MANCHESTER UNITED 2-1 SAMPDORIA 2.8.2017

A few weeks back, I headed to my first United match of the season, a nice novelty of not having too far to do so, a (relatively) short bus journey to Dublin.

This was my third visit to Lansdowne Road since it was redeveloped. My last one was the 2011 UEFA Cup Final, and my trip had two tenuous United links. I walked past Mike Phelan (in his official club suit) outside the ground, and the winning goal was scored by Radamel Falcao. Whatever happened to him?

It also meant that I would be getting to see some football in Dublin in 2017, five days later than I hoped. Oh, have I got a story for you.

The weekend before, I headed to Dublin for an overnight stay on the Friday, see some Street Art, walkabout and see some football.

The football match I planned to take in was UCD v Cabinteely. I went on UCD’s website and knew to get on the number 11 bus, which was 5 minutes away for about 20 minutes.

So, I got on the number 11 bus, and the Driver confirmed this was going to UCD.

However, when I got off, I discovered I was at DCU, a university, not a football ground. It turns out I had got on the bus in the wrong direction.

It was 7.15pm and I had no hope of reaching the 7.45pm, but there was still some footballing hope as Shamrock Rovers v Bohs kicked-off at 8pm.

I got a bus back to the City Centre and hopped on the Luas.

At 8.15pm and 4 or 5 stops away from Tallaght, I decided to admit defeat and head back to Dublin City Centre.

For future reference, i’ll just get a taxi or ask the Bus Driver five times to make sure he is absolutely sure the bus is going in the right direction.

This match represented an opportunity for me to tick Sampdoria off my 102 Club List.

For me, Sampdoria will always be Vialli, Lombardo, Vierchowod, Pagliuca, Gullit, and the iconic red, white and black stripes across that blue shirt. The current team aren’t quite in the same vintage.

The first save of the game came from David De Gea on his own goal line. From a misplaced Daley Blind backpass. It was very Phil Jones.

Sampdoria were awarded an indirect free-kick for the save, which was blocked, United went on the counter attack and Henrykh Mkhitaryan headed home from a Matteo Darmian cross.

It was one of many instances where Darmian found space out on the left hand side.

Mkhitaryan almost got a second headed goal but he was denied by Sampdoria’s keeper.

Romelu Lukaku fired just wide as he endured a frustrating evening. Thankfully, the goals have started to come in time for competitive games against Real Madrid and West Ham.

The second-half was dominated by substitutions as Antonio Valencia was the only United player to complete 90 minutes.

Ander Herrera had a goal disallowed before Sampdoria equalised when a poor clearance fell to Dennis Praet on the edge of the box.

One of those substitutes introduced, Anthony Martial, was the United player making things happen, and it was no surprise that he was involved in United’s winner, setting up Juan Mata to fire home.

Ander Herrera then tried to emulate Paul Scholes goal against Bradford as United searched for a 3rd goal that would secure the win. They didn’t need it as they were comfortable and in control at 2-1.

The match saw Nemanja Matic make his United debut in a ground he will be playing in for Serbia next month in an eventful week where he signed for United and then celebrated his birthday.

He was everywhere. When Sampdoria passed the ball forward, he was usually intercepting it.

I’ve got two trips to Old Trafford planned in 2017-2018, Bournemouth in December and Watford in May.

Hopefully, when I go to see them, United will be in a position where they have built on an encouraging pre-season, especially when I see them face Watford in May 2018.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : IRISH SOCCER MAGAZINE – FEBRUARY 1996

The Jack Charlton era has just ended, but it is Paul Campbell of St Patrick’s Athletic and Jason Sherlock of UCD who are the cover stars of this edition of Irish Soccer Magazine.

The editorial focuses on Cork City, who are facing financial problems, and are following in the footsteps of previous clubs in the city in this regard.

Charlton’s time in charged is reviewed, with his legacy being described as winning the Irish footballing public over to their national team. They also look at contenders to replace him, withKenny Dalglish, Joe Kinnear, Mick McCarthy, Ronnie Whelan and Dave Bassett all in the frame.

Whoever the new manager is, their first competitive game will be a World Cup Qualifier in Leichtenstein, after the draw for France 98, with the focus being on Macedonia as a potential dark horse in the group.

