To mark the 10th anniversary of RoM, there will be several articles remembering some of the best moments for Manchester United fans over the past decade. Paul Gunning, the General Editor at ESPN, has spoken about one of his favourite memories.
It was one of those ‘I was there’ moments – there were so many under Sir Alex Ferguson. Manchester City were on the rise. It felt like only a matter of time and Carlos Tevez, once of Manchester United fame, was the grizzled face of their insurgence.
The ‘Noisy Neighbours’ came to Old Trafford 2-1 up from the first leg, a place in the League Cup final at stake, having not won a trophy for thirty-four years, as the rolling banner hanging from the Stretford End, updated ever year, testified.
The atmosphere in the stadium was incredible, a frenzied cauldron of spitefulness, fear and anticipation. This competition, derided for so long, now suddenly thrust back onto the map.
“Who’s that tw*t from Argentina?” asked the United faithful, over and over again, spitting venom at the traitorous Tevez throughout the match. “He won’t be winning trophies anymore” they taunted, desperate for the players he left behind, when he joined City, to make it so.
And they did, at least for the moment. It felt like a monumental victory. When United took the lead on the night, after Wayne Rooney, coveted by City, found Ryan Giggs with a pinpoint pass so sublime it made the heart skip a beat, and Paul Scholes was loitering on the edge of the penalty box to strike, the cauldron boiled over and bedlam broke out. I was there with my brother, and our faces, like every other in the home stands, were contorted in a mixture of relief and rage.
When Michael Carrick made it 2-0, with a finish cooler than the unused side of a pillow on a hot summer’s night, it all seemed to be falling into place. Carrick almost forgot to celebrate. Old Trafford did not.
Tevez, however, was not finished. When he scored his equaliser with a deft, prancing touch, the home crowd’s howls could not be suppressed. Not him. Anyone but him.
Yet these were the days of Ferguson and no Ferguson team ever gave up.
A corner. The ninety-first minute. Time draining away. Scholes receives the ball on the edge of the box and tens of thousands of voices urge him to shoot. But this is the United of Ferguson and no Ferguson team ever panicked. An unflustered pass back to Giggs on the wing and another corner won.
It was now or never.
It had to be him. Wayne Rooney, who wanted to join the blue half of Manchester just a few months later – City’s tormentor on this night of nights. The eruption in Old Trafford was like a force of nature, the volume cranked up to an ear-splitting pitch as strangers hugged strangers and all the cares and concerns felt going into the match fell away, at least for the moment.
It was only later, watching the highlights on TV, that we saw the look on Vincent Kompany’s face, incredulous, with hands on hips. And Tevez, walking back to the centre circle, crestfallen, unable to hide the anguish and inner turmoil within, City’s poster boy distraught, his script torn to shreds.
There were many ‘I was there’ moments under Ferguson. That one, like the rest, will live long in the memory.