Here I am sitting on a Virgin train to Manchester and I am excited naturally as I am edging closer to my version of 'Holy Trinity'. As a United Fan since 1989, life is never complete without a trip to Old Trafford - the Theatre of Dreams!
In fact, I was telling myself that I will be taking a year off from whatever I do to follow the Red Devils in all their games (home and away) for the entire Football Season. This trip is a good first step for things to come (the fixture even had it that the Blue Lions are in the offering). I am also dreaming for an entire month in Brazil 2014 for the 'Greatest Show on Earth' - World Cup Finals! I know for a fact that when you start taking steps, everything is possible! I am starting to believe that a devilish season of total football is never a dream but a plan to be executed. That's RIGHT!
I am attracted to Manchester United Football Club first and foremost as the club that Bryan Robson played for. The Captain Marvel that led England through many battles! He stood out for me in an era where everyone is supporting Liverpool. As I learned about United, I could not help but continue to be amazed by the Club's heritage and dramatic history. Why a team would call themselves the 'Red Devils' in the first place? This is even in the Arms of the Club for the longest of time!
The story is at its most telling in the era of the great Sir Matt Busby! The greatest ever manager (due to be surpassed only by current legacy of the one and only Sir Alex Ferguson or Fergie that we are most familiar with) that survived the Munich Disaster and led almost entirely a new team to success immediately the next season. This Phoenix like reborn is not just legendary but devilish for real. This is the epitome of everything UNITED, the ever-romantic spirit of the triumphant souls!
The frustration of the post Busby era ended in the 90's. First the arrival of Fergie that laid down the foundation in a great team structure and investing in the academy to bring the best of young talents from all over the country to Manchester; then the King arrived in the name of Eric Cantona! Together with the great Fergie Fledgings of the Class of 92 in Giggs, Scholes, Beckham, Butt and the Nevilles brothers, the Devils are back into its all concuring mode that enable us to surpass the Liverpool's pride of 18 titles last season. We are now building yet another young team with Wayne Rooney leading the charge under the most successful manager in the world - Sir Alex Ferguson. What eluded us now is to challenge Barcelona as the greatest team on Earth, which is not far away as the old head of Fergie has taken steps to plot the downfall of Nou Camp! Judging by the free scoring form of the latest version of Fergie Fledgings, it is just a matter of time!
The up and down, twist and turn of the seasons, the never give up attitude as well as the last minutes goals have all added more spice in my journey as a Devil! Challengers come and go; but the real fighters remain to see another day!
My greatest memory in the journey has to be the treble winning season of 1999! Watching the Champion League Final in the wee hours of the morning in a bed and breakfast place in Canberra with two complete strangers from Watford and Copenhagen; the enduring disappointment after Mario Basler's goal in the first half that give Bayern Munich their hope of an European Title. Then come the double swaps of our version of S&S (Sheringham and Solskjaer) and this is where the magic begins...
Sheringham’s equaliser in the stop pitch time and the last minute winner from the most befitting Solskjaer have got the three strangers in the TV room bonded like old friends that have all went to pre-school together. We went elated to wake up all the dormers that are deep in sleep and took off our tops to run around the building in the winter cold of the Southern Hemisphere! This is the climax of my many devil moments! It also marked the end of my university life as I graduated not long after that.
In a few minutes time, the pilgrim in me shall step out from the train to the holy land of Manchester! When you pray, you manifest; when you take steps on your prayers, your prayers will be answered even when you are a Devil! Hahahahahahahaha.... : )
Here I am sitting in Stansted Airport on a day of delays... First the train, then the coach (as a result of the train) and now the flight. But getting prepared early and giving it a bit more time to spare for any eventualities has landed me a different experience altogether. Patient is a good virtue and especially natural when you have done enough homework to feel confident. Homework in this regard simply means the information that equipped you to deal with the consequences.
This was certainly not the same a week ago when I was helplessly waiting in a hotel in Manchester for the arrival of my match tickets. I have travelled thousands of miles, certainly not to miss this match (of my life)! But I remained helpless as there were no responses to my many SOS emails and phone calls as the ticketing agent don't work on weekend. The helpline provided is a tape recorded replay that no real person would ever pick it up and answer.
The Royal Mail Tracking number provided by the agent in the email on Friday is not helpful either as the system keep asking me to come back later and saying that it will only be tracked if the mail reached the local station. Again, it was the night before the game on Sunday and the responds were least comforting. I called the Royal Mail helpline but it was merely a voice version of the same respond. My feet were getting colder by the minutes.
The guy at the hotel reception has already become my friend by this time after my many versions of the same questions. He remained firm with nothing came in for me. I slept that night in the hope that my morning would be welcomed by the arrival of my match tickets.
But it wasn't to be. Woke up early and having the continental breakfast slowly while keeping an eye on the reception for everything coming in is a real torture. And it continues with my subsequent guarding the entrance to the hotel. I started to call those helplines frantically hoping that someone would be so kind to just pick up the call on a god forbid Sunday morning. I wrote a few more emails and even starting to check online for any possibilities of any last minutes tickets. I have done all I can but it wasn't to be.
As the hope went dimmer by the tick of the clock, I told myself to get changed into my brand new personalised jersey and get ready to march into the stadium to try my luck on my tickets. I was determined not to let anything to stop me to my place in the stadium.
My phone rang. It was Paul from the Ticketing Agent, he assured me that the tickets must have arrived and he will ring the Hotel to get to the end of it. He also assured me that I will still get my tickets if it did not arrive. I was asked to check with the Hotel Reception again. And the same guy checked the unlikely places and returned extremely apologetic with the mail for me that actually came in on Friday. What a relief and I cannot felt more for United spirit of always making it hard for themselves! Paul rang again and the rest is history.
This has certainly made this pilgrimage that little bit more unforgettable. I have learned the trade of the devil in believing and keep doing what you know best. There are things beyond your control but there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.
… Always …
The match? You could not ask for a better one to watch LIVE. It was a very open affair with end to end stuff! Smalling’s first goal from a well rehearsed set piece; Nani’s magical firecracker; Rooney’s icing on the cake before the missed penalty; Torres’ miss of the century and a bag of new football lingo and chants to take home starting from the pre match drink at The Bishop Blaize.
In a 3-1 home win at the Theatre of Dreams and sitting in the North Stand (soon to be renamed after the Gaffer), I have been baptised as a “Red Devil”!
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