Charlton’s departure came at the end of a year when Republic of Ireland slipped from 6th to 19th in the UEFA Rankings, not as dramatic as Sweden, who fell from joint 1st to 24th.

Despite the fact that Republic of Ireland didn’t qualify, there is a fixture list for Euro 96 in their foreign news section, which claims that Manchester United are interesting in signing South African defender Mark Fish.

One team who might not be at France 98 is Nigeria, who have been threatened with expulsion after withdrawing from the recent African Nations Cup in South Africa.

There is a feature on new Finn Harps manager Charlie McGeever, who has just replaced Patsy McGowan, while Buckley Park, home of Kilkenny City is the subject of the monthly ground profile.

Jimmy Conway, a former Republic Of Ireland international, is now living in the USA. He talks to Irish Soccer Magazine about life in the States, revealing that they expect to win the 2002 World Cup.

The coverage of Charlton isn’t all fawning, with one writer stating that his reign did not boost the domestic game at all during his decade in charge.

There is an interview with the head of General Motors, Arnold O’Byrne, who reveals that their sponsorship of the Republic of Ireland team is as much to do with his love of football, as it is a business decision.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : IRISH SOCCER MAGAZINE – OCTOBER 1998

Paul Doolin of Bohemians and Denis Irwin are the cover stars of Irish Soccer Magazine, which you could have purchased for IR£1.50 at Tuthills. Sorry, I couldn’t get the sticker off.

The editorial focuses on Pat Dolan’s disillusionment with the League Of Ireland and his threat to quit, hoping that he doesn’t.

There is a preview of Republic Of Ireland’s forthcoming Euro 2000 away to Yugoslavia, stating that a draw would be a more than acceptable result.

That match would be postponed because of unrest in The Balkans, eventually being played in November 1998.

In foreign news, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal are said to be involved in the creation of a European Super League.

There is a feature on TV coverage of football in Republic Of Ireland, as a new commercial broadcaster, TV3, is launched, and this is welcomed, as it means competition for RTE will mean they have to raise their game.

As well as looking forward to Yugoslavia, there is a look back at Republic Of Ireland’s opening Euro 2000 Qualifier, a 2-0 win over World Cup Semi-Finalists Croatia.

Eamonn Gibson has a column on British football, where he writes that the Bosman Rule and foreign import at other clubs have caused Manchester United to stand still. There is also a feature on the possibility of Wimbledon relocating to Dublin, after a recent poll claimed Dubliners were in favour of it.

There is a preview of domestic games in October, the highlight being the clash between St Patrick’s Athletic and Cork City at the end of the month.

There is also a preview of the games in September, a month that saw Brian Kerr awarded Manager Of The Month.

Cork City were recently in European action, and their defeat in the European Cup Winners Cup to CSKA Kiev gets a page of coverage.

In Dublin, St Patrick’s Athletic have announced plans to leave Richmond Park to build a new stadium at nearby St Michael’s Flats within the next five years, while the FAI have announced plans for a 40,000 all seater stadium, as well as redevelopment for Tolka Park and Dalymount Park.

The new commercial broadcaster TV3 gets a feature, focusing on their proposed football coverage, having bought the rights to Republic Of Ireland’s away Euro 2000 Qualifiers.

PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2016-2017

So, the 2016-2017 season is over for me. I hope you’ve enjoyed my photographic look back at the season just gone.

I’ve selected some of my favourites, so feel free to vote for the one you like the best.

POLSKA

Taken back in June 2016 at Northern Ireland v Poland, I like the composition, how everyone is fixated on the action at the other end of the pitch, and the colour co-ordination of both sets of fans.



WILGAR

Taken at a pre-season game between Linfield and Dundela, it captures the joys of going to football matches in pre-season, sunshine and relaxation ahead of the hard slog ahead.



SEAVIEW

I like the framing of this, as the crowd is in position, awaiting kick-off in a big match.



CELEBRATION

Linfield fans celebrating Jimmy Callacher’s winner against Glentoran in October. I just like this for some reason other than the obvious.

