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Old Trafford
 
Manchester United v
Tottenham Hotspur
Premier League
Saturday September 29th 2012, 5.30pm
By Jonny Laybourn
(Tottenham Hotspur fan)

Being in only my second full season of attempting to attend every week at Spurs (Iíve only just moved back to the area after a childhood-long absence) I was relishing the chance to go to see us play at Old Trafford, one of the most famous football grounds in the country. Before the game we hadnít been bestowed with the best of records against United at their place, not having won there for 23 years. I admit I wasnít hoping for much as I travelled to Manchester, but nonetheless I saw it as an ideal opportunity to visit both the city and the ĎTheatre of Dreamsí, and hope for a shock result while having a good sing song for the lads. Every away fan enjoys a sing song!

On this particular day I came from Peterborough, and got the rather slow direct train through Nottingham and Sheffield. Not the most memorable three and a half hours of my life, but I did get into Manchester in one piece and in plenty of time.

After walking round the impressive city centre for a bit, I had lunch at a Chinatown buffet followed by a drink at the famous Lass Oí Gowrie pub near Oxford Road station. Both places come highly recommended, especially the Lass if you are a real ale drinker. I then took the tram to the ground. On first impression the tram was quite expensive at £2.50 for a single ticket, but I suppose the price is justified for the high level of investment going into the network.

There was no trouble with the home fans. They seemed to vary in attendance habits with some proudly sporting their gold season ticket badges while some fans clad in United shirts seemed to not know how to purchase tram tickets! Interesting. As a win for them was expected, general talk on the tram was of how big the scoreline would be and which of their star players would be on the scoresheet.

It took about 15 minutes to reach Old Trafford tram station, and another 15 on walking out of the station past the cricket ground to finally reach the stadium. Another peculiarity I started to witness was the proliferation of half-and-half scarf sellers, the scarves themselves being half red and half white and sporting the names of the two teams. Even stranger that many people were wearing them! It began to feel more like a tourist attraction than a game of football. Given the stadiumís capacity, I feel hardly surprised now that I didnít see a single other Spurs fan until I arrived at the ground!

The ground itself is huge, not like any other Iíve been to, save for maybe Wembley. Outside the East Stand, where the lit ĎManchester Unitedí sign is and where news correspondents pose when reporting about the club, thousands of fans posed for photos. The buzzing atmosphere outside was indicative of the prestige of the club. I walked round the outside of the ground and noticed that the South Stand was a bit older looking than the rest of the ground, but I had read before that the club cannot expand this stand because of the railway line lying more or less directly adjacent to it. I then bought a programme and went into the away section of the ground, located under the Munich memorial clock at the corner of the South and East stands.

I enjoyed a Thai beer for the Londoner-friendly price of £3.60 and took my seat about twenty minutes prior to kick off. The ground was just as impressive on the inside as it was from the outside, with imposing stands on three sides (some seats were so high we couldnít see them from where we were) and a great view from the away section. I heard United trialled moving the away fans up into the Ďgodsí ŗ la Newcastle but decided to drop it for this season; please donít do it, Old Trafford has one of the best away sections in the country! Although there wasnít much leg room, I was stood close to the away section which led to much good-natured banter between the fans.

As for the game itself, just wow. Spurs had a dream start with Jan Vertonghen playing a one-two and dinking a goal inside five minutes. We continued to dominate with the brilliant Gareth Bale grabbing a second before half-time. I stayed in my seat during the half-time period. The second half was more nail-biting: for United, Rooney came on for Giggs and they looked a different side. They got chance after chance until Nani scored impressively from a Rooney cross to make it 2-1. However a minute later we countered and Jermain Defoe was at the other end; he crossed to Bale who forced a parry from Lindegaard, inviting Clint Dempsey to tap the ball in and send us into delirium. Kagawa then finished off a good move two minutes later making it 3-2. And, despite Unitedís total dominance from then until the final whistle, the scoreline stayed put. Spurs had finally beaten Manchester United away for the first time in nearly 23 years!

Our fans were brilliant all game and I personally was hoarse after about half an hour; definitely the most atmospheric of away experiences Iíve had. The United fans broke into song on occasion, but ours were the more consistent of the two sets of fans! I have heard however that the Stretford End is hard to hear from the away end, so forgive me if you were at the game and you disagree! The stewards were very helpful as well, showing us our seats and letting us stand for more or less the whole game, even smiling to us as we left.

We continued to sing in our seats for about ten minutes after the game, after which the party transferred to the street. Unfortunately it quickly dissolved after we were outnumbered by the swathes of grumpy United fans in the dark! I personally then did the two and a half (ish) mile walk back to the city centre. A bit far for most, but I thought better that than waiting in the vast queues for the tram among seventy thousand disappointed Reds!

Overall, it was a perfect day as a Spurs fan. Fantastic and iconic ground to visit, easily reachable from Manchester city centre and one in which you get a great view and can easily create an atmosphere. Winning was just the icing on the cake for us! Will definitely be back next year though Iíll still be cautious of overrating our prospects, albeit less so after this great result! Manchester itself is also a lovely city with so much to do both pre- and post-match.


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