MANCHESTER UNITED 3-0 PARTIZAN BELGRADE 7.11.2019

Ole’s still at the wheel, but this journey has been a bit bumpy.

It’s one of those journeys with piss breaks every five minutes. And then, somebody nips out for a quick smoke, meaning you’ve been parked for twenty minutes. Then you stop off to a Service Station for a quick toilet break, and half the bus rushes to Burger King and you spend half an hour there.

This is why I usually make my own way to football matches.

A case of two steps forward, and one back, perfectly summed up by recent events, with three wins in a row followed up by a defeat to Bournemouth, just as the Top 6 was within reach.

This was my first trip of the season to Old Trafford, my third with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as United Manager. United had yet to win in the previous two games I had been to.

Things were going so well for Solskjaer, winning his first eight games in charge, and then I turned up against Burnley.

United went into this game knowing that a win would send them through with two games to spare. The last time they were in the Group Stage of the UEFA Cup, they didn’t secure qualification until the last game, and didn’t even win the group.

Going to this game meant that I would be able to tick Partizan Belgrade off my 102 Club list, although, I rather they weren’t on it.

They are on the list as they reached the 1966 European Cup Final, beating United 2-1 on aggregate in the Semi-Final.

Having already won 1-0 in Belgrade, a win tonight wouldn’t represent revenge for a defeat 53 years earlier, United were looking to secure European football for February 2020.

One good thing about being in the UEFA Cup is that Thursday night games are a lot more convenient to travel to. In 2016, I made a long weekend of it by seeing a match against Feyenood on the Thursday and the match against West Ham on the Sunday.

United had home games scheduled for the Sunday after Matchday 4 and 5, so there was the potential for a repeat.

Unfortunately, I had to wait until the draw was made. When I looked at booking a double header, unfortunately, the prices were too much to do Partizan and Brighton, I had to make do with Partizan.

Hypothetically speaking, if I was making a long weekend of it, I would have went to a game on the Saturday.

Possible options included Burnley v West Ham or Wigan v Brentford.

There was also cup games at Accrington Stanley (took in a game there in 2014. Turned out their FA Cup game was delayed by an hour due to officials getting injured), or Salford City, Stockport County at home in the National League or FC United at home in the FA Trophy (I planned to do this in my long weekend in 2016, but a frozen pitch denied me)

Of course, when I went to the Burnley match in January, I took in a day trip to Sheffield. I could have done that and taken in Sheffield Wednesday v Swansea City. However, that would be dependent on Northern Rail running a Boat Replacement Service.

Barnsley is just over an hour away from Manchester, though I couldn’t think of a reason why their match against Stoke City would be appealing.

It would only be Partizan I would be seeing, a match where Ashley Young would be starting due to his suspension against Brighton, necessitating that Brandon Williams not be risked.

Based on his appearances so far, I see no reason why Williams shouldn’t be United’s first choice left back, regardless of wether Ashley Young is suspended or not.

As kick-off approached, the rain continued to lash down.

This game saw two early goals, though both of them were disallowed.

Partizan’s goal that was disallowed was one of those horrible efforts that looped up and in after their striker was tackled by a United player. If it did count, it would have just summed up United’s season.

United missed a few opportunities early on, a couple of Marcus Rashford volleys going well wide, while Anthony Martial had a shot smothered by Partizan’s keeper, who was wearing a headband that made him look like Rab C Nesbitt.

Eventually, United got the breakthrough when Mason Greenwood fired home low after being found in space.

Despite not having many attempts on goal, Partizan still offered enough of an attacking threat to keep United worried. They needed a second goal to relax.

That came when a Partizan clearance was charged down and fell perfectly to Martial, who danced past a couple of defenders and poked the ball home.

It was a key goal as it gave United breathing space and deflated Partizan.

In the early minutes of the second-half, Marcus Rashford finished after a tee-up from Ashley Young, and that was the three points and qualification secured.

Unsurprisingly, the rest of the match was a non event, as United got the three points and qualified. Now all they need is four points from their last two games to win the group, which will be hand when the Last 32 draw comes around.

Elsewhere, the football news has been dominated by two Michael, with Michael O’Connor being on trial at Hibs and Michael O’Neill joining Stoke City.

But not quite leaving Northern Ireland, he’ll leave when the Euro 2020 campaign ends. So that’ll be 12th July 2020 then.