PALMERSTON

There’s just something about the architecture of old football grounds that does it for me. This is out of use turnstiles at Palmerston Park, home of Queen of the South.

APPEAL

Linfield fans appeal in unison, all making the same hand gestures, for a goal to be allowed. The goal was disallowed for a foul.



ELF

Taken at the Steel and Sons Cup Final. Some people like getting dressed up for Christmas.

GAYNOR

I like the composition of this, from Ross Gaynor’s posture, to substitutes chatting to each other while the game goes on.

UNITED

I like the composition of this, all eyes fixated on the penalty area and the incoming corner.

SPOT THE BALL

I like the composition of this shot, it looks like a Spot The Ball image, except that the ball is in the shot, with two players getting ready for an aerial tussle.



COLERAINE

I love the framing and seeing players in the background running to join the celebrations.

WATERWORTH

Celebrations after Andrew Waterworth’s second goal against Cliftonville, capturing the joy of the event and the achievement just about to happen.

MANCHESTER UNITED 2-0 CRYSTAL PALACE 21.5.2017

The race for European Cup places went down to the last game. United weren’t involved but not in a good way, as they were locked in 6th, unable to go up or down.

Crystal Palace weren’t too unhappy about this game being a dead rubber, having been battling against relegation for most of the season, securing their safety with a win over Hull City last weekend.

It’s an occupational hazard of being a football fan that you can book a trip to a football match well in advance, anticipating it to be a big decider, only for it to be a dead rubber.

It was still better than when I went to United’s last League game of last season, at least I got a game this time.

Despite being locked in their position, this was a game United still had to win, purely for form and morale ahead of the UEFA Cup Final against Ajax. United went into this game on a run of one win in seven games. Not ideal going into a game of this magnitude. One win in eight, isn’t exactly great preparation either.

I’m disappointed that United surrendered a top four place in to concentrate on Europe, when both were achievable. A strong finish to the League season would have been perfect preparation for Stockholm.

A downturn in form going into a European final brought back memories of 1991 for United fans. That season saw a 3-0 defeat against Crystal Palace on the last weekend. Hopefully, that would not be repeated.

Jose Mourinho had stated in the build-up that there would be a much changed United team for this game. The only certainty was that Eric Bailly would be starting, due to his suspension for the UEFA Cup Final.

In the end, there were debuts for Demi Mitchell, Scott McTominay, Josh Harrop, and a first start for Joel Pereira.

In years to come, I might be able to say “I was there”, though my record of Untied debuts isn’t great – Marouane Fellaini and Victor Valdes. At least I can say I was there for Sam Allardyce’s last game as a manager.

For a lot of people, there would be quick Google searches to find out more information on these players. I know, minus Top Red points for not having an MUTV subscription and watching Reserve and Underage match. I should never be allowed in Old Trafford again.

The first chance of the game came when Wayne Rooney got in behind Palace’s defence, but his lob went just over the bar.

It was two of United’s debutants who were involved in most of their early attacks, Josh Harrop and Demetri Mitchell combining to good effect down the left.

It was down the left that United’s first goal came, Harrop being played in by Paul Pogba, getting into the penalty area, cutting back and then smashing it into the net with his right foot.

He wasn’t the first United young player to score on his debut. Hopefully, he’ll be more of a Paul Scholes or Marcus Rashford rather than a Federico Macheda or James Wilson.

A few minutes later, it was 2-0 when a pass came to Paul Pogba when it looked like it was going to be intercepted by a Palace defender, and Pogba made no mistake.

Pogba was playing to give him game time ahead of Stockholm, after missing recent matches due to a recent family bereavement.

It wasn’t a long appearance by Pogba, as he was subbed for Michael Carrick towards the end of the first-half, followed soon after by Jesse Lingard making way for Anthony Martial. The substitution denied Lingard the opportunity to score against Palace on 21st May for the second successive year, as this match fell on the first anniversary of the 2016 FA Cup Final.

Jose Mourinho wasn’t taking any chances. United certainly were. If they were this efficient in the previous 37 matches, a top four finish could have been secured a long time ago.

Palace’s attacks were easily nullified by United. The best they could offer was a Christian Benteke header which hit the post, denying him the opportunity to equal Darren Bent’s record of scoring at Old Trafford in three successive seasons for three different clubs.

