I had resigned myself that 2021 would be the first year since 1992 that I wouldn’t visit Old Trafford, but the opportunity to take in the opening game of the season against Leeds United came up, so I went for it, even though I did have anxieties about attending such a large scale event.
A lot of things have changed since my last visit to Old Trafford in January 2020, a 2-0 defeat to Burnley. It was grim.
My recent United watching record isn’t great, with two defeats in my last three visits to Old Trafford, and just one win in four under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
He’d won every match in charge before I turned up against Burnley in January 2019. Don’t look at me as it it’s all my fault.
Things were to change a week after that Burnley with the signing of Bruno Fernandes. It’s not just his footballing ability, but his character, which has driven United forward.
That is what United have needed, a bit of balls and a bit of arrogance. In 2017-2018, they beat every side in the Premier League, then beat Juventus and PSG the following season, yet still seemed inhibited, allowing themselves to be gaslighted by Scouse Journalists that they were a club in crisis, a club in decline.
Liverpool were scraping 4th on the last day of the season, but sticking slogans on buses and acting like they’ve won The Treble every year for a decade.
It’s amazing what a positive mental attitude can do. It’s felt like at times that teams have been scared of Liverpool and Manchester City.
United needed to issue a few thrashings early in the season, although a 1-0 lead would have sufficed in this fixture.
This wouldn’t be my first time seeing Leeds at Old Trafford. Curiously, the previous time i’d taken in this fixture, it was on Saturday 14th August as well, in 1999.
Back then, David O’Leary’s young team were going to be the team were going to be the Team Of The 21st Century, taking on the newly crowned Treble winners.
That game too was a lunchtime kick-off, although I only found that out when I got my ticket the day before. It was moved on Police advice, as it wasn’t broadcast live in the UK, so i’d assumed it would be 3pm.
Leeds were actually the better team but it was two quickfire goals from Dwight Yorke that secured the points for the home side on a day which saw both sunshine and torrential rain.
This would be my first time seeing Bruno Fernandes in the flesh, but it wouldn’t be my first time seeing Edinson Cavani in a United shirt, with a late return after the Copa America and Quarantine ruling him out.
There would be no new signings in United’s starting eleven, beginning with players who were at the club last season.
Just before kick-off, Raphael Varane walked out onto the pitch to introduce himself to United fans, his transfer now being officially official.
You can’t be too sure. I was there when Ruud Van Nistelrooy was unveiled as a United player, only for concerns to be raised about his knee during a medical which caused United to pull out of a transfer. Although, it was all eventually sorted a year later.
At least Varane didn’t go out in a tracksuit top and shorts, juggling a football like Michael Knighton.
Involvement in England’s Euro 2021 campaign meant that Jadon Sancho had to make do with a place on the bench alongside Tom Heaton. It just would have been rude not to mention Tom Heaton amongst United’s Summer signings.
Inside the first couple of minutes, Scott McTominay burst forward and had a shot saved, obviously determined to repeat his early double in this fixture last season.
United’s biggest attacking threat in the early stages was Mason Greenwood, usually involved in everything, being available for a pass, and scaring Leeds defenders by running them. A few shots easily saved was a warning.
Greenwood was one of three Yorkshire born players in United’s starting eleven. They all seemed especially up for it, typified by Dan James going in for a crunching tackle inside the first five minutes.
United’s early pressure looked like it was going to be rewarded when Paul Pogba was played through, set himself up with the keeper closing him down. but fired wide when Old Trafford was expecting a goal
More agonisingly for United was the number of crosses that were just evading the oncoming attacker.
Leeds weren’t totally anonymous as an attacking threat, the best they offered was a shot from Mateusz Klich that was turned out for a corner.
Eventually, United’s pressure was rewarded when Bruno Fernandes was played in behind Leeds defence, his first time shot eventually sneaking into the net, just as it looked like Leeds keeper had done enough to save it.
United were on a roll, with Dan James just firing wide, looking to silence chants from the away ned of “You’re too shit to play for Leeds”. He was doing well enough in this game for United.
Luke Shaw was continuing his good form, being mostly based on the left hand side, just outside Leeds penalty area, such was the one way traffic as United went into the break 1-0 up.
A satisfactory first-half for United, but they needed a second (maybe even a third) goal just to have of breathing space.