Stoke doesn’t look that appealing, but he’s obviously seen the impact that The Cowleys have had at Huddersfield and believes he can do likewise.

My next United match will be Burnley in mid January, a match that won’t be rearranged now that the League Cup Quarter-Final dates have been confirmed.

Hopefully, by then, United will be progressing in the two domestic cup competitions and climbing up the table.

Photo Album

PHOTO OF THE SEASON : 2018-2019

2018-2019 is now over and consigned to history. I hope you’ve enjoyed my month by month look back. I thought i’ll end with a look through some of my favourites. Feel free to vote for yours.

NEWFORGE

Taken during a Pre-Season Friendly, I like arty farty shots in the style of Stuart Roy Clarke, so I unashamedly try to copy him.

MOURNEVIEW

I like this shot because of the way everybody is lined up, and how everybody has their eyes fixed on Kirk Millar, being the man in possession

COLERAINE

This shot came about by fluke, I was hoping to capture a Linfield goal, but again, it’s the fans who make the picture for me, all heads in the one direction.

DUNGANNON

Got some good photos this day due to generous Winter Sun. Dungannon is always good for photos. I like the framing, getting the terraces in alongside the pitch.

JORDAN

Jordan Stewart makes it 4-0 against Crusaders in December. I like being able to capture the celebrations on the pitch and in the stand. Even a Steward joined in.

CLANDEBOYE

That spot at Clandeboye Park is handy for getting photos, as long as something interesting happens at that end during the game. Thankfully, Linfield scored while I was at this end. Not just in terms of phototaking, but the match, as it was looking like a frustrating afternoon against opponents who had already proved tricky earlier in the season.

SNOW TRAFFORD

Having got snow photos of Windsor Park in 2010, I couldn’t believe my luck when Manchester was hit with snow the day after United’s match against Burnley. Staying close to the ground, I was straight out with my camera to get photos.

McCLEAN

An explosion of emotion. 2-0 down and looking to be pegged back in the title race, to 2-2 and being frustrated, then a last minute winner, I managed to capture the reactions, of fans and players both going wild in unison.

RAIN

A weather based photo that just works. Bleurgh, an awful night for weather and football.

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : JANUARY

Fifteen hours into 2019, and it was a short trip to the Seaside to see Linfield beat Ards.

More wins came in the month, with Warrenpoint Town, Crusaders and Glentoran all taken care of.

The month ended with a trip to Old Trafford. Unfortunately, the one United match I went to didn’t result in a win, but a draw against Burnley, though I did manage to get some photos of Old Trafford in the snow the next morning.

Ards v Linfield

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Glentoran

Manchester United v Burnley

Manchester United v Burnley Photo Album

MANCHESTER UNITED 0-2 CARDIFF CITY 12.5.2019

Ole’s at the wheel, but I think the brakes have been tampered with, or maybe the oil has been tampered with.

That’s the end of the mechanical analogies, that’s all I know about cars.

Both teams had their fate decided going into this match, and it wasn’t what either side wanted, with United missing out on a place in next season’s European Cup, and Cardiff being relegated.

Curiously, I’d been to Cardiff City’s ground twice, in 2014 and 2016, but i’d never seen Cardiff City play in the flesh.

The previous meeting between the sides was a rare highlight in United’s season, a 5-1 win in the Welsh capital in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game in charge, a Christmas miracle.

In the dark of winter, that win gave United hope of better days. Now the weather was better, the mood was now darker, with a run of two wins in twelve games resulting in two cup exits and the end of Top Four hopes.

At least a home match against a relegated side would give United the opportunity to end the season with a win.

Having made a handful of substitute appearances, Mason Greenwood got a first start. A misplaced touch in the first minute of the game was the only foot wrong he put in the game, usually being involved in any decent attacking play by United, having another headed chance after one again sneaking in behind Cardiff’s defence.

In the opening minutes, he made a run in behind Cardiff’s defence and was found by Andreas Pereira’s pass, but his instinctive header was turned behind for a corner by Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.

United made a decent-ish start to the game without it looking a matter of time before they scored, the only moments of worry for Etheridge was a couple of long range shots that he easily saved.

David De Gea was forced into more work after a shot from Kenneth Zohore.

