I finally went to my first game at Old Trafford, and it was more glorious than I could have ever imagined. I've always heard, from all different folks who had ever been to a game at Old Trafford, that the atmosphere is a very special one, but when you're used to watching these games on TV, it's difficult to imagine what that really means.
For my 30th birthday this year, I wanted to finally go to Manchester and make my dreams come true in the Theatre of Dreams. As it happens, my husband supports ManU's biggest rival, Liverpool, which worked out because our first Premiere League experience (not counting the international games they play in the States), was thus the biggest game of the year. So as you can imagine, tickets are very difficult to obtain. First, you have to be an Official Member of the Club--no problem. Then you have to register your interest and wait until you're able to apply for tickets. After that it becomes like a lottery (this process is just for a few of the bigger games each year though). However, to ensure tickets you can always purchase a Hospitality Package of which early on there are a range of them. For this game, I believe I saw a few different ones in the range of about £450-800 (~$630-1,120 based on the current exchange rate). Different packages have different perks, like museum access, restaurant access, and I'm sure the more you pay the better your seats are. I didn't care about all that, because I just wanted to be in the stands with a beer and a pork pie in each hand. Not to mention, it's not easy for all of us to drop that much money like that. Since there are two of us that would have been double for us. So, I sent all the good vibes out into the universe that I could and hoped we'd be successful through the application process.
As luck would have it, we were not successful and I nearly panicked. However, at this time, while the other Hospitality Packages were sold out, a new one (probably for folks like me) became available. It was cheaper than the others, but still a good portion of our paychecks. The perks were a cool meeting place prior to the game where there would be great food and games, a former player turned up to talk to the crowd, and we could go back there after the game to hang out and avoid the tram traffic. They also gave each of us a nice little gift. The whole reason for the trip was to go to this game, so we did not want to risk not attending, plus it's like a once in a lifetime chance. I'm very grateful for the experience. The food was not great, however the crowd was incredible. One of the reasons I love this club so much is for its wide fan base across the globe. Talk about being "united." It's truly something very special, that people of all different backgrounds from around the world with a shared love of the team and sport come together in such a way. So, my favorite part of the whole VIP experience was meeting and seeing people from all around the world who had traveled to see this game. We met people from Norway, Singapore, Slovenia, France...everywhere! It was incredible. Moments and experiences like this make you wonder how there could be so much hate in the world. So, that was one very cool part of the experience.
The game started at 12:30pm and so we were asked to be at the meeting place three hours ahead, which was just a short walk from Old Trafford. I suppose they do that knowing some people will be late, and we definitely all want to get over to the stadium prior to the game starting. We may have gotten there around 10am, and from the time we got on the tram at St. Peter's Square we could see that many people were up early to get ready for game day. As soon as we got off the tram, we just followed the crowds into town. Stands with memorabilia and food were already up and at it, and the air was filled with a great energy. I was like a child at Disneyland for the first time.
Getting into the stadium was a smooth process through security. They don't allow bags over a certain size so I didn't even have my purse with me, just my coat and wallet. Ahead of arriving in Manchester, we braced ourselves for the cold. In fact, I imagined us huddled in the rain, watching the game wet and crammed together. I had a hard time believing my friend when he said, "Nah, you won't even notice in there. Few beers, a pie, cup of bovril." The temperature was supposed to be in the 30's and 40's (Farenheit, let's say about 1-8 degrees Celcius). However, he was totally right. First of all, there was a roof that extended over our heads, which I hadn't thought about. Secondly, I have a tendency of bringing the sun and keeping away the rain when I'm in England, so it barely sprinkled from time to time. Finally, there are so many people (Old Trafford capacity: 74,994) and our adrenaline was running so high that it actually felt too warm. The coats had to come off and I was there in the stands with my short-sleeved Rashford shirt.
From the moment the team stepped onto the pitch, the chanting started and did not end. Some of the chants were hilariously obnoxious, some were just plain obnoxious, and there was even one for Steven Gerrard which made me laugh because he's retired and no longer at Liverpool. Although he does serve as an academy coach at Liverpool. Unless he was there and I just couldn't see him, but it seems a funny thing they'd do at Old Trafford, just get out all the chants they have. One of the chants was literally just, "Your support is fucking shit." Another I realized after the fact was "You scouse bastards." This one was repeated several times, but I couldn't fully understand it in the stadium. It sounded like "You south bastards" to me, but that didn't make sense since Liverpool is just an hour west of Manchester. It didn't occur to me at the time the word was likely "scouse," which is a very delicious and hearty stew associated with Liverpool, and I guess its people, too. Chris thought they were yelling "Huge Ghostbusters!" The energy was incredible. I've attended various sporting events, but no crowd I've seen has the local Old Trafford crowd beat--not the Crimson Tide, nor any other American football game I've been to, not any hockey, or basketball game. In fact, the crowd at Old Trafford made the wave and those plastic sticks you bang together at basketball games when the opposing team is shooting fouls look like child's play.
When ManU scored goals it felt like a stampede of elephants in the stadium. I also felt pretty proud that I accurately predicted the score, and the game couldn't have been more perfect, because Marcus Rashford scored both goals that lead to our 2-1 win.
I think many people recognize going to Old Trafford as a must have experience and I totally agree, so I highly recommend visiting Manchester and experiencing a game. I'll never forget this weekend. On top of that, Manchester is such a vibrant city and the architecture is majestic giving it a unique look compared to any other city I've seen.
I want to especially thank my husband Chris, for willingly standing in a sea of rivals so I could have this experience, especially whilst unable to sport any Liverpool support. What a special way to celebrate my 30th year on earth by sharing our first Premier League experience together.
BIG LOVE & HUGS