MANCHESTER UNITED 0-0 HULL CITY 1.2.2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It looked like a goal was inevitible for United.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Album

Manchester United v Hull City November 2004

MANCHESTER UNITED 1-1 WEST HAM UNITED 27.11.2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Album

MANCHESTER UNITED 4-0 FEYENOORD 24.11.2016

Recently, I headed to Old Trafford for the first time this season, my first glimpse of Mourinho’s United in the flesh, for the UEFA Cup tie against Feyenoord.

This was a game that United needed to win just to stay in the competition. Although a draw still would have had United’s destiny in their own hands in the final game, defeat would have eliminated them from the competition, following Fenerbache’s win over Zorya at teatime. with a game to spare.

Their recent record against Dutch clubs wasn’t great, losing three and drawing one of their last four games against Dutch clubs. One of those defeats came in their open group game, away to Feyenoord in September.

It is the away form that left United in this situation, even a draw in either Rotterdam or Istanbul would have made life so much easier going into this game.

This Jeckyll and Hyde form in Europe isn’t a Mourinho problem, Moyes and Van Gaal also endured it.

United haven’t lost at home in Europe in 14 matches, dating back to 2013, but have only won 1 of their last 10 away matches, dating back to 2013.

This match meant I had seen United take on Holland’s “Big Three” at Old Trafford. I had seen Feyenoord before, at the end of the last century in 1999 taking on Liverpool in a Pre-Season Friendly.

My excuse is that I was there to watch Linfield v Glentoran which had taken place before, and then just decided to stay, like when you are a fan of the support act at a concert but just decide to stay for the headliner anyway.

United went straight on the attack, issuing a statement of intent, Paul Pogba heading over in United’s first attack.

It was very much attack v defence, most of United’s play coming through some Scottish lad making his debut called Henry McItarian.

You got the feeling that if United could get one early on, they could power through and win the game with something to spare. The problem was, just getting the one.

I had great view of it, in the front rows of the Stretford End. The downside was, I almost got hit by a wayward Paul Pogba shot.

Feyenoord looked like getting a goal on the counter against the run of play, but Sergio Romero was forced into a double save, the second with his legs.

The goal United fans craved wasn’t long in coming when Wayne Rooney burst down the left wing and played it to Zlatan Ibrahimovic who waited, and waited, before playing Rooney in, to dink it over the keeper.

It briefly looked offside (it all happened very quickly) from where I was, but TV replays showed that it wasn’t.

More United pressure followed and continued into the second-half, with Henryk Mkhitarian hitting the side netting, before Juan Mata eventually made it count by finishing from close range to make it 2-0, his last involvement in the game before being subbed for Marcus Rashford.

United then made it 3-0 with a Brad Jones own goal, even though Ibrahimovic will try to claim it.

At that point, United fans taunted their rivals with “You’re just a shit fucking Ajax”.

If you come to Old Trafford and sing You’ll Never Walk Alone, you’d better be good, Feyenoord were not good.

Jesse Lingard made it 4-0 in injury time, as United head to Zorya for their final game knowing that a draw will be enough to go through.

Hopefully, United can win that game and top the group (need Fenerbache to slip up in Rotterdam though) while Dundalk win their last game to finish second. You know what i;m thinking?

Thursday 6pm game, book a day off work and be in bed at a reasonable time.

First of all, just get the result in Ukraine.

Photo Album

2016 IN PICTURES – JANUARY

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

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

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

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

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

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Ballymena United

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

David Bowie Mural

David Bowie Mural Photo Album

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Southampton

Manchester United v Southampton Photo Album

The Kooks live at Albert Hall Manchester

The Kooks live at Albert Hall Manchester Photo Album

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – JANUARY

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

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

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

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

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

Linfield v Crusaders

Linfield v Ballymena United

County Antrim Shield Final

County Antrim Shield Final Photo Album

Manchester United v Southampton

Manchester United v Southampton Photo Album

Linfield v Carrick Rangers

PHOTO DIARY OF A FOOTBALL SEASON – NOVEMBER

The early weeks of November 2015 were spent at Windsor Park, taking in Linfield’s matches against Crusaders and Cliftonville, as well as Northern Ireland’s match against Latvia

The final two Saturdays of the month were on the road to Mid-Ulster, but no upturn in fortune for Linfield

Sandwiched inbetween those two trips to Mid-Ulster was my first trip of the season to Old Trafford to see United play out a drab and ultimately costly draw against PSV Eindhoven.

It’s a good job I went to that Northern Ireland match, otherwise it would have been a totally awful month of football watching.

Linfield v Crusaders

Northern Ireland v Latvia

Northern Ireland v Latvia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Glenavon v Linfield

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven Photo Album

Portadown v Linfield

MANCHESTER UNITED 0-1 SOUTHAMPTON 23.1.2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS OF A FOOTBALL YEAR : 2015

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

Games : 54

Goals Seen : 143

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

Missed/Saved Penalties : 6

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

Teams Seen : 40

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

Stadiums Visited : 23

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

Competitions : 13

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

Curiousities :

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

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

2015 IN PICTURES – NOVEMBER

November took a while to get going, my first adventure being on the 7th, to see Linfield take on Crusaders. I would be spending a lot of time at Windsor Park in the opening fortnight of the month.

Windsor Park is where I would be based in the opening two weekends of the month, taking in Northern Ireland’s friendly against Latvia, then Linfield’s match against Cliftonville the next day.

The following midweek was all about music, as Paul Weller and U2 came to Belfast.

The busy month continued when I took in my annual Ulster European game, a defeat to Saracens.

The final two Saturdays of the month saw me on the road, to see Linfield lose in Mid-Ulster against Glenavon and Portadown.

Sandwiched inbetween that, was a trip to Manchester to see United take on PSV Eindhoven, where I also took the opportunity to get some Street Art photos.

Linfield v Crusaders

Northern Ireland v Latvia

Northern Ireland v Latvia Photo Album

Linfield v Cliftonville

Paul Weller live at Waterfront Hall

Paul Weller live at Waterfront Hall Photo Album

U2 live at The Odyssey

U2 live at The Odyssey Photo Album

Ulster v Saracens

Ulster v Saracens Photo Album

Glenavon v Linfield

Manchester Street Art November 2015

Manchester Street Art November 2015 Photo Album

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven Photo Album

Portadown v Linfield

2015 IN PICTURES – MAY

May began for me at The Oval for the Irish Cup Final, in the Portadown end, getting absolutely drenched and watching Glentoran win the cup.

Thankfully, the day got better and drier, as I headed to a tent in Custom House Square to see The Charlatans in concert.

Two weeks later, I headed over to Manchester to see United take on Arsenal, and took the opportunity to get some Street Art photos while I was there.

The final weekend of the month saw me head to Ravenhill for the Pro 12 Final between Glasgow and Munster, which Glasgow deservedly won.

The following day, saw me take an early morning flight to Liverpool, to head to Crewe, to see Northern Ireland take on Qatar in a friendly. The appeal of that was to visit a ground (Gresty Road) for the first time, and the next day to make my every 4-5 years visit to Liverpool.

My Scouse adventures will be in next month’s round-up, as my day there was 1st June.

Glentoran v Portadown

Glentoran v Portadown Photo Album

The Charlatans Live At Custom House Square

The Charlatans Live At Custom House Square Photo Album

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Arsenal

Manchester United v Arsenal Photo Album

Glasgow v Munster

Glasgow v Munster Photo Album

Northern Ireland v Qatar

Northern Ireland v Qatar Photo Album