Soon after, Cardiff got a chance to take the lead when they were given a penalty when Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was fouled by Diogo Dalot.

I was at that end and though it was a penalty, though United’s players protested. TV footage showed it to be soft, though there was no need for Dalot to make a challenge on a player who was going nowhere, it only invited the referee to award a penalty.

Seeing how United’s final weeks of the season had gone, you didn’t expect Medez-Laing to miss, and he didn’t firing home to put Cardiff 1-0 up.

For once, United actually had a decent response to a setback, with Neil Etheridge being forced to turn around a goalbound Mason Greenwood shot around for a corner, while a counter-attack saw Greenwood hit the side netting with his left foot though he should have scored, a shot with his right foot would surely have done that.

What United needed was an early goal in the second-half. There was one, but it was for Cardiff.

A long throw in, it wasn’t even a good one, saw Josh Murphy get in behind United’s defence to cross it to Mendez-Laing to put Cardiff 2-0 up.

I was at the other end and was closer to them than United’s defence. It was once again another poor goal.

Has anybody scored a good goal against United this season? The vast majority of goals conceded by United this season would embarrass a pub team.

All it took for Cardiff to score was a long throw-in, and it wasn’t even a good throw-in either.

Later in the game. a long punt upfield almost put Bobby Reid through on goal to make it 3-0.

All United could offer in response was a header from Marcus Rashford saved by Etheridge, who also saved a shot from Anthony Martial.

United never looked like scoring. To many times in recent years, a setback means game over, they don’t have the toughness to fight back from adversity.

In truth, United deserved to get something from the game, and didn’t play as bad as the scoreline suggests, it’s just that there was an inevitability where the three points were going once Cardiff went 1-0, and then 2-0 up.

It was a perfect summary of the season – All over the place in defence and no belief up front, as Neil Warnock celebrated his first ever win against United.

The result meant that United finished 6th, though a win wouldn’t have changed things in that regard.

That means if Watford win the FA Cup, the 2019-2020 season will begin in July in the 2nd Round of the UEFA Cup.

If that happens, they’d better draw Ballymena United, Cliftonville or Crusaders. Might as well have something good happen out of this.

It was a season wasted, written off in mid September. It shouldn’t have been that way, it should have been the next step back to the top.

The previous seasons saw two trophies (2016-2017) and the highest post Ferguson League position (2017-2018). 2018-2019 should have built on this and gone to the next stage.

2017-2018 was also the third successive season United reached a Cup Final. You could argue it all started to go wrong with that poor performance against Chelsea at Wembley, a Chelsea team who had just come off the back of a 3-0 defeat to Newcastle.

We could have went into the summer with a third successive season of silverware, looking forward to going for the big prizes.

United got a lot of criticism in 2017-2018, but were never in danger of finishing below 2nd. They beat every team in the League.

There’s something that has become apparent about United post Ferguson, that they don’t finish a season strongly.

The record in April and May between 2014 and 2019 is P 40 W 19 D 9 L 12

United’s record in the Premier League in 2018-2019 was P38 W 19 D 9 L 10

At least they’re consistent.

This run of results includes :

– Failing to beat or score at home to West Bromwich Albion. Three times.
– Failing to beat relegated Hull City, Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City
– Losing 3-0 and 4-0 at Goodison Park
– Losing 1-0 at home to relegation threatened Sunderland

Once, if United were nine points off the top in December or January, you wouldn’t be too concerned as you knew there would be a strong finish to the season.

2014 – Couldn’t get together any run of results to secure European football. We would have been celebrating 30 successive years of European football in 2019-2010, the only English team to do so post Heysel.

2015 – 2nd with six games to go. A run of one win in the last six saw them scrape 4th thanks to Liverpool spectacularly bottling it. 2nd would have sent out a message. The Moyes era was truly over and United were eyeing up the next step. Nope.

2016 – City seemed determined to give United 4th with one win in their last five games, but United weren’t up for taking advantage. They lost out by allowing themselves to be bullied and intimidated by West Ham, a West Ham team who had just lost 4-1 at home to Swansea.

2017 – The worst of the lot, gifting 4th place to Liverpool by concentrating on the UEFA Cup. Though United ended up in the European Cup the following season, they could have done so at the expense of a rival and stifled them.

2018 – Seeing the season out by failing to score against West Brom, Brighton and West Ham instead of building momentum for the FA Cup Final and the start of the following season.