There would be a goal early in the second-half, but it would come for Leeds, a long range strike from Luke Ayling that nobody saw coming to make it 1-1.
Now this was a test for United. Which way was this going to go?
Too many times in the past eight years, it has gone the wrong way.
The response from United was emphatic.
Within a matter of minutes, they were back in front when Mason Greenwood got in behind Leeds defence and fired home. There wasn’t even a debate about the outcome, despite the wide angle.
It was a continuation of Greenwood’s impressive form at the end of last season. Even more impressive that it was an injury that disrupted him inbetween as opposed to the close season.
Long may that continue, especially with Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani currently unavailable.
Soon afterwards, it was 3-1, when Bruno Fernandes dummied to shoot, took Leeds keeper out of the game, despite an attempted clearance by a Leeds defender, who was behind the line rather than on it.
Due to this, there was a slight delay in Old Trafford’s celebrations.
And then, it was 4-1, Bruno Fernandes got in behind Leeds defence and smashed home. Start as you mean to go on.
1-1 to 4-1 in eight minutes. Now that’s what I call a statement of intent..
United weren’t finished there, as Fred fired home to make it 5-1, and four goals in sixteen minutes, an average of a goal every four minutes.
If they started the game like this, they would have won 22-0, and might have made it 23-0 depending on the amount of injury time. Might as well find something to complain about.
Do you remember when Paul Scholes scored a volley from a corner against Bradford City?
Well, time to feel old. That’s the day that Jadon Sancho was born.
With the three points in the bag, it was time to bring him on. He showed some neat touches, but the attacking intensity was there like it was earlier in the game due to the game being won. A nice way to ease yourself in.
It looked liked Leeds were going to get a goal back when Raphina fired wide with only De Gea to beat.
So, a good start for United. Long may it continue.
It is important to dish out a few thrashings to bring about a fear factor, so this was welcome.
When will I be back at Old Trafford? I’m not sure.
I do have my eye on the Brighton game before Christmas, but i’ll monitor how things are going before deciding.
It was hoped that this would be my second United game of the season, after taking in the European Super Cup Final against Chelsea.
The less said about why United weren’t playing in that, the better.
Hopefully, this will put Windsor Park in a good position to bid to host the Euro Conference Final in the next few years.
And talking of the Euro Conference, for crying out loud Linfield, just put the ball in the back of the net. We should have beaten Fola Esch comfortable.
To make it worse, we got denied a Thursday afternoon game I could watch while working. The dream. Oh well, onto Crusaders at the end of the month.
Normally, at this time of year, I go to Edinburgh, but I gave it a miss as the city will be a free for all. I do hope to visit Scotland at some point in the next six months. I think i’ll live at missing out on Hibs v Kilmarnock and Edinburgh City v Hearts B.
As i’m going to Brighton in November, it means i’ll miss out on Northern Ireland v Italy as I leave that day.
I’ll take it on a game by game basis for Switzerland and Lithuania.
Honestly, I can’t say i’d feel totally confident at being around some of our support in this current situation.
You know the sort, The Rugby Brigade. Football matches are the only time they’re allowed out of the house, so they get so full they can’t walk an hour before kick-off, shout “GREEN AND WHITE ARMY” out of tune and can’t sit in the correct seat. Probably think they are a “geg”.
Definitely go on the Beer Bikes once a month and RT posts by LAD. Geg.
Eighteen months into this, i’m pretty good at identifying people who look they are riddled and to be avoided. They fall into that category. An absolute embarrassment.
I know that every team has embarrassing supporters, but this lot are next level.
Let’s face it, Eventsec won’t do anything about them.
Finally, i’m quite excited about visiting Harland and Wolff’s new ground.
The big opening should have been a few weeks back, but they’ve been switching their games.
Good job I spotted that on Twitter as I was tempted to go to their match against Newry a few weeks back.
The new date is set for September. I’m sure things will align where they will be at home when Linfield have a free Saturday.
Pre-season for Linfield will conclude with a friendly against Dungannon Swifts on Saturday. I’ll give that a miss.
Now, if they could arrange one away to Bray when i’m there next week.
We go back to the end of the 1960s this week, to Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly, which is set to preview the last FA Cup Final of the decade.
There is a four page feature on Leeds United, who are described as “Champions elect”, which turned out to be an accurate description.
