In September, RoM ran a competition with Betfair to give away tickets for derby day, which would go on to be seen as probably the best derby day ever.
One of the competition winners, Mark Dobson-Hill, tracked me down ahead of our semi-final against City, and shared his memories of the day where he returned to Old Trafford with his Salford born dad, Stewart Hill.
I have supported United since I was a wee lad! I had no choice in the matter as had it drummed into me by my Dad who was a Salford lad (loves telling me how he went to the same school as Giggsy) now living in Devon. Still having family in Manchester meant as a boy I was allowed to go and watch United train at The Cliff back in the day when Becks hadn’t made his début yet and Eric was king.
Living in Devon makes it hard to get tickets for games; I will always take tickets when offered as these are like gold dust to me! I have seen a few good games over the years although nothing compared to September the 20th!
My hatred towards City had returned (let’s be honest they had slipped right off the radar). The whole Tevez (money grabbing whore) saga had my blood boiling; I don’t recall many other players leaving us in such a “nasty” way.
City’s petulant “Welcome to Manchester” poster had just added a little bit more spice to this occasion.
I found out about winning the tickets on the Friday afternoon. When the phone rang and it was “Betfair” I was stunned! I thought it was a windup at first and was racking my brain to think who I had told about the competition. I was assured by the guy on the phone it was no wind up and the tickets would be at OT waiting for me.
After a very brief and frank discussion with my girlfriend about how it was not an option for her to come with me and how it had to be my Dad (promised I will take her to a lesser game, but this is City for God sake!!) I made the call to Dad and the pair of us were like excited kids. For me it was my first ever derby game, for my Dad it was his first in many, many years.
We left Devon at 6am no need for an alarm clock as I hardly slept a wink with excitement. The journey up was full of nervous chit chat and seemed to fly by! Once parked up the tension was really beginning to build. You could sense a new found confidence of an almost cocky level amongst the bitters as the ground was starting to fill.
Our seats we perfect; North Stand, Tier 1, upper – A fantastic view. When we arrived at the posh entrance after picking up the tickets we bypassed the posh bar we were supposed to use and headed down to get a pie and a pint of Boddies.
Once sat down the noise was incredible, better than any game I had been to in the past and a comment of “every game used to be like this” from my Dad. The biggest cheer came as the red “Welcome to Manchester” flag dropped with all the trophies listed on it.
You don’t need me to give you a run down of the match as I am sure you can all remember it as vividly as me.
The goal for City right at the end of the game was looking to have put a dampener on what was my best ever visit to OT. A couple of City fans sat behind me in the box were celebrating like they had won the league. The noise from the city fans in the away end was huge. I was in pieces, drained after such an immense match, people all around me were starting to leave but there was no way I could go anywhere until that final whistle. Thank god I didn’t!
Step up Michael Owen, a man who some people were still sceptical of. I thought he was a good bit of business for us as he can do a job for very little money. If there was ever anything he could do to win over the United faithful it was to wipe the smile of the City fans’ faces! My God did he achieve it! He took his goal so calmly but his celebration was great! Not only did that goal bring the bitters down to where they belong it also made the scousers sick! Two birds with one stone!
By this stage we were exhausted, voices had gone, bodies were aching but we still saved enough energy to turn and lay a load of abuse into the City fans in the box behind.
To be honest I couldn’t tell you how we got home, we were just sat in the car on autopilot reliving the best match I had ever witnessed (sure my Dad would have seen some to rival it).
Writing this little article has just made me relive it all again. After the poor display against Leeds at the weekend, lets hope we can get a good result on Wednesday. The Carling Cup has little meaning to me but this tie really does. This is what football is all about and I would not change it for the world!
Many thanks ROM. Come on United!