Unsurprisingly, the second-half was typical end of season stuff as United won comfortably. The main talking point was the introduction from the bench of Angel Gomes, United’s youngest player since Duncan Edwards.

He was also United’s first player born in the 21st century.

It’s sad now that I can now remember the closest game to when a United player was born. In Gomes case, he was born during an international break. The closest match was a 2-2 draw against West Ham at Upton Park. I watched the game in a bar while on holiday in Spain. United threw away a 2-0 lead.

The final table saw United finish 6th. A win in the UEFA Cup Final will certainly retrieve the season.

It frustrates me that United surrendered 4th. Even though winning the UEFA Cup will bring the same result for United next season, they would be one of five English teams in the European Cup. Being one of four would have been much better. We could have really damaged a rival.

Ultimately, it was points dropped in drawn games at Old Trafford which cost United a top four finish. If United hadn’t thrown away leads against Stoke, Swansea, Arsenal and Bournemouth, they would have finished 4th.

Add in an extra two points from the numerous 0-0 draws to that, they would have finished 3rd. It could have made the final weeks of the season very relaxing and made it easier to balance Europe and League commitments.

This was my last match of the 2016-2017 season. The day after this match, United announced a friendly against Sampdoria in Dublin for August 2nd.

Frustratingly, it’s a midweek, so I’ll have to take a half day on the Wednesday and try and get some sleep before work on Thursday.

In terms of trips to Old Trafford, I’ll have to wait until the fixture list is confirmed on 14th June.

As much as I enjoyed doing a Thursday-Sunday double header last November, it’s not something I’d want to make an annual event.

I’m hoping there’s a midweek fixture list in December, like in 2016-2017, with United at home, and then possibly a European group match. Midweek games are handy due to lower hotel costs.

Elsewhere, the Irish League hasn’t stood still since I attended the Irish Cup Final just over two weeks ago.

Lots of ins and outs at Linfield. The signings of Robert Garrett, Jordan Stewart and Andrew Mitchell are all welcome additions to the squad. It was Linfield’s squad which won them the title last season, when you consider the impact of players such as Cameron Stewart and Alex Moore/Gareth Deane when covering for injured team-mates.

It was a squad which needed trimmed. The departures of Sammy Clingan,Michael McLellan and Kris Bright are of no surprise to anyone.

I would have kept Josh Carson, Roas Gaynor and Sean Ward, but I can understand if the players wanted to leave in order to get first-team football.

Jonny Frazer leaving was a bit of a shock. No disrespect to Ards, but I’m glad he hasn’t joined a top half team.

Linfield’s first pre-season friendly has been announced, a mid June trip to North Wales to take on Bala Town, only 90 minutes from Holyhead.

I’m holding out for Stena or Ulsterbus to do a bus/boat package. It’s the day after The 1975 concert at Ormeau Park, so I would be functioning on little sleep if I went.

The ridiculous notion of UEFA Cup Play-Offs produced a lot of goals, which means they are probably here to stay. I’m glad natural justice prevailed when Ballymena won it.

Having spoken about possibly going to see United in Dublin, I’m going to Dublin for two days in July, hoping to do the usual touristy stuff and catch some football. Shelbourne have a home match on one of the days I’m there. St Pat’s and Bray have home matches schedule, but they are dependent on their opponents being out of Europe by then.

It hasn’t been booked yet, but I’m hoping to go to Edinburgh in August. Hopefully, it’ll be on a weekend when Edinburgh City are at home. It’ll be a pleasant change from Hibs and Hearts.

Hopefully if I go to a European group match at Old Trafford next season, it’ll be in the European Cup instead of the UEFA Cup.

Photo Album

Manchester United v Crystal Palace September 2013

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : FEBRUARY

February’s football watching began for me at Old Trafford on the first day of the month, to see Manchester United held to a 0-0 draw by Hull City.

Three days later came the first in a trilogy of road trips, first to Drumahoe to see Linfield take on Institute, then to Ballymena to see Linfield win the County Antrim Shield, and then to Carrick to see Linfield take on Carrick Rangers.