2019 – Grim. Presented a Top Four place on a plate but couldn’t take it. Never looked like taking it. Threw it away.

There are people who say that United are no longer a big deal. That is bollocks. Just look at the media coverage United generate. Just look at the reaction of opposition fans when they beat United.

The only people, it seems, who don’t realise that United are still a big deal are United fans and players themselves.

It’s amazing what a bit of positivity can do. Liverpool almost grifted their way to the Premier League title by sticking a slogan on the side of a bus and made opposition teams believe they were scared of them.

Folks, do you not remember the Summer of 2016? You should know not to believe what you read on the side of a bus.

Liverpool have went from 5th to 8th to 4th (secured on last day) to 4th (secured on last day) to a title challenge.

United fans seem to specialise in worshipping opposition teams. “Let’s be like City” “Let’s be like Liverpool” “Let’s be like Tottenham”

No. Let’s be the best Man United we can be. That’s all we should be worrying about.

The only way United have emulated Charlton in recent years has been Athletic, not Bobby, with their end of season capitulations.

It stretches back to David Moyes complaining about a difficult run of opening games when he should have been saying to bring the big games on.

Positivity and negativity are contagious. Let’s have to good type of contagion.

It’ll take more than good vibes to help United, but Top Four isn’t a closed shop, teams have been interchangeable. Just because you’re out, doesn’t mean you can’t get back in.

Get the players in, get them in early. The Summer of 2018 cannot be repeated.

You could argue that Jose Mourinho took his eye off the ball by appearing on Russia Today during the World Cup, but it would be hypocritical to do so, as Sir Alex Ferguson did punditry for ITV at tournaments during the 1990s.

If the transfer work is delegated, there’s no issue. It clearly wasn’t. We waited for signings that were needed. This should have been the Summer that United kicked on, now they are back where they were in 2014.

As well as ins, there has to be outs. Not only are too many players there long after they should have been, not progressing to the level required, there are players there that are taking up space in the squad such as Matteo Darmain and Marcos Rojo. You probably forgot they were still at United.

When someone is missing, there’s not always options to bring someone in. Not someone who can be brought in that makes you think things will be ok.

It’s not all doom and gloom, away wins in cups against Juventus, Arsenal, Chelsea and Paris St Germain prove that. Sadly, they are the exception. The potential is there though.

This match ended 2018-2019 for me. I’m beginning to think that Linfield’s 5-1 win over Cliftonville would have been a better way to bow out in terms of football watching.

Now, it is all about 2019-2020 for me.

It’s looking like Kyle McClean won’t be part of Linfield’s plans after signing a one year deal with St Johnstone. There’s no definitive statement that he won’t be back on loan, but the wording of both club’s respective statements to the deal suggest he’ll be playing his football in Perth next season.

He will be back at Windsor Park this Summer though, with St Johnstone and Motherwell visiting for Pre-Season Friendlies. Good in terms of preparation for Europe, but a bit rubbish in terms of groundhopping and travelling.

Linfield’s European game(s) will be part of a busy July of football watching, hopefully. I’ll be heading to Dublin over the July Holidays, so i’ll be looking to catch a few games while there, as well as doing all the touristy stuff.

As part of that, i’ll be keeping an eye out for any English or Scottish teams playing games there on the Saturday that i’m there.

I’m already making plans for the July Holidays in 2020, as i’m hoping to be in London on the weekend of 11th/12th when the Final will be at Wembley.

I’m primarily over to do all the touristy stuff, but if there’s a friendly on the Saturday, I might pop along to that.

I’ve also got a random urge to head to Mainland Europe at some point in March, but it’s just an idea at the moment, nothing planned.

This week saw the launch of the Unite The Union Cup in November between Linfield (as Irish League Champions) and the 2019 League Of Ireland Champions.

I would have thought the end of our season would have been better to schedule it with the weather being better, but it would be up against Semi-Finals of UEFA Cup and European Cup, which might not be appealing to broadcasters, which is fair enough.

I’ll wait and see what the arrangements are, but I hope to go to this, though the matched will take about three weeks with every player getting booked or warned by the referee demanding that a Trade Union Representative be present when doing so.

Other potential Linfield trips in 2019-2020 will come in the Scottish Challenge Cup. Ayr and Stranraer away if we get a Scottish team.

