Arsenal were the mostly to score, the best chance coming when Mesut Ozil hit the side netting.

Robin Van Persie fired over with United’s best chance in the final moments, as it finished 1-1.

A missed opportunity to put some pressure on Arsenal in the race for 4th.

The media have been full of scare stories of the sides that United could face in August. Looking at the sides English clubs have faced (Celtic, Young Boys, Udinese, Fenerbache, Besiktas) at this stage since the format was amended in 2009, they are sides pundits lazily describe as “no mugs” but United should have enough to beat over two legs.

The tournament format will be changed from next season with the Champions of the top eight leagues being top seeds instead of the top eight ranked sides. It is good news for the likes of Benfica, PSV Eindhoven and Zenit St Petersburg.

Amazingly, if United get through, indications are that they will be second seeds, which is impressive for a side that missed out a whole season of European football.

However, the 2010-2011 run to the final will soon drop off, meaning United will need a very good run in Europe next season to have a decent ranking in 2016-2017. Or they could just win the Premier League or the Champions League.

When the fixture list comes out, i’ll have a look and deliberate over what games to go to. What i’m thinking of at the moment, is one fly to, one bus to and a there and back European game. If I fly over for a weekend, i’m hoping it’s a Sunday game and I can get a chance to take in a game at FC United’s soon to be opened Broadhurst Park.

New players to come in, and Adidas kits to come (my first United top was an Adidas one) – it’s all change at Old Trafford. Already looking forward to experiencing some of it in the flesh.

Photo Album