That was then followed by a visit to Windsor Park to see Linfield held to a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Portadown.

The following day, I was Seaview bound to see Ballymena United take on Carrick Rangers in the NIFL Cup Final.

The football watching for the month ended with a trip to The Oval to see Linfield get a 1-0 win against Glentoran.

Manchester United v Hull City

Manchester United v Hull City Photo Album

Institute v Linfield

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

Linfield v Portadown

NIFL Cup Final

NIFL Cup Final Photo Album

Glentoran v Linfield

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November got off to a dramatic start, as I headed to Mourneview Park to see nine man Linfield come from 2-0 down to get a late draw against Glenavon.

I was back on the road a few days later to Ballymena to see Linfield record a 4-1 in win.

Up next was a trip to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland record a 4-0 win over Azerbaijan, before continuing Linfield’s road trip with a 4-0 over Dungannon Swifts before a midweek date at Windsor Park for Northern Ireland’s last game of 2016, a 3-0 friendly defeat against Croatia.

I was back at Windsor Park for Linfield’s only home game of the month, a 2-1 defeat to Cliftonville.

The following weekend, I went to see my first and second games at Old Trafford with Jose Mourinho as United manager, doing a double header of games against Feyenoord and West Ham United, with a trip to Bury (via Broadhurst Park) sandwiched inbetween.

As a bonus, I even got pictures of stickers left around Manchester by Feyenoord fans.

Glenavon v Linfield

Ballymena United v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan

Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan Photo Album

Dungannon Swifts v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Croatia

Northern Ireland v Croatia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v Feyenoord

Manchester United v Feyenoord Photo Album

Feyenoord Stickers

Bury v Millwall

Bury v Millwall Photo Album

Broadhurst Park

Manchester United v West Ham United

Manchester United v West Ham United Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 16.8.1986

With a new national team manager appointed and the league season due to Start, the cover of this edition of Shoot doesn’t just focus on Scotland, but a Welshman bound for Italy – Ian Rush, who has just signed for Juventus.

As you open the magazine, there is a double page feature from Shoot columnist Bryan Robson, with his hopes for Manchester United in 1986-1987, with him expecting Gordon Strachan, one of Scotland’s stars at the World Cup, to continue his return to form.

Strachan’s future international caps would be coming under the recently appointed Andy Roxburgh, an internal appointment having been Director of Coaching, beat off competition from Jim McLean and Billy McNeill for the role, with the man who appointed him, SFA President David Will, describing him as “knowing more than Alex Ferguson”

Shoot’s editorial focuses on Billy Bingham preparing to agree to become manager of Saudi Arabian club Al Nasser while managing Northern Ireland as well, and that he could struggle taking on the two roles at the same time.

In news, Jesper Olsen is set to leave Manchester United, with PSV Eidnhoven his most likely destination, while across Manchester, City manager Billy McNeill wasn’t too unhappy at missing out on the Scotland job, as he and his family were settled in the North-West of England.

One Scotsman who could be on the move was Paul Sturrock of Dundee United, with Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson looking to sign him

Northern Ireland’s champions Linfield are celebrating their centenary with a friendly against Brazilian side Flamengo, with Zico and Socrates both guaranteed to be playing.

Meanwhile, England’s top flight clubs have examined the practicalities of a breakaway Super League, with representatives running up an expense bill of £32,000

It’s a new era in Scotland with the top flight now comprising of 12 clubs, and Rangers have a new manager in Graeme Souness, beginning the season away to Hibs.

There was a double page spread with the fixture lists for England’s top four divisions.

One player determined for make a good start in that new season was Graham Roberts, who wasn’t selected for the World Cup, blaming himself for that, but he did get to face England’s nemesis Diego Maradona, as he had played in Ossie Ardiles Testimonial in May.

With players such as Warren Aspinall and Mike Newell joining top flight clubs, Wigan Athletic get a feature, looking at their reputation as a breeding ground for tomorrow’s stars.

A current star is Ian Rush, who has signed for Juventus, but will play for Liverpool for a season before heading to Turin in 1987. In the feature, Shoot looks at the fortunes of players who have previously moved between British clubs and Italian clubs.

