Manchester United are now on their summer North American tour which helps them train and get ready for the new season with a series of friendlies. The tour started in Toronto and I was able to get some tickets (they weren’t cheap but they worth every penny, I would have paid double easily). It was their first game of the pre-season AND the first time the team wore their new jerseys (which were announced yesterday).
This was also the first time that I attended a live professional soccer match (I’ve been wanting to see Toronto FC play but tickets are not easy to get a hold of). I had bought two tickets (I didn’t want to be that guy alone at the sports event) and I had a lot of trouble trying to figure out who to bring with me (needless to say I had a lot of people insinuating that oh you know if I had a spare ticket they’d love to come) but I caught wind my little sister wanted to come along and I was very happy to extend the invite (she had really enjoyed the world cup, so thanks for that FIFA!). She had a blast.
I was very excited in the build up (as my twitter feed will attest) but that excitement did not begin to capture the experience itself. My title above (90…best minutes.. of my life) seems like it could easily be an exaggeration but not a word of the lie the actual experience blew away my expectations. I’ve seen friendlies on TV before and sometimes they can be below par but man Celtic and United have a history of not liking each other and it showed in the play. Both teams gave maybe not their best but pretty damn close. There were also enough young guns trying to earn their spot on the starting bench which helped elevate the quality of play.
The final score was 3-1 and I did.not.want.to.leave. The United players were a class act. After the game they walked the field waving and occasionally talking to the crowd. Edwin Van Der Sar stayed out on the field after everyone else had left and signed autographs eventually even returning and giving a little kid in the crowd his game gloves. Another player (I think it was Ryan Giggs) gave his shirt to a little girl and spent some time talking to the crowd.
I wish I could see these boys play every weekend – I’d pay any amount of money for season tickets.
Merchandise wise I picked up a scarf (I’ve been looking for one for months, for whatever reason it is hard to come by in Toronto) and the new kit!!! It cost me some cash money but it is awesome!
Now to nerd out, if you aren’t a soccer fan you can stop reading now. Some thoughts on the game.
Chris Smalling is going to be huge for the team. He was like a wall at the back, towering over pretty much everyone on the field.
Paul Scholes is key member of the team when you watch him on TV, but when you see him in person you realize just how important he is in and out of play. When you have a full view of his play you realize he is a genius AND he ties the whole mid field together. It was beautiful to watch him control the flow of the ball. I was very sad when he left after the first half.
Dimitar Berbatov… I want to say nice things, I want to say bad things. Those I talk soccer with know I am not happy with Berby and am of the mind he should pack his bags and go elsewhere. There were moments tonight where I could have throttled him but he scored the first goal of the game and it was beauty. The man is capable but just can’t seem to finish when he needs too. And honestly watching him in person – he’s lost the mental game. He was so peevish on the field. He was mad at himself, he was mad at his team mates, he was mad at the ref. I think the last half of last season (which wasn’t great for him) has really got to his head and the off time was not enough to figure out whatever was wrong in his mental game. I feel more than ever he needs to go and figure out his game somewhere else. He did get man of the match and I think he was deserving but he’s just too far gone with United I think.
Ryan Giggs. Didn’t score, would have killed to see that happen.
Edwin Van Der Sar. As I said before he was a gentleman on a level I didn’t expect but watching him in warm up that dude could stop anything.
Macheda. He was only on the last 15 minutes, and didn’t see much of the ball. But the two touches he managed were brilliant and I have a good feeling about where he’s going to with the team.
Nani. Didn’t play, injury continues to nag. But he was out there warming up the goalies and was really engaged with the crowd. Was impressive to see him as an ambassader for the team out there despite injury.
The new kit! I managed to snag a jersey (don’t hate) and I actually kind of like it. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the retro kit but I like the collar and you grow to like it on the players.
Celtic. I don’t see much of the Scottish league but these guys were impressive. They fought like the game meant something and you could tell the rivalry with United was real to the players.