There is also an article on the organisation of the FA Cup Final. Manchester City were in the final, having defeated the previous season’s finalists Everton in the Semi-Final.
They would meet either Leicester City or holders West Bromwich Albion. Leicester won that match, meaning both the previous season’s finalists lost in the Semi-Final.
There is a double page feature on British teams in Europe, with Manchester United (European Cup) and Newcastle United and Rangers (UEFA Cup) advancing to the Semi-Finals, but there were Quarter-Final exits for Celtic (European Cup) and Leeds United (UEFA Cup)
Elsewhere, there is a photo special on Benfica’s exit to Ajax in the Quarter-Finals.
Celebrating silverware was Swindon Town, and their win over Arsenal in the League Cup Final gets a double page profile.
Dunfermline Athletic get a feature, dubbed “THE PROUD PROVINCIALS” after winning the Scottish Cup and then reachign the Semi-Finals of the European Cup Winners Cup, and have ambitions to go even higher.
Dunfermline’s replacement as Scottish Cup winners will be Rangers or Celtic, who meet in the final, which gets previewed.
Hungarian referee Istvan Zsolt gets interviewed, where he reveals that he is a fan of British football.
There are adverts in this magazine for other publications such as Goal and Melody Maker.
Charlie Nicholas is cover star of Match as he reveals he won’t be returning to Celtic.
The reason for that, were recent comments made by Mick McCarthy of Celtic, who said that Scottish football was better than English football.
A series of players voice their opinion, include Charlie Nicholas, Steve Bruce and Andy Goram give their verdicts. Charlie Nicholas said he would prefer to play for Arsenal, while Steve Bruce says there are only two teams worth playing for in Scotland.
Match looks at the signings made in the summer of 1986 and rates them, the best being Paul Power of Everton and the worst being Neale Cooper of Aston Villa.
Match looks back at Aston Villa’s League Cup winning team of 1977, profiling where they are now.
There is a double page profile on Charlton’s win over Leeds United in a Play-Off (after 1-0 home wins in both legs) Replay to stay in Division One.
There is a four page photo pull-out of the highlights of the 1986-1987 season.
In Scotland, Gordon McQueen has just been appointed as manager of Airdrie.
In Division Three, there is a full page profile of Swindon Town, who beat Gillingham in a Replay to get promoted to Division Two.
Action between Scotland and Northern Ireland is the cover image of this edition of Shoot, which is dominated by the Home Internationals.
Bobby Moore uses his column to state that England were out to avenge bad results to Northern Ireland (a 1-0 defeat at Wembley in the 1972 Tournament) and Wales (a 1-1 draw in a World Cup Qualifier at Wembley) in the previous year. Moore also stated that he is planning to write a tribute column in the next few weeks to the recently retired Bobby Charlton.
Scotland and Northern Ireland’s chances are put under the spotlight, with Northern Ireland Player/Manager Terry Neill believing his new look team can shock England, officially a home match for Northern Ireland but moved to Goodison Park due to Civil Unrest in Belfast.
There is a crosstalk feature between Mike England of Wales and Emlyn Hughes of England, with both players believing that the competition should not be scrapped.
Alan Ball uses his column to say that his 2nd place Arsenal side are as good as 1st place Liverpool, it was just that Liverpool got more points than them.
Archie Gemmill of Derby County is interviewed, declaring Johnny Giles of Leeds United to be “The master of midfield”
Frank Clark of Newcastle United takes questions from fans, revealing that Mike Summerbee is his toughest opponent.
Republic of Ireland are in World Cup action, facing a trip to the Soviet Union, hoping to keep alive their chances of reaching the finals in West Germany.
It isn’t all international football, as Leeds United’s European Cup Winners Cup Final against AC Milan, with Leeds hoping to keep the trophy in the UK for the 4th successive year after wins for Manchester City, Chelsea and Rangers.
The magazine ends with a poster of Pat Stanton of Hibs, but wearing a Scotland kit.
It’s the 300th edition of 90 Minutes, and it’s the League Cup Final between Leeds United and Aston Villa, but 90 Minutes cover image is of who 90 Minutes has compiled as the ultimate footballer.
In news, Mick Harford is in trouble with the FA for making rude hand gestures to Chelsea fans.
Macclesfield Town and Kidderminster Harriers have had their grounds approved to play in the Football League, should they win the Conference.
There is a three page feature, compiling the best attributes of Premier League players to create the best and worst footballer possible.
