Well I’m back from the freezing North of England and under the sunny Durban skies having come home with a lasting and joyful memory of my frantic visit back home to Manchester. On Boxing Day, my good friend Brian treated me to a VIP suite day out for the Newcastle match.
We arrived very early, around twelve thirty, and parked in a great spot just opposite the ground and, for an extra couple of quid to the attendant, we were the first car pointing to Stretford Road for a quick getaway.
We collected our tickets from the VIP ticket collection office which was a fair walk from Sir Matt Busby Way, but from that moment on, it was a sheer delight of opulence and extravagance.
We climbed the stairs to the suite, and after many greetings by suited men who each wished us well, we were offered a choice of cocktails or champagne at the entrance to the dining room. I opted for the cocktail, sort of a Pims with lemonade, which only added to the ambience of the huge dining area adorned with LED TV screens all around.
The three course meal offered to us was very well prepared and presented and all drinks were free. The waiting staff were amiable and professional and service was speedy and efficient. Each chair had a gift bag with a program and a boxed miniature Casey football with today’s game printed on it as a souvenir.
During the lunch, an aging man in a suite and a United tie was visiting the tables, who I assumed must have been playing in the fifties. It turned out the wizened man was Gerry Daley, but not as the young man I remember in the heyday of Tommy Doc’s United side. A skilful midfielder who now looked like the last man out of the pub at closing time, but he was personable enough and answered any questions put to him.
After the food was consumed, as well as a couple more cocktails, the announcer informed us the teams were ready to come out onto the field. Before leaving for our seats, our waitress asked which drink we would like to have when we return at half time. I chose red wine, although in retrospect, a hot cup of tea would have been preferred.
The seats were virtually on the half way line and about twenty rows up, and I swear I could smell Rooney’s aftershave. The match was as good as the meal, and the 3-1 victory was a joy to watch as it looked like we had finally turned a corner. The following three games proved that theory wrong, with poor performances against Spurs and Stoke where we dropped valuable points, and the terrible game against Yeovil – a team valued less than a week’s wages for Falcao. I’m still not really sure what Van Gaal’s philosophy is.
At half time, and back at our table, my glass of wine was waiting as we sat and watched the goals on TV and the highlights of the games being played. Again, with minutes to spare, the announcement was made that the teams were coming back on, and we took our seats ready for the second half with that warm and tingling feeling you get when you down a glass of wine in a hurry!
After the match, we came back to our table to find cake stands decorated by small tarts, sandwiches and pies, with tea and coffee being served. We watched the highlights of the game when an old favourite, Norman Whiteside, was introduced by the jocular MC. Norman spoke for a time and the MC then asked if anybody would like to have photo ops or autographs.
However, not usually star stuck, I took my turn and had my photo taken with a player I much admired, who perhaps could have been as good as, if not better than Rooney. Google him if you want to know more of this once potentially great player, who was making stepovers before Ronaldo was born.
He was a gentleman, and after the picture was taken, he asked me if I wanted him to sign my program. I said thanks anyway but a picture with the man who scored the winning goal at the 1985 FA cup final was enough me. He laughed and added that “It wasn’t a bad goal was it” but that he couldn’t remember much of the months after that game as drink and injury cut short his career.
By the time we left Old Trafford, the blistering frozen wind was whipping against us, and even though most of the crowd had gone, Streford Road was still jammed with cars, so our plan for a quick getaway melted as fast as the frozen rain against the car windshield.
So that was my day of VIP treatment at Old Trafford, and if you ever get the chance, do not hesitate – it was a wonderful experience and one I will treasure.