To mark the 10th anniversary of RoM today, there will be several articles remembering some of the best moments for Manchester United fans over the past decade. Brett and Ben have spoken about one of their favourite memories.
We all remember where we were on December 9th 2012 at 15.17: we were in the pub with friends, or just sitting next to a group of people so it looked like we had some, we were in our homes burning roast dinners, we were driving our cars up the wrong side of the A39, or we were out shopping against our better judgement in an attempt to trick our better halves into believing that we are capable of adult relationships. Some of us were lucky enough to actually be at the Etihad. And some of us are lucky enough to have YouTube, so we can remind ourselves. It didn’t matter where we were – we all knew he would score. He did. I didn’t. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t previously scored a free kick for United, as soon as Rooney walked away from the ball we all knew that victory was inevitable. He did. I didn’t.
City must have been confident going into that game. They had been unbeaten at home in the Premier League since records began, and a victory against us would have seen them draw level on points. However, the inclusion of everyone’s favourite Mario Balotelli, Mario Balotelli, did City no favours, and they found themselves two goals down with less than half an hour gone thanks to Rooney’s well-taken brace. United were dominant and Ashley Young then had a third goal disallowed (incorrectly) after Van Persie’s shot had come back off the woodwork, which just showed how much Sky were willing to pay referees to fix matches and heighten the drama. You would write off that City team at your peril. They went straight up the other end and Yaya “Yayaaa Tooureee!!!” Toure pulled one back for the hosts. This set up a last thirty minutes of frantic end-to-end football (remember that?), culminating in a Pablo Zabaleta equaliser with just four minutes of normal play remaining. Had United thrown it away or had City deservedly kept the title race wide open..?
Whether Carlos Tevez actually fouled Rafael, or the little Brazilian just fell over his own shoelaces cos Fabio hadn’t been around to remind him of their shoelace tying rhyme, is a moot point these days – the referee had awarded us a free kick about five yards outside the box, ideally situated for a left-footer. If only we had one of the best one of those in the Premier League?! Joe Hart set up a four-man wall to protect his near post, but Rooney losing ‘scissors, paper, stone’ and walking away, meant one of those bricks – Tevez – had to go and cover him. This left Van Persie with what Roberto Mancini would later describe as a “two and a half man” wall between him and the goal (If Mancini would have thought it through, “two men and a baby” might have worked better for the Twitter lols). We held our collective breath as Robin casually marked out his run-up, then we exhaled cos it was taking forever, then we held it again, and Van Persie hit the ball exactly where the half-man was hiding. It was made all the more sweet that playing the part of half-man on that day was Samir Nasri. A player who rightly or wrongly had come to represent all that was wrong with all the football things, after choosing City over us. Nasri dangled out a half-leg and got a half-touch so faint it could have been from a half-Rizla. It was enough. The ball awkwardly arched perfectly into the bottom-left corner, pausing briefly to wink at the despairing dive of Hart; the red half of Manchester erupted, as the players ran off in every which direction, not sure whether to celebrate with Tevez, Nasri, Rooney, the ghost of Eric, or RvP. Never any doubt. For him. Not me.