In letters, one person wants Bryan Robson replaced in the England team by Steve Hodge, one person hates Denmark’s kit and a Scottish reader is unsure that Andy Roxburgh should have got the job as national team manager.

With Wimbledon about to begin their first season in top flight football 9 years after being elected to the Football League, with Shoot looking at what challenges face clubs looking to enter the Football League, as 1986-1987 was the first season to have promotion and relegation to and from the 4th Division.

Beside it, Shoot has a feature on World Cup stars moving outside their native countries to head to Mainland Europe on their back of their World Cup performances.

Also on the move was Alan Mullery, who had returned to Brighton for a second spell as manager, and gets a full page feature.

Someone who was on the move for the first time was Paul Power, who signed for Everton after 11 years at Manchester City.

The PFA have set up a working group amongst clubs in the North-West of England to try and make football more family friendly.

In adverts, Puma have brought out a new Kenny Dalglish branded boot.

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 8.9.1984

Glenn Hoddle is the main cover star of Match, alongside a British player abroad, Graeme Souness, and a British player with aspirations of playing abroad, Luther Blissett.

As you open the magazine, there is a double page feature on Gordon Cowans, who has ambitions of going to Mexico. Not to play in the Mexican League, but the 1986 World Cup. His feature had the headline “Memo to Bobby Robson, save a World Cup place for Gordon Cowans”

He didn’t go to Mexico.

Having just rejoined Watford for AC Milan, Luther Blissett has stated that he wants to play abroad again. Before Watford fans paniced, he clarified that it was European competition for the Vicarage Road side that he was wanting to play abroad.

Staying with Watford, manager Graham Taylor had put a £2m fee on Maurice Johnston, who has handed in a transfer request.

In Scotland, Hibs and George Best were in trouble with the SFA after Best played for Hibs in Jackie McNamara’s Testimonial, but was unregistered.

Craig Johnston had missed the start of the season for Liverpool in order to be with his wife and soon to born child, his wife having insisted that the child be born in Australia.

Manchester United’s three new signings Jesper Olsen, Gordon Strachan and Alan Brazil are part of a centre page poster, as United look to win the league for the first time since 1967.

As you turn the page, there is a double page feature on Strachan, where he reveals he supports Hibs, and turned down the chance to sign for United in 1971, having already given his word to Dundee.

Staying in Scotland, new Rangers signing Cammy Fraser was introduced to life at Ibrox by manager Jock Wallace ordering to shave off his moustache.

Peter Shreeves, new manager of Tottenham Hotspur, gets a double page spread, insisting he isn’t afraid of the challenge of succeeding Keith Burkinshaw.

Shoot uses star signs to try and predict the future for footballers such as Neville Southall, Kenny Sansom, Glenn Hoddle and Andy Gray.

QPR get a full page feature, with Ian Stewart giving the lowdown on the club.

In news, Mark McGhee begins his career at Hamburg with a suspension, having been sent-off in a pre-season friendly.

Jimmy Greaves received a letter in support of a Great Britain football team. Greaves replies that he agrees with the idea, but that football shouldn’t be in the Olympics.

The highlight of this edition comes in the form of a double page photo of Trevor Francis and Graeme Souness enjoying their new life in Italy, at Sampdoria, out on a boat trip together, all oiled up and dressed in nothing but Speedos. It is an image that cannot be unseen.

Wilf Rostron of Watford tells Shoot who his favourite wingers are : Pat Nevin, John Barnes and Mark Chamberlain.

Ian Rush uses his column to declare that England can be successful by learning from Liverpool, and that Graeme Souness is better than Michel Platini, and will show it in Serie A.

Beside Rush’s column, is a full page report on the recent Charity Shield, where Everton beat Liverpool 2-0, with the headline “Revenge!”, after Liverpool had beaten Everton in the previous season’s League Cup Final.

Bryan Robson uses his column to praise attackers that have recently been on the move – Joe Jordan of Southampton and the Spurs duo of Clive Allen and John Chiedozie.

Charlie Nicholas is prominent towards the end of this issue, telling Shoot he is happy at Arsenal, then appearing in an advert for Nike alongside Glenn Hoddle and Ian Rush.

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