Will the Reds sing the Blues?
So I’m in the Penny Lane, a creamy pint of Guinness settling nicely, and it’s ten minutes to kick off. Ah! The days when I would be inside the famed stadium and not thousands of miles away. Two quick sips of the pint and I don’t feel so bad or far away. I’ve been looking forward to this game for a few months – ever since World Cup fever subsided. There are many great stadiums on this planet and Old Trafford, Manchester, certainly houses one of them. A guaranteed full house and atmosphere you cannot buy. Regular readers will know of my love for the European Champions League and it’s current format. This is league day six and a day of reckoning. After today’s matchups sixteen of Europe’s best teams go back to the drawing board while the eight “superior” teams go forward and make plans for the quarter finals to come. My pint reminds me of the cream rising to the top.
My good friend John (his real name) enters fashionably late and as the Eagles might have sung, the game is on. I know he fancies Bayern Munich but my feelings are rarely far off the mark and I think United can go all the way this year. Two minutes into the heroics and “nothing” dramatic so far. Bayern seem happy to defend and a draw will surely leave them top of the group with little to complain about. It’s tense and even Alex Ferguson looks it. To the football addict, this is a fix and a half.
Two words slip my lips easily whenever Man Utd. or the Republic of Ireland parade their wares, and coincidentally they represent the reason I think United can win the trophy this time – Roy Keane. He has aged like a good wine and sparkles like a good champagne. I say as much and John demands an explanation. “No problem”, says I quite used to having to clarify the finer points of the game. “He’s blended his skills and bubbles with enthusiasm”, “Can I be any clearer than that?” This month he sports his Eric Cantona hairdo and does a further good impression of the king in the forty third minute when he brings the crowd to new heights of ecstasy with a rifled shot that had onion bag written all over it. “Two pints please, Russ” (his real name) “and put a shamrock on top of mine.” John thinks that’s Irish for include a chaser and grumbles, “It’s not my twist”. “You’re not driving, Joe” interjects Brian, the proprietor, (his real name) more in the form of a statement than a question. “I’m driving,” says I pretending infringement on my rights, “I’m driving John nuts.” “Thank you for your concern, and by the time the second half finishes I’ll be ready for a taxi please”. “This ones on me” says Brian, “only mention me in your article on today’s game.”
The second half proves progressively more tense as the other results are obviously being relayed onto the field. Then it gets interesting as Bayern snatch an equalizer that would be more appropriate in Croke Park – looks like handball to me – and now drama assuredly envelops the ensuing minutes as only soccer can. The electricity still hangs in the air but the stadium is deathly quiet, if you discount 50,000 people biting their nails. Will United qualify as one of the top second place finishers or will a goal here or in some far off stadium effect the final placings.
Commentators struggle with the nerve-racking permutations while the economists try to decipher the direction of the estimated $10 million for staying in the competition. “Get me Las Vegas on the blower”, says John, obviously influenced by the drink, “till I figure out the odds on the last ten minutes”.
We survive and more importantly, Man Utd survive and will fight anew in a few months. Norman, the taxi driver (not his real name) doesn’t know anything about soccer. Yes, I’m thousands of miles away again and fall asleep as he rambles on about the NBA strike.