If we progress and can draw non Scottish teams, I think Waterford will be one of the League Of Ireland representatives. A return visit having gone there last year is very appealing.

While I was in England, Cliftonville beat Glentoran to reach the UEFA Cup. I feel for Glenavon, being screwed out of a European place by a system which rewards mediocrity. No amount of high scoring games will change that.

For me, 2018-2019 is over. Scouseageddon didn’t happen but the alternative wasn’t much better.

Now we’re relying on Tottenham to make things bearable. Tottenham, I know.

If you believe in omens, i’ll be at a concert on the night of the European Cup Final, just as I was last year.

Randomly, I got a programme for a Documentary Festival taking place in Belfast in June (didn’t order it and don’t remember being on a mailing list)

I had a quick browse and there’s a film about Maradona, so I might go to that, as well as a short film about a match between Bohs and Shamrock Rovers.

United wise, i’ll be hoping to do a midweek match in November. The last time they were in the UEFA Cup, I did a Thursday-Monday double header which was great, but not something i’d want to do every year. We’ll wait and see.

I’m off to hope Spurs save us all (We know they’ll be unbearable if they win, but Piers Morgan and Scousers having a meltdown in one go is too much to turn down), dream and scheme a possible trip, and pretend that I care about the UEFA Nations League.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : NOVEMBER

November 2018’s football watching began with a trip to Windsor Park with a trip to Windsor Park to see Linfield scrape a late draw at home to Warrenpoint Town.

It didn’t get much better the following Saturday, as I headed back to Windsor Park to see Linfield lose to Coleraine.

The weekend after, was a double header, the first of which was a first trip to The Brandywell, to see Linfield take on Institute. The next day, I headed to Windsor Park to see Northern Ireland take on Austria in the UEFA Nations League.

The following weekend, it was yet another trip to Windsor Park, but finally a home win, as an Andrew Waterworth hat-trick saw off Cliftonville.

My football watching for the month ended with a midweek trip to Old Trafford to see Manchester United take on BSC Young Boys in the European Cup, my first visit to Old Trafford of the season.

Linfield v Warrenpoint Town

Linfield v Coleraine

Institute v Linfield

Northern Ireland v Austria

Northern Ireland v Austria Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys Photo Album

MANCHESTER UNITED 2-2 BURNLEY 29.1.2019

It had been two months since my last visit to Old Trafford and, at first glance, it didn’t appear like much had changed. There’s still a grey haired chap in the home dugout, but he looks a lot different these days.

Of course, it’s all about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red And White Army these days, with eight wins out of eight going into this game. With each win, I was starting to worry that the first match I go to under his reign would be the first United don’t win, making me feel like a scud.

His reign began with a game against Cardiff City, and will end against the same opposition in May, unless United reach the European Cup Final or the FA Cup Final.

I’m planning on going to that game against Cardiff meaning that this could be the first of two United games i’ll see with Solskjaer as Manager, or the first of many. We shall see.

This wouldn’t be my first time seeing Burnley in the flesh, having seen them play Linfield in a friendly in the Summer of 1997, which I think Burnley won 2-1, with Fast Show legend Chris Waddle being their manager.

Back then, Burnley were over two decades outside of the top flight and barring one season in 1994-1995, were bouncing around the Third and Fourth Tiers for the previous decade.

There are those not much younger than me who only know Burnley as a team of the Top Two divisions of English football having been planted there since winning promotion to what is now The Championship in 2000.

They are currently battling to avoid relegation and secure four seasons of top flight football, to avoid the same fate that fell Ipswich Town in 2002 when they were relegated a year after reaching the UEFA Cup.

Nine successive wins wasn’t the only piece of history United were looking for, they were looking to do the double over Burnley in the Premier League at the fifth attempt. Having finally won a League match at Turf Moor in 2017, the first of three successive wins there, that has been negated by Burnley coming away with a draw in their previous two matches at Old Trafford.

There was a hailstorm in the opening minute at Old Trafford, a few minutes later Marcus Rashford looked certain to put United 1-0 up when he was played through but he toepoked wide when a side foot finish would have put the ball in the back of the net.

It might have been because they were attacking where their fans were based, but Burnley felt confident when they went forward, though all they threw at Untied was a flurry of corners and a shot from Chris Wood.

