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The English Football Diary - E03: Manchester United – Juventus

3,219,09 kilometers, 4 games, a British football diary

The English Football Diary - E03: Manchester United – Juventus 3,219,09 kilometers, 4 games, a British football diary

Tarantino debuts on the big screen "Reservoir Dogs", The Cure publish "Wish" and Prince Charles and Lady Diana separate after 11 years of marriage. David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes begin a long career at United and in mid-November, the 14th exactly, I was born. I am 7 years old when I am given the first soccer jersey, but still for some time I will continue to prefer the blue Penny Hardaway jersey, who were playing for Orlando Magic at the time, and the basket ball. My companions, however, already buy cleats and go all together to play after school. Then I decide to try and I like it. Well, now I am 25 and I still cannot identify what was the exact moment of my life when I passed the line that separates the passion for football and mania. The first time at San Siro, a few games at the old Delle Alpi in Turin. Once you begin, it’s never enough. In France, Germany, Spain, Portugal. But you want more and more. You get back home after a day at the stadium and the only thing you think is "where next?". The next one is at Old Trafford and I feel like a baby.

From Deansgate Road, downtown Manchester, at the stadium, is a 50 minutes walk, but I can’t stand still, so at 17 o'clock I start to walk. In these first few games I noticed that the English fans enter the stands only a few minutes before the start whistle, I instead at least 90 '. No matter the frost, the rain, the wind. Every time it's like it was the first, and this time even more. I walk, the panorama around does not offer anything that can cheer the wait and remove me even just a shred of agitation, so I continue to step quickly, with the hood pulled up and hands in my pocket. Crossing the first fans, but the stadium still nothing. I pass in front of pubs already full of Reds supporters that do not suffer the cold and sing out loud with the beers tight in the fist. I accelerate, I almost run. Another quarter of an hour, step by marathon runner and heart beating fast, turn the corner. I glimpse it, like an oasis in the desert after you've walked the whole day. Me, Old Trafford. Like Bobby Charlton, George Best, Roy Keane. 

As the Mancunians would say, Absolute scenes!


Manchester United-Juventus @Old Trafford

The wait rises and I'm looking forward to occupying my seat between 75,000. I pass the controls and I run, literally, up the stairs. Finally inside. One of the most beautiful stadiums in the world, on a Champions League night. I sit, I catch my breath. To my left the Sir Bobby Charlton stand, facing the Stretford End and to my right the Sir Alex Ferguson stand. There's still no one and it's all red, the stands and the bricks all over the stadium. The United plays here from 1910, with a small break from '41 to '49, due to the bombing suffered during the Second World War. At that time the Reds were hosted by the City's cousins at old Maine Road. The wait is almost over. As a child, when you start to get passionate about the game, you dream nights dream like this, in stadiums like this and matches like this. The fans begin to populate the stands, I eat the usual hot-dog and then "Glory Glory Man United, as the Reds go marching on on!". The Champions League jingle, like every single time, pushes me to a step from the tears and the goose bumps that will last until the quarter of an hour of play, starts here. 

It's 20:00 at the Theatre of Dreams and please don't wake me up. 

Don't go out tonight,

Unless you're red and white,

I See there's trouble on the way

José Mourinho's Red Devils do not come from a good period and need a positive result to continue believing in the qualification to the knockout phase. Juventus, on the other hand, seems to have a different step than the three opponents of the group and could also settle for a draw away from Turin. Dybala doesn't think so, and at the 17th minute he scores with his left foot. The first half ends, with some other chances for Juventus and a few for the hosts. Half time to recharge batteries and hot-dog number 2. The mustard is not as good as the one in the City house, but it is a detail. Second half. I wonder if it's worth seeing games like these live, and then live with the tachycardia for 90 minutes. The script now changes, the old lady misses something technically and Manchester takes courage. The ex Paul Pogba takes the ball away from the feet of the young Uruguayan midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur, and hits the post. The audience believes in the comeback and the roar of Old Trafford is impressive. Martial doesn’t give up and keeps on trying, but nothing in fact. Ronaldo forces De Gea to a miracle, taking the ball off him from the high corner. Then nothing more, it ends 1 to 0 for the host team and CR7 comes out of the field saluting his former fans, between gratitude and emotion.

Heaven is the home of the Red Devils

And now what? I've been waiting for you for a month and it's all over. 

The moment I hate the most is the exit from the stadium. It enshrines the end of an incredible experience, of a spasmodic expectation transformed then into anxiety, agitation, excitement, ecstasy and sadness. Will I ever come back? Is there another field like this? For history, tradition, grandeur. United fans argue that football was born here, precisely in 1992, with those six devils who marked the history of English and European football, from the youth team to the first team in the same season. On the bench Sir Alex Ferguson. If football wasn't born here, it sure became great. 

I come home, destroyed but in heaven. I was right to take off the blue Penny Hardaway jersey to put that old striped soccer jersey.