It doesn’t matter who you support, I guarantee you that at least 90% of the fans that visit Old Trafford get excited, especially for an FA Cup tie, and I was definitely no exception. Being on a Monday night under the floodlights made this fifth round tie even more appealing, and made the slow journey up the M6 a bit more bearable.
Even though it was an inconvenience for many that the game had been moved to a Monday night (I am usually the first to moan if a game is moved to fit in around a TV schedule), this actually suited me better for a change, so I had no problems with making the 80 mile journey. Before travelling, I had read that traffic around the ground becomes horrendous after the game, because of the amount of people (obviously) and the huge number of car parks within the industrial estates surrounding the ground. However, I found the MediaCityUK complex (home to the BBC and ITV studios), which is located in Salford Quays and only a 15 minute walk from the ground. I paid £6.50 for 5 hours of car parking, and I avoided all of the traffic on the way out, so if you’re planning to drive to the league game in a few weeks, I definitely recommend parking there. I wasn’t sure which way to walk after leaving the car park (it turns out you walk along past the Holiday Inn, past the Metro stop and you can’t miss it across the water) so I asked in the posh supermarket located underneath the car park, and the cashier was very friendly and happy to help me out. I also got a full sized chocolate bar for under 60p, which was an absolute bonus.
After a lovely (and refreshingly cold) walk along the quays up to the ground, you are immediately hit with stall upon stall of Manchester United merchandise. It reminded me more of a Sunday market rather than a football match. Behind those stalls was an obscene amount of fast food stalls, with the smell coming from them so strong to the point that it made you feel a bit sick. Walking past them (and even more scarf sellers), you finally reach the ground, and are surrounded by evidence of all of Manchester United’s glittering history. Statues of Best, Charlton and Law stand proudly outside the East Stand. After buying a programme (I was told I couldn’t buy the programme separately from the United magazine so ended up paying £5. I later found out this wasn’t true, and I had been truly ripped off by the programme seller) I walked round to the East Stand corner where the away fans are now housed. You have to walk past the Munich Clock and Memorial, which is a subtle and respectful way to remember those who lost their lives in the Munich Air Disaster of 1958.
As we were approaching the turnstiles, we were met by a wall of stewards. I was expecting the same kind of treatment as what we received at Stoke, but I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly they were. My bag was checked and I was body searched, but the lady was very lovely and seemed to have a lot of time for me rather than rushing me through the turnstiles. I felt the stewarding and the policing of the game was some of the best that I have seen all season, although it did amuse me how quickly they jumped up and surrounded the pitch whenever there was a significant break in play. I’ve genuinely never seen stewards move so fast in my life.
Once inside the ground, I felt the concourse was quite cramped in places, and there was one big food outlet, which served a good range of hot food, snacks and drinks all at reasonably good prices. After a walk up a short but steep flight of stairs, you are instantly hit with the incredible view from the stand. I heard they’re trying to rehouse the away fans because of the good view they get, but to be honest, wherever they decide to put them, they’re still going to get a good view in a stadium that big and modern. We did sit down for most of the game, which got incredibly uncomfortable because of the lack of leg space. This did not however spoil the atmosphere from our fans, but the home crowd were pretty quiet all game. It did amuse me during the warm up though, as the United players came out, rather than the normal cheers and clapping you usually hear, there were screams and woops which were reminiscent of a teenage pop concert.
Overall, it was a genuinely enjoyable night. We played well, and I always love it when I see that fighting spirit coming from us. I don’t think any of the starting XI had a particularly bad game, and Robson-Kanu looked awesome when he came on. It’s fair to say that I’m a very proud Royal. I always say I want the team that knocks us out of any cup to go on and win it, but that’s definitely not the case this year. I’m not in any way bitter at all, honest…
Twitter - @Becka_Ellen