England are warming up for Euro 96 with a friendly against Bulgaria, and this game is previewed, including an interview with Bulgaria’s formerly bald but now hairy goalkeeper Bobby Mihailov.
There is a full page profile on Jan Molby, newly appointed as manager of Swansea City, playing in front of 2,000 people in the lower leagues, and the culture shock having spent most of his career at Anfield.
There is a double page feature on the League Cup Final between Leeds United and Aston Villa, focusing on the key battles that will decided the game.
90 Minutes Live is at West Ham v Middlesbrough, asking fans which footballer they would like to live next door to.
There is an advert for another football magazine, a monthly title called Goal, whose April edition has Stuart Pearce as it’s cover star.
The magazine ends with an ad for the forthcoming edition of World Soccer, which has a Euro 96 preview.
Billy Bremner and Gary Sprake, holding the league title, are the cover stars of this week’s edition of Goal, with Leeds United having just won the title for the first time.
Bobby Charlton uses his column to say that Manchester United can get goals against who he considers to be the world’s best defence in AC Milan in the Second Leg of their European Cup Semi-Final.
They managed one, but it wasn’t enough, as a 2-0 defeat in the First Leg saw AC Milan go through 2-1 on aggregate.
There is a profile on Crystal Palace, newly promoted to the top flight, with manager Bert Head saying they have the players to survive.
Leeds title success gets a double page feature, including a look at the success so far in Don Revie’s seven years in charge.
There is a review of the Home Championship, won by England who won all three of their matches, with it being suggested that England can win back to back World Cups the following year in Mexico.
There is more Leeds coverage, with Mick Jones believing the club can win the European Cup the following year, while there is also a poster of the title winning team.
There is a profile of Neil Young of Manchester City, who came through City’s youth system and has had to face off competition from big money signings.
In competitions, there were nominations to enter to be the Goal Girl Of 1969.
Scotland were hoping to join England in Mexico next summer, and their match against Cyprus got previewed, with them being advised to go for goals, with goal difference being a potential decider between them and West Germany.
Elsewhere in posters, there was one of Everton and Northern Ireland star Tommy Jackson.
There is a profile of Thea Desforges, who dreams of being a football commentator. Her application to work for the BBC at the 1970 World Cup was turned down, but she is currently covering Bolton Wanderers for Bolton Hospitals Radio.
This week’s The Girl Behind The Man is June Quinn, owner of a Hairdressers in Sheffield, and wife of Rotheram player Johnny Quinn.
Match action from Scotland v England is the cover image of this week’s edition, as the two countries could be paired together in the forthcoming draw for the 1990 World Cup.
Bobby Davison of Leeds United shows Match around his house, sharing his matchday routine and his CD collection.
It’s the 2nd Round of the FA Cup, and Aylesbury are hoping to shock Northampton Town. Their manager Trevor Gould knows someone with FA Cup pedigree, his brother Bobby won the competition 18 months earlier.
Hans Gilhaus of Aberdeen gets a profile, stating that his best form is yet to come, despite a goalscoring start to his career in Scotland, saying that Aberdeen have a lot of similarities to his former club PSV Eindhoven.
In news, South African born Roy Wegerle is hoping to play for USA in the 1994 World Cup, as he’ll have to wait until 1991 to get US citizenship.
David Platt tells Match he has no plans to leave Aston Villa, having turned down Watford and Hibs to join them from Crewe.
In foreign news, Chris Waddle could have increased competition at Marseille, with the club strengthening their squad.
Leeds United v Manchester City is the cover image of Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly, two clubs who are chasing European glory, as there is still a possibility of UK clubs winning all three European trophies. That possibility gets a double page feature.
The draw for the World Cup has just taken place, and the tournament gets previewed, with Brazil’s defence being highlighted as a possible weakness.
There are recent reports from England’s recent friendly with Holland and some European games.
West Bromwich Albion face Manchester City in the League Cup Final, and this game gets a four page preview.
There is a profile of Doncaster manager Lawrie McMenemy, who is one of the youngest managers in the Football League.
There is a profile of football in Merseyside, looking at the meetings between Everton and Liverpool since Liverpool got promoted to the First Division in 1962.
With the World Cup approaching, there is a profile of Morocco, representing Africa, with the writer expecting that an African team will win the World Cup by the year 2000.