United had pressure on Burnley’s defence, with a shot from Luke Shaw looping over and a shot from Juan Mata going just wide.

0-0 at half-time but no need to panic, United just needed to step it up.

They certainly did need to step it up when Burnley took the lead on 51 minutes when Ashley Barnes put Burnley 1-0 up after United lost possession in their own defensive third, the first time that United had fallen behind under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The response was to bring Jesse Lingard on from the bench.

Marcus Rashford had a long range shot saved by Tom Heaton saved by Tom Heaton. Every time a cross came into the box, it was always a Burnley head getting in the way, and it always seemed to be a Burnley foot getting to the second ball.

Heaton then made a one hand save to deny Romelu Lukaku from close range. And when United had a shot wide for a goal kick, Heaton would take Elliott Morris amount of time with the goal kick. Spoiler alert – It bit them in the arse later in the game.

Old Trafford was soon stunned as a cross came in and Chris Wood headed home from close range to make it 2-0. With ten minutes to go, and the way the game had gone, it looked like there was no way back for United.

It looked like they were going to get an opportunity to get back into the game with a penalty, as it looked like it had been awarded, but it was a free-kick on the edge of the box, which came to nothing.

On 87 minutes, United did get a penalty for a foul on Jesse Lingard, which Paul Pogba made no mistake to make it 2-1. It was suddenly game on.

With five minutes of injury time to be added on, there was still more than enough time for United to equalise, or possibly even go on and win it.

The pressure continued from United, but Tom Heaton continued to deny them, saving a shot from Paul Pogba, before a goal line save in injury time from Alexis Sanchez looked to have won the game for Burnley, only for the ball to fall for Victor Lindelof to score his first goal for United to make it 2-2.

And still there was time to win the game.

The pressure continued but Burnley were able to hold on for a point. Not an ideal result for United, but it’s better than a defeat.

Even though Arsenal won to go two points ahead of them, Chelsea lost to Bournemouth the following night, meaning that even though United dropped two points, they actually finished the Matchweek a point closer to 4th.

It’s great to have the United of old back. The worst thing that has happened over the last five years is that we’ve allowed ourselves to believe that others are better than us. There’s a serious danger that Liverpool will win the League teams are scared of them. Shamefully, United were one of those teams in December.

Onwards and upwards. Hopefully, by the time i’m next at Old Trafford on the last day of the season, a Top 4 finish will be secured and we’ll have two cup finals to look forward to.

Photo Album

MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT : 12.2.1977

England’s upcoming friendly against Holland dominates the cover of this edition of Shoot, with Ruud Krol and Trevor Brooking occupying the page.

In news, Republic Of Ireland have arranged a friendly against Poland, but may have to field locally based players due to the club commitments of players based in England. Dundee United were invited on a pre-season tour of Bangladesh.

Alex Stepney has been awarded a testimonial by Manchester United, with Benfica, United’s opponents in the 1968 European Cup Final, visiting Old Trafford. It’s part of a series of events, including a concert by Brotherhood Of Man at Fagin’s Club in Manchester.

The big boys joined the Irish Cup this week, with Linfield hoping to win the trophy for the 31st time. They would have to wait until 1978 to reach that milestone.

Birmingham City manager Willie Bell wanted 1977 British Championship postponed in order to avoid player burnout, due to backlog of club games due to postponements, and England and Scotland going on tour to South America.

England’s friendly with Holland gets a double page spread. The match was the first between the sides since a friendly seven years earlier, a 0-0 draw at Wembley with England months away from heading to Mexico to defend their World Cup title. Shoot focused on the change in fortunes for both countries since then, with Holland reaching the 1974 World Cup Final, a tournament which England failed to qualify for.

Kevin Keegan uses his column to comment that England must deliver a good performance in order to ensure fans keep returning to Wembley to watch them.

Shoot gives a full page to a bit of statistical fun, that Millwall have the best goals conceded ratio in the history of the Football League from 1888 to 1977.

Gerry Francis also uses his column to preview the England v Holland game, suggesting that Holland are a better team without their star players.

Alan Sunderland told Shoot that he was glad to be settled in a striker role at Wolves, while Graham Wilkins of Chelsea was talking about emerging from the shadow of his younger brother Ray.

In world news, West German clubs are raking in money from shirt sponsorship, which is still banned in England.

