Like many of us, I was schooled in this football-watching malarkey by my Dad. As a youngster, you learn a lot on these eye-opening, formative trips to the match. As well as introducing me to the intoxicating atmosphere that only the holy triumvirate of drinking, swearing and potential violence can generate, my Dad brought me up to leave early…and arrive late more often than not.
My Dad was (and still is) a Zen Master in the art of leaving early, sort-of a founding father for the ‘We Do What We Want’ brigade. My 8 or 9 year old self wasn’t cool with this in the slightest, however. We’d still be sat in the pub at twenty-five to three, waiting for his mate to arrive and pick us up for the drive to M16. I’d be getting increasingly vexed and his only response would be to get another pint in and utter the retort “What d’ya wanna see the kick off for? One passes it to the other and then he passes it back….then someone kicks it forwards. Pointless”. Amusing at first, but after a couple of dozen airings it wore very thin.
I think the watershed moment was at some point in the mid-80s when we went 2-0 up vs (from memory) Sheffield Wednesday…and we were still in the car. I just gave up sweating it then. We always got there eventually, we always saw most of the match…we always left with 5 minutes to go. “Beating the traffic” it was called, that was how we rolled.
Moving into adulthood presented the opportunity to scrap the bad habits enforced on me during in childhood and set my own matchday agenda, but I carried on. I despise waiting around for trains and trams, so when presented with the opportunity to ‘get a flier’, more often than not I take it. No standing around listening to interminable bores in the cold and rain, get back to the pub/home/warm instead. Sorted. A superstitious element to all this kicked in too, if we need a goal with a couple of minutes left, I’ll routinely leave my seat and watch it on the telly under the stands. If you’re shaking your head reading this, I don’t care. It’s for the greater good. It works, as I’ll go on to illustrate.
Firstly though, it’s probably worth mentioning that I don’t miss all late goals. I witnessed Rooney’s last season against City, Olly’s winner vs Liverpool in ‘99 and most critically of all, his goal that sunk Bayern in the Nou Camp. Being outside the ground at crucial moments does seem to be recurring theme with me though.
So here, in chronological order, I present the 10 greatest goals I have missed. (No) apologies to any easily offended top-reds that might be reading…
Steve Bruce v Sheffield Wednesday (H) – (2-1) April 1993
First entry and it’s a corker. Pivotal goal in United history and one that is now acknowledged as the defining moment in the season that finally delivered that 1st league title after a wait of 26 years. This one my Dad’s fault as he was driving that day, and in our defence (well there is no defence really) we’d actually stayed beyond 90 minutes. We were reaching the top of the steps on the footbridge behind the Stretford End when we heard the roar. Full on grab a stranger, car horns beeping, dancing in the streets madness ensues. Marvellous.
Paul Ince v West Ham United (A) – (2-2) February 1994
Proper nasty atmosphere that day as Ince made his first appearance back at Upton Park since his protracted transfer. I was on my own and keen not to hang about, so I got out quick with a view to meeting up with a mate back at Kings Cross. I was only few feet away from the ground when I heard the cheer. Did my best ‘walking away looking dejected’ impression in an attempt to blend in with the locals.
Mark Hughes v Oldham Athletic (Wembley) – (1-1) April 1994
Another ‘turning point in the season’ goal as it looked like we were on the verge of blowing the 2nd leg of a potential domestic treble, just a fortnight after losing to Villa in the League Cup Final. Once again, I was just outside the ground as it went in which meant we were back at Maine Road 3 days later.
Peter Schmiechel v Rotor Volgograd (H) – (2-2) September 1995
Witnessing a goalkeeper score is perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity and I missed mine. We needed 2 goals to qualify and our proud, unbeaten European home record was disappearing fast. I was passing where the old souvenir shop used to be when this went in. “Who scored?”. “Schmeichel”. “What?!”
David Beckham v Wimbledon (A) – (0-3) August 1996
Beckham’s audacious ‘from his own half’ effort is another goal that’s been replayed a million times, missed this one as a mate and I were en-route back to the station in an attempt to get the first train back to Manchester. This goal was particularly sweet as I recall having a few quid on the Cantona first goal/3-0 final score double. 16/1 I think it was. Get in.
Dwight Yorke v Charlton Athlectic (A) – (0-1) January 1999
This one secured a crucial three points during the treble season. Full on session out in London the night before, hung-over, freezing cold, crap performance, never looking like scoring, “C’mon, lets do one”. It was a no-brainer, we were already on the rattler back to Euston when this went in.
Ryan Giggs v Juventus (H) – (1-1) April 1999
Another big goal at the death, coming after we’d been given the runaround for most of the evening by a one-legged Zidane & Co. Giggs scored in injury time, which still didn’t alleviate my sense of foreboding as to what lay ahead for us in Turin 2 weeks later. The rest is history of course.
Rio Ferdinand v Liverpool (H) – (1-0) January 2006
This one lay slap bang in the middle of the grimmest season I can remember. Glazer takeover still recent, anti-FC United shit, Lille (a), Keane’s departure, Burton in the cup, Miller, Richardson, Alan Smith. Coming just a week after Evra’s nightmare debut at Wastelands, I was on my way home with enthusiasm for football at an all-time low as Ferdinand scored.
Federico Macheda v Aston Villa (H) – (3-2) April 2009
This was tactical. ‘If I go now, we’ll probably score’, being the thinking as the title race hung in the balance. Half-way to Exchange Quay tram-stop….Boom. No need to thank me.
Michael Owen v Manchester City (H) – (4-3) September 2010
Final entry in the list and I’ll admit some major arse-seeing was involved in this one, the goal which made it acceptable to love Michael Owen for all of 10 minutes. Strode out of the ground in a strop with a few mates, all cursing Ferdinand for his inexplicably shit attempts in dealing with Bellamy for their equalizer. Moments later we hear an unearthly roar, cue pandemonium and major gooning all over Trafford Wharf Road before piling into a taxi and heading back into town.
Copyright Red News – March 2011