The Everton game passed without incident in terms of getting three of us up the motorway in a cab to see the game and then back, relatively easily. The football was interesting enough – Michael Carrick continues to grow into quite a good United player, Darren Fletcher not so much. The team sheet surprised a few people, me included, my Evertonian friend lapped it up as we sat there in the Ability Suite reading our team sheets – “Ha, looks like you’re giving us a chance with that line up!” I could not disagree, although we should have had enough to beat Everton and that is how it worked out thankfully.
Everton seem to play more football now that Duncan Disorderly has retired, on the whole I thought there days of lumping it up the park were gone but although they started well enough eventually that is just what they did. Of course they sent the high balls into our box but were missing a great tall tree to head the ball in and worry the ‘keeper. Patrice Evra is showing more and more class with every game he plays and his scampering runs into the danger area bore fruit for him on Wednesday. The use of John O’Shea in midfield puzzles me still though, when he burst into the team in defence he shone and was an impressive player but now he is being deployed in midfield he seems to lack something – not surprisingly as this is not his natural position. He took his goal well and the celebration was good but I think I could have scored that one.
The most interesting moments of the game for me had nothing to do with any football. Sitting where I do I can hear the away fans roaring away and our fans seem sometimes to be drowned out by them. It’s a pattern I see more and more, away fans shut up for a second, United fans give a few choruses of ‘United! United’ and then it’s silence and allows the predictable “Your support is fucking shit!” How can we argue when too many times we have nothing but a few polite claps and that abysmal United calypso in return? My visiting friend took one look at the Stretford end, quiet as it was despite it being full, and said “That’s the world famous Stretford End then? It surprises me it’s not louder!” Everton fans singing away then, the hilarious “Gerrard – the baby’s not yours” gave way to the more sinister “Who’s that dying on the run way” never a favourite of mine or any other United fan but someone else must have thought so because after one verse of that Evra went up the pitch and scored. That proves without a shadow of a doubt that God is United through and through.
Something that Everton fans always bring back to Wayne Rooney is that quote he made in Everton’s ranks about being “once a blue always a blue”, then joining Manchester United. That summer we signed two self-confessed badge kissers in Smith and Rooney and to be honest I could see the fans’ point of view. Any badge kisser is a bad thing because as soon as you’ve done something that ties you to the club it will come back and haunt you when you move on. Rooney was apparently offered exactly the same wage at Everton just before he signed the deal with Manchester United, I still believe he did so because he felt he was moving to a better club and money was not the issue. In any walk of life if you are offered more money, even the same wage but the chances of progression are better then it is a natural move to take it. The chances for Rooney to join the club at the time were greater than he would have had at Everton despite them offering to match his earnings. The stuff that he has said since then about David Moyes and Everton as a whole are not helping the relations with his former club and on this at times you can say he has been badly advised. It is one thing to move onwards and upwards, quite another to be badmouthing the club that helped you in the first place – on some levels you can see Everton fans’ point of view. Football is irrational at times, United fans used to boo Rooney until his name joined the United ranks but becoming a United player is not enough to win the fans over. Work on the pitch will do it. Djemba-Djemba ‘so crap they named him twice’, was never really over with the fans. Yet Alan Smith and Wayne Rooney took no time at all and we easily forgot the fact that they both wore different colours.
Alan Smith is a fan favourite because he gives 100% and would bleed for the cause. Watching him on the pitch giving all he has to give is enough to make fans forget his former club. The lad would play in goal for us if he was asked to and it is this that makes him a United player fit to wear the shirt. Allow me to get imaginary for a while, Leeds United with Alan Smith versus Man United with Alan Smith, I have no doubt whatsoever that our Smith would put the boot into his Leeds United self or his former team-mates for the Mancunian cause. His Leeds self cannot play his United self but you get the point.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a legend because he turned down Spurs to stay at our club and then helped us in so many ways that we don’t need to go into. One thing I will mention is that I was at the Newcastle United game when he was all that stood between Rob Lee and our ‘keeper and a probable goal that would have been the final nail in the title charge that season. As it happened we didn’t get the title anyway but when Ole crashed into Rob Lee and brought him down before he could even get a shot in, he knew that he would be sent off – we knew it, Newcastle fans knew it and the United players knew it. Yet everyone to a man applauded him, United fans, Newcastle fans, what a sacrifice for the good of the team. What a sight for anyone lucky enough to see it. Best of all that eejit Alan Shearer said afterwards that he couldn’t understand a player getting an ovation for hacking down a player. It’s sad when a player believes himself idolised by his own fans yet cannot see the sense in taking one for the club.
Eric Cantona is a legend. Full stop.
Wayne Rooney is the adopted Manchester boy and it is very very sad that he can no longer feel safe on his return to Merseyside. While I can understand the fans’ point of view to some extent, Everton fans have to accept the choice he made and the choice he now seems very very happy with. Above the money, kissing our badge in the face of the usual hatred from his former fans was a statement. Fine, this is the badge that I play for now and I’m home! It’s a stage ready and welcoming Mr Rooney rather than a club jealous of the fact he left them sooner than he should have done so that Everton didn’t get the full benefit.
I dislike badge kissers as a rule but Wednesday night was pure poetry, not just a quick gesture for our fans to piss off them although I am sure that played a part. It felt like a real “Fine, this is where I belong now” from him to them and us. Let’s hope he doesn’t fall out with Ferguson or our American owners at no point feel the urge to sell him and cash in, those are the players we should be keeping hold of – that want to stay United for life, just like a fan but on the pitch!