Cesar Luis Menotti, manager of World Cup hosts Argentina, is interviewed, where he revealed that the fear of disappointing Argentina’s fans is giving him sleepless nights.

John Greig uses his column to reveal that Rangers might be making a sensational new signing – former Brentford trialist Rod Stewart, who has approached him about playing for Rangers in his testimonial.

2018 IN PICTURES – MAY

May 2018 began for me by chasing Street Art, getting photos of Murals at Bankmore Square and Bank Square.

That was then followed by a trip to The Odyssey to see Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

The following weekend, I headed to Manchester to see United take on Watford, as well as getting some Street Art photos, both in the City Centre (mostly, Northern Quarter) and then Pomona Wharf.

On the Bank Holiday Weekend at the end of the month, I headed to Titanic Slipways for BBC’s Biggest Weekend where I saw Manic Street Preachers, Beck, Ash and Franz Ferdinand.

The end of the month was dominated by Street Art, going to check out Street Art on Bruce Street, and attending Wardrobe Jam.

Bankmore Square Street Art

Bankmore Square Street Art Photo Album

Bank Square Street Art

Bank Square Street Art Photo Album

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds live at The Odyssey

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds live at The Odyssey

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Watford

Manchester United v Watford Photo Album

Manic Street Preachers live at Titanic Slipways

Manic Street Preachers live at Titanic Slipways Photo Album

Beck live at Titanic Slipways

Beck live at Titanic Slipways Photo Album

Ash live at Titanic Slipways

Ash live at Titanic Slipways Photo Album

Franz Ferdinand live at Titanic Slipways

Franz Ferdinand live at Titanic Slipways Photo Album

Bruce Street Art

Bruce Street Art Photo Album

Wardrobe Jam

Wardrobe Jam Photo Album

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-0 BSC YOUNG BOYS 27.11.2018

What a difference those two late goals in Turin made.

1-0 down, United were set to go into Matchday 5 in 3rd spot. Most importantly, Juventus were through as group winners, it would have been hard to see them playing at the same level at home to Valencia, a game United would need them to win.

The group had now changed. While United were still chasing Juventus for top spot, most importantly, they knew that a win, coupled with Valencia failing to beat Juventus, would see United reach the Last 16 with a game to play.

Even though they were playing against bottom side, already eliminated, United were coming off a 0-0 draw at home to a team they should have been beating, Crystal Palace.

Unfortunately, the only sign of storm clouds disappearing and things being a lot calmer at Old Trafford only applied to the weather rather than the mood, as I made my first visit of the season to see United.

As Linfield have found in recent weeks, when you face a team set up to defend, don’t give them something to defend.

United needed an early goal.

They should have had it in the first five minutes when Marcus Rashford was played through with the keeper in no man’s land and fired it over the keeper, but over the bar. Surely it wouldn’t be one of those nights?

A few minutes later, Fred had a shot from just outside the penalty area go just over.

United had stated their intention to attack. They now needed to convert it into goals.

United’s dominance didn’t dampen the spirit of the Swiss visitors, all dressed in yellow coats, looking like they had gone to the game straight after finishing their shift on the Metrolink.

They even had a chant to the tune of We’re Not Gonna Take It by Twisted Sister, a song title which could sum up the mood at Old Trafford these days. Disappointingly, Young Boys supporters missed out on the obvious chant of having one to the tune of Wild Boys by Duran Duran.

Most of United’s play was coming down the left, usually through Luke Shaw. Frustratingly, Anthony Marial seemed to be on a different wavelength when trying to collaborate with him.

Far too often, the build-up play was decent, but the final pass wasn’t. United were overdoing it and having too many passes. Somebody just needed to take the ball and fire it at goal, like how Paul Pogba did in the first game between the sides.

Marcus Rashford did just that, but his shot went just wide.

0-0 at half-time, but no need to panic. If United keep up this pressure, surely they would put the ball in the net.

But United didn’t keep up the pressure, prompting Jose Mourinho to make some changes, bringing on Pogba and Lukaku for Fred and Lingard.

Remember back in September when the two side met on Matchday 1? That was the last time you could say that Romelu Lukaku had scored in the previous match for United. That was a long time ago.

United fans were hoping he would be motivated by revenge, with Switzerland having eliminated Belgium from the UEFA Nations League earlier in the month.

