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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Moscow Trip Reports

read more in our Moscow issue, issue 147 out now! (order details below)

From the FWA to the KGB!

For the last several years I have been fortunate enough to attend the Football Writers Association annual awards dinner at the Royal Lancaster Hotel - this year it was again a privilege to attend after the members comprehensively voted our very own Cristiano Ronaldo their player of the year for the second year running. After a hugely expensive bottle of beer downstairs it was definitely time to head upstairs to the VIP Lounge (its not what you know) to try and catch Ronnie before he went downstairs. Word had it Fergie was also planning to attend, along with Sir Bobby. Ronnie was running late, and when he did arrive spent an eon getting ready in his room (cue kittens from several of the organisers) but it did give me a chance to enjoy the free bar and as expected Fergie was indeed in attendance, chatting with various journo's. I'd taken along my 99 Final programme on the off chance and managed to get him sign it - nice touch. I mentioned that I hoped to have another one for him in 10 days time, wished him good luck...he seemed in good spirits, relaxed and basking in the glow having clinched the League 4 days beforehand. Avram Grant came in and the pair exchanged - very brief - pleasantries, Fergie with a great big grin on his face. Critsiano eventually arrived and was whisked in to do his round of interviews / photo's ahead of dinner, not before signing my Wigan ticket mind! Success with both my pre-meditated autograph plans, it was going to be a good night. Downstairs to dinner and Bobby Charlton proposed the toast to Ronaldo before he received his award. Bobby gave great praise to Ronnie, complementing him on his "remarkable season", "fantastic goalscoring" and commending his "hard work and dedication on the training ground" - a la Eric the first to arrive and last to leave, honing his skills and free kicks. He raised a laugh when he mentioned that Ronnie "still tries to get things he doesn't deserve" but finished with a hearty congratulations for a worthy FWA Footballer of the Year. The previous year Fergie had spoken on behalf of Ronnie who spoke for all of 3 seconds to say thank you, but this year he did without a minder and gave his own speech...only 90 seconds but a massive improvement on the last one! He said "Thank you to the writers for voting for me...I think you did well (laughter!)...I feel very very happy to win this award, I think its very important for me to win again, but i think the most important thing is the colleagues who work with me, and the manager...I'm still young and I want to win more, I want to carry on like that...I wont stop because I win these two awards because I want other ones...for next season I won't promise to do better because its not easy, but try to I'll do my I do 5 years ago, 4, 3, I improve every season and I'll try to improve next season, to enjoy the supporters and enjoy myself, and to enjoy myself because I enjoy to play football, I enjoy to do tricks, to do goals, and I do more next season...thank you very much". He stuck around through dinner and happily signed autographs, posed for pictures. Barry Fry was at it again, getting signed shirts and other souvenirs - he must make a killing on eBay! All in all it was another great night, although a far less good morning. Still, it was good practice for Moscow!

A few of us had booked a slightly random trip via Dusseldorf...flying on Ryan Air to Dusseldorf Weeze before making our way to Dusseldorf main to fly on to Moscow. After a 95 Euro taxi between airports, we checked in and settled in an airport bar where we spotted a few other Reds on the same Moscow bound flight. The bar seemed to serve incredibly strong beer and after 3 or 4 we wobbled on to our Aeroflot flight to Moscow, allowed on once someone had explained to the girl checking tickets that our match tickets acted as Visa's...she wasn't happy to start with but a word in the ear from her manager and we were on our way! We arrived in Moscow, eventually got through immigration and I set about trying to meet Olga, the random Russian woman I had found on the Internet who was willing to rent me an apartment 10 minutes walk from Red Square for £50 a night! After negotiating the metro, via a couple of missed stops - why on earth do they not have the names of each station displayed - I arrived at what I thought was my stop, although managed to come out of a different exit called something else and was utterly lost. Another phone call to Olga, who told me to give the phone to someone who spoke Russian, and we established that she knew where I was and was coming to get me...phew! She turned out to be really nice - the apartment was basic but absolutely fine with a cracking view of the city, and couldn't have been better location-wise. Especially compared to many others who ended up here, there and everywhere in far flung parts of the city paying exorbitant prices for anything but luxury accommodation! A quick change and it was in to town to meet up with the others - after a confusing episode where both of us were at metro stations on the orange line, beginning with T, with a McDonalds outside and a white beer tent I worked out that I was at the wrong stop beginning with T, and was eventually united with everyone at the Bobby Dazzler, home of the Moscow Reds. After rumours of £6 beers it was refreshing to only be charged 300 Rubles for 3, around £2.50 each. A few beers were duly sunk and the Moscow Reds decided to take us elsewhere. That was until we got outside and found a mob of about 50 CSKA who didn't want to exchange scarves and talk about the forthcoming final! It wasn't what you could call a United mob and after a little too-and-fro the inside of the pub seemed a much better option than the streets outside it. United reinforcements arrived and just as CSKA were mounting an attack on the pub, the dibble turned up and the CSKA drifted past. Fair play to the police who instead of closing the place down were happy to let us carry on drinking, and stayed around for a bit to ensure nothing untoward occurred. That was it for the night and we settled in to a proper session - Pete Boyle's CDs, Come On You Reds and various other United tracks on the stereo saw plenty of dancing and singing as the beer flowed. During the evening - or was it morning - I found out when a well known Red last missed his last 1991 to go to a Christening - he was Godfather apparently...part timer! Bed was finally reached at 7.30am having got totally drenched on the way home thanks to a downpour of biblical proportions, cheers!

Matchday - the European Cup Final and I felt rotten. Several pints of water, a number of Nurofen, some chocolate and some fresh air courtesy of a walk into town and I was finally ready to have the first beer of the day. Down by Red Square was packed, one side street full of bars so rammed it was taking 30+ minutes to get a beer. Eventually a back street bar was found and everyone gathered for a decent pre-match session. Beer was more pricey here, best part of £5 a pop, and even more for a burger that took nearly an hour to arrive, but it was good enough and we headed off to the match with the best intentions of getting to the ground in plenty of time. One stop away from the ground and a last minute decision for 'one more beer' was made and off we jumped, finding a bar opposite the metro. A Chelsea fan had been sparked by some local nutter, who the bar owners had proceeded to let back in which didn't please said Chelsea fan much but we avoided them to find a table near a rather endearing set of students. A couple of beers later and it really was time to head to the ground which we did. I have to say the organisation was spot on, no bother getting on or off the metro, clearly sign posted (in English!) which way to go and no problems going through the security checks and turnstiles...I made my seat around 30 minutes before kick off, happy days. After the slightly bizarre pre-match show it was on to the action...were we ready for it, was...finally...another European Cup Old Trafford bound? In the first half it should have been all over, after a tremendous headed goal from Ronnie we played some amazing stuff, carving them open time after time and should have been out of sight, 2 or 3 up before a speculative effort took 2 deflections into the path of Lampard who equalised on the stroke of halftime. Killer. The banter downstairs was largely disappointment, and hope that we hadn't missed our chance. There was also far more Chelsea in the United end than there should have been, getting some stick. Rightly so. Onto the second half and much of it was spent on the back foot with post and crossbar both rattled by Chelsea (sound familiar?!). Extra time was more even and I thought Giggsy had won it with a poke but somehow Terry kept it out and we were on the the dreaded penalties. Which we are crap at. After Ronnie missed and Edwin got hands to, but couldn't keep out Ashley Cole's effort I thought the game was up and was preparing myself for the worst as Terry stepped up. Then bedlam, it just went mental - it is hard to compare it with 99 but there are similarities, the out of the blue nature and importance of an event right at the death. Terry had only gone and missed, f*cking awesome!! Anderson did the business before Kalou killed the expectancy with a cool penalty. Then Giggs slotted home and up strode the ex Arsenal, ex Liverpool, ex City current Chelsea Anelka. We all know what happened next and it was bedlam revisited, only more mental, more explosive, more...everything! The United end was absolutely buzzing, I was hugging people I've never seen before, anyone who was in the vicinity...standing on my seat, pumping the air and basking in the emotion of it all. Amazing stuff, Manchester United Champions of Europe again. And for me personally I had finally gone one up on my parents, who having seen United win it once in 68 were now behind my twice in 99 and 08, brilliant! The celebrations were great, you can't beat the players celebrating like that with the fans, although I did wish they kept the photographers away, you could hardly see the players sometimes for paparazzi! But the European Cup was back, along with the League and a remarkable Double was ours.

They kept us in for far too long but it didn't really matter as winners, and when they let us go they metro had been kept open so it was straight back to the Bