You would think that by now we would be used to it. Dramatic last gasp wins have been commonplace for Manchester United fans during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. It doesn’t seem to matter how often we do it though, it feels fucking fantastic every single time. That realisation, a second or so before the ball hits the net, when you’re deep in to injury time, is one of the greatest feelings you’ll ever experience, and as United fans, we get to experience it more than most.
During the 2009-2010 season we beat Manchester City in injury time on three separate occasions. At the time of a last minute winner, you don’t have much time to consider the opposition fans, but I’d be lying if I said that the awareness that comes later, knowing how much misery you’ve inflicted on them by leaving it until late on to win the game, doesn’t add to the satisfaction of the result. When Paul Scholes popped up with that header in the 93rd minute to beat City and deny them their chance in the Champions League (hindsight would tell you he was doing them a favour), their fans had been expecting it for the last ten minutes, but that didn’t make it hurt any less when it happened.
Yesterday saw us beat City in injury time again and it felt brilliant. Not just because it meant we went six points clear at the top of the table but because City were about to pick up their luckiest point of the season. United had gone 3-0 up with less than an hour played, only for the linesman to wrongly rule out the goal. In the following attack, City scored, meaning they were just a goal behind instead of the three they deserved to be. Five minutes after City scored their first goal, Patrice Evra was brought down in the box by Kolo Toure, only for the referee to wave away appeals. When City then equalised four minutes before the end of the game, we were left to dwell on the poor decisions that had cost us the points.
With this context in mind, having contemplated the likelihood of us being robbed of the points we deserved, Robin van Persie’s 92nd winner felt incredible. United fans and players went bonkers.
Rio Ferdinand, who often goes bananas when we score a big goal, celebrated wildly in front of the away fans behind the goal, alongside his team mates. United fans filled that half of the stand with the partition of stewards at the corner flag. The picture below was taken from a United fan in the away section, again showing where Rio was celebrating, directly below the United end.
As he was celebrating with our fans, grabbing his shirt, a coin was thrown from the City fans which cut him just above his eye. Had the coin landed an inch away from where it did, who knows what implications there could have been. Worst case scenario, Rio could have been blinded and his football career ended.
Whilst most people would agree it is unacceptable for a fan to throw coins at players, seemingly reasonable people started trying to justify the behaviour of the City fans. “I know it’s not alright to throw coins at players… but if you provoke the fans, what do you expect?” On Twitter and radio phone-ins, other people started claiming that Rio celebrated “directly in front” of the City fans, therefore it was no surprise that they reacted. Whilst I would argue there is something fairly wrong with you if you believe a player who celebrates a goal deserves to get his head cut open, the fact that Rio was stood directly in front of his own fans, not City’s, makes the complaints all the more ridiculous. Are we seriously saying that if your team scores a last minute winner against your title and local rivals you shouldn’t be allowed to celebrate with your fans? And that if you do celebrate with your fans and are in throwing distance of opposition fans you deserve everything that’s coming to you? Do me a favour.
On Radio 5 Live, these moronic people text and called in to try and lay blame at Rio’s door. Thankfully, Paddy Crerand was on the case, and put these idiots straight.
“Who said that? That is ridiculous,” Crerand said. “What planet do they live on? That is absolute garbage. How many people have phoned you up? One, two, three? How many? I think the point is absolutely ludicrous. Is this a publicity stunt? Ask me a sensible question and don’t talk stupid, asking me daft questions about whether fans should celebrate or not. ‘Rio Ferdinand was nowhere near where the home fans were. He gets struck by a coin that someone has thrown from about 15 or 20 yards, it wasn’t as if he was standing in front of their supporters jumping up and down.”
You tell ’em, Paddy!