One supporter described him as a bigger fraudster than Sally Webster. I didn’t even know she was on trial.

Young Boys were now starting to show themselves as an attacking force, with a deflected shot forcing David De Gea into a goalline save just as it looked set to sneak in, and even diverted the ball away from the Young Boys attackers eyeing up a rebound.

I was behind that goal, and it looked like it was going in, with De Gea even having time to give a thumbs up to supporters behind the goal signing his name.

Juan Mata came on for Antonio Valencia as United searched for a winner.

By this point, Juventus were 1-0 up against Valencia. United knew that if they got the win, they would go through.

One supporter behind me kept saying “Come on United, we’ll get one chance” repeatedly in the final minutes. It was probably based on history or optimism rather than what was going on out on the pitch.

But he was right. As the clock hit 90 and the board for injury time, United got that chance, and it got them a goal.

Romelu Lukaku flicked on for Maroaune Fellaini to finish to give United the points and put them into the Last 16.

Group placings will be decided in Matchday 6. I’d be surprised if Juventus don’t beat Young Boys and win the group.

Finishing 2nd doesn’t mean certain elimination. They lost to group runner-up Sevilla last season.

In 2012-2013, United finished top of their group and drew Real Madrid while group runner-up Galatasary drew Schalke.

Of possible group-winners (as it stands) only Porto stand out. From the same group, Schalke would be the runner-up you would want to draw.

Hopefully, by the time the Last 16 comes around, United’s League position will be a lot healthier.

As much as I enjoyed doing a double header against Feyenoord and West Ham when United were in the UEFA Cup in 2016-2017, it’s not a weekend i’d want to do on an annual basis.

My next Old Trafford visit is in late January for the League match against Will MacKenzie’s favourite team, Burnley.

I’m going Tuesday to Thursday as the match will be either Tuesday or Wednesday. I’ll be keeping an eye out for possible nearby matches on my free evening. Huddersfield v Everton is very tempting.

While I was at Old Trafford, I wasn’t keeping a check on the score of Linfield’s County Antrim Shield Semi-Final against Ballymena, as it was postponed.

Considering they’ve been playing Midweek-Saturday for the past few weeks, I don’t think Ballymena will be too unhappy with that postponement, not that i’m suggesting David Jeffrey was doing wheelies on the pitch in a monster truck on Tuesday afternoon.

The new date, Tuesday 18th December, isn’t really convenient for Linfield in what will be a packed month. I’ll look at that in the next Linfield match blog.

In case the League match at Ballymena is postponed, here’s some thoughts on Euro 2020.

Pot 3 is inconvenient, but it is doable to qualify from.

From Pot 1, England would be great for the trip, Poland is the most winnable of the teams in that pot.

Pot 2 – Iceland, Russia and Ukraine look the most beatable, Wales is appealing for the trip. Germany the one to avoid.

Pot 4 – Lithuania or Georgia please.

Pot 5 – Gibraltar.

Pot 6 – San Marino or Andorra.

If Northern Ireland draw England, Switzerland, Portugal or Holland, they will be in a five team group. It will be interesting to see what the IFA do for fans who have already purchased Euro 2020 Qualifying tickets if it is four games instead of five.

In South America, the Copa Libertadores Final between River Plate and Boca Juniors has been moved to Madrid. Was never going to happen, it would have been amazing if it was at Windsor Park.

It’s the other continental club final in Madrid this season that interests me. Hopefully, United will be in it.

Photo Album

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON : APRIL/MAY

April’s football watching began with a trip to Mourneview Park on Easter Tuesday to see Linfield grind out a 3-2 win away to Glenavon.

That was followed on the Saturday afterwards by going to see Linfield beat Ballymena United 2-0.

Good start to the month, but that was as good as it got, as Linfield could only managed one point from their next three games against Crusaders, Coleraine and Cliftonville, which would cause them to eventually miss out on European football.

There was only one match for me in May, a trip to Old Trafford to see Manchester United take on Watford.

And that, was the 2017-2018 over for me.

Here’s to more football and photos in 2018-2019.

Glenavon v Linfield

Linfield v Ballymena United

Crusaders v Linfield

Linfield v Coleraine

Linfield v Cliftonville

Manchester United v Watford

Manchester United v Watford Photo Album