I just realized that after two weeks of crazy work, family visits and no internet, I had forgot to post photos of my Manchester trip like I had promised. First off, here is a little rundown of the trip.
A friend and myself headed to Manchester the week after the Manchester derby (the second to last week of the season) for a couple games and a stadium tour. We arrived Wednesday morning and the town was still buzzing pretty good from Manchester City’s win over United. For the most part, the vibe seemed to be that City were going to be champions unless they stumbled at Newcastle the upcoming weekend.
We ended up taking the train to Bolton that Wednesday and had some pre-game beers at a bar called Scott’s, which was right next to the stadium before seeing Bolton take on Tottenham. The beginning of the game was great as Fabrice Muamba made his return to Reebok Stadium and got a standing ovation from both the Bolton and Tottenham supporters. As for the game, Luka Modric scored a great goal right in front of us. Things looked promising for Bolton as Nigel Reo-Coker tied things up early in the second half and Bolton took control of the game. Or so we thought as Tottenham were able to spring to counter attack goals and pull out the 4-1 victory. Bolton’s fans looked pretty dejected after the game as relegation became closer.
Thursday was a pretty relaxed day as we explored the Manchester City Centre and even took in a show at a comedy club that night.
Friday brought us a little walk to Etihad Stadium for a stadium tour. I have now done a few of these tours over the last couple years and our tour guide, who I can’t remember his name, was one of the nicest guys and very informative. I don’t know why, probably because the club is now throwing money around like the Yankees or Red Sox, but I had this thought that I would be annoyed with Manchester City fans. I don’t know if I just met the nicest ones of the bunch, but after this trip, I actually had a new appreciation for their fans as it seemed like everyone I talked to was humble despite their recent success. Although this could all change in a few years after some more trophies and more money being thrown around on players. But after they won the title, I was happy for our tour guide as he was still expecting the worst to happen with two games remaining.
On Saturday, we decided to head out to Oldham to check out some League One action. It was also a chance to see Frank Simek and Carlisle United battle for a promotion playoff spot. It is always nice to see the smaller stadiums and fans. OT reader/commenter Trent tipped me off that Carlisle United’s fans were supposed to be good and they traveled well, with some dressed up in various costumes (i.e. banana suits, Superman, Batman, etc). But Oldham Athletic walked away with the 2-1 victory. As a Fulham fan, it was funny to see Shefki Kuqi out there, although Oldham’s fans had a love/hate relationship with him. He led their team in goals this season, but they groaned a lot when he did/did not do things. I was also impressed with Oumare Tounkara. He is a young French forward for Oldham who was on loan from Sunderland. He came off the bench and scored what turned out to be the game winner.
But Sunday was the main reason for the trip. It was a chance to Manchester United at Old Trafford. An iconic team at an iconic stadium. We showed up early and took in the sights around the stadium. A lot of street vendors selling shirts and scarfs and the whole game had a much bigger feel to it than the atmosphere around Reebok Stadium. We ended up waiting in line at the Trafford Bar for 20 minutes or so before being crammed inside with 200-300 others in a space that probably has a fire code of 150. It was fun to watch the first half of the Manchester City-Newcastle game as they cheered on for Newcastle. They really don’t have sports bars in England (or at least Manchester), so it was the 200-300 people crammed together, trying to watch the game on one of two 19-inch TVs. And one of the TVs was semi-broken (a fourth of the screen was cracked).
We then made our way to the stadium, before a walk through the Munich Tunnel (which was pretty cool), and watched the second half of that game underneath the stands in the concourse as everyone was eerily quiet until City scored their second goal. After that, everyone sort of muttered then went on to their seats, bathrooms or the concession lines. As for the United-Swansea City game, it was basically one-way traffic, but the United fans were sort of quiet and depressed after the City result. The guy sitting behind me kept saying things like “we should be up 6-0 now” and “great, we only need eight or nine more” after United finally scored. I also have to give credit to Swansea City’s fans. They were loud and singing the whole game. You could tell they were happy to still be alive in the league and it was their first trip to Old Trafford since the early 1980s.
United went on to win 2-0, but it didn’t look like it was going to be enough to catch City. We had dinner with some mutual friends after the game, who were giant Manchester United fans, and they were also basically conceding the title to City. But it was a fun trip and I got to see a lot of great games and see some cool stadiums. And check out some photos after the jump.
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