My girlfriend is American, and is slowly beginning to learn and come to love United. I’m a passionate United fan, and when I talk about my team, my strong feelings for them are very apparent. I was trying to get across the point that there is something special about United, and that’s why the FC United lot have reacted the way they have. I was talking to her about the Chelsea game last season, and about how amazing it was to be a part of that crowd. We’d been playing like shite, and Chelsea had an amazing start, and it looked like we didn’t have a chance in hell. Just look at the team that lined up that day. Van der Sar, O’Shea, Ferdinand, Brown, Silvestre, Fletcher, Smith, Scholes, Rooney, van Nistelrooy, Ronaldo, Bench: Howard, Park, Richardson, Bardsley, Rossi. No Keane or Neville to lead us, but instead a lad who was a striker just a few months before in the centre being told to handle Lampard and Essien. No Giggs and Heinze to give us a strong left side, but instead some Scottish lad who we thought (and mostly, still think) is not good enough for our club. No strong options on the bench, to match players like Gudjohnsen and Wright-Phillips who Chelsea had to bring on the field, but a load of inexperienced kids.
As the players came on to the field, the sound was deafening. “We’ll never die, we’ll never die, we’ll keep the red flag flying high and Man United will never die,” was sung over and over before the game had even kicked off. We knew what had to be done today, and we wanted to show those players how much we wanted it. When Chelsea had beaten us 3-1 at the close of the season before, United fans walked off in disgust with the performance, but today, it was packed to the rafters with fans urging the players to do what we knew they were capable of.
After the game, Ferguson said “I think maybe a turning point for us today was the support. I think the support showed how much they care for the club. Caring for the club is done in different ways, and that support today was magnificent. We’ve had it over the years at certain games like Arsenal at home last year, when we played Juventus here a few years ago it was unbelievable and tonight it was unbelievable. I think if they are like that all the time we can’t let them down, we don’t want to let them down, so therefore it does raise the ante for us, it does put the players under great pressure to do well.” We needed that result to show that we weren’t in decline and that we did have plans to challenge for the title.
Throughout United’s history we’ve seen comebacks, from small scale, to completely off the scale. In my lifetime, obviously 1999 is the year of all comebacks. In the FA Cup against Arsenal and Liverpool, in the European Cup against Juventus and Bayern Munich, pretty much sum up the idea of an amazing comeback. These individual games, as amazing as they were, don’t come close to the comeback we made after 1958. Now as we know, the Red Flag song is singing about Munich. It could have been all over for United back then. Eight of our players died, and another two were forced in to retirement because of their injuries. That’s almost a whole team wiped out. Not only that, but the massive psychological effect it had to have on Busby, who had himself been at death’s door and had his last rites read to him twice, the remaining players who had been through the crash, and seen their friends die, the fans, and Manchester as a whole. I know, and knew of men, who stopped following United then, as it was just too painful. Still, the team that remained, went on to reach the FA Cup final that year. Ten years later, survivors Bill Foulkes and Bobby Charlton (who was just 21 at the time of the crash) went on to lift the European Cup, the first English side to do it. Busby and United overcame a massive battle to get there, and although in ’58 it looked like United may fold, they had the strength to be there and do it. Even the final alone as an isolated match was incredible, with Charlton, Best and Kidd all scoring in extra time.
The mental strength of United and its players has been prevalent throughout our history. Me talking of comebacks is really just leading to our man of the moment, our latest success story, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. In September 2004, when Ole had just been ruled out for the season, he said, “In my situation, I can only concentrate on myself and make sure I do all the right things in order to get back into the team. The thought of playing – that’s not to mention scoring – in that red jersey again is the best motivation in the world. I have been there and I will be back. I will score at Old Trafford again. That’s a promise to myself and to the Manchester United fans.” A year on, last August, Ferguson said, ”I’m not sure he’ll play for the first team again. You can’t be when a guy is 31 and has been out for a year.” And a year on from that, August 2006, Ole scores his first goal since his comeback. He bowed down to the United away fans before celebrating with his team mates. In the interview that followed the game he said, “I waited a long, long time to celebrate with the fans after scoring a goal. The prospect of doing it was one of the major things that has motivated me over the past three years. Throughout all that time, the fans and the manager have supported me. They have shown patience and the gratitude I feel for that is difficult to put into words.”
This season, he has five goals in three starts (eight appearances), has got full ninety minute games under his belt, playing up front as well as on the wing, and looks hungry for more. We’ve waited a long time for this come back, sung his name every week at Old Trafford, all so desperate to have him back, and to see him play well. He’s surpassed even the most spirited fans’ expectations. Solskjaer is the comeback king, and as United keep marching on, the idea of seeing him lift the Premiership trophy seems more exciting than ever. It’s players like Solskjaer that help keep our club special, that keep the magic alive. He’s getting to do what we can only dream about, and he understands that. And long may it continue.
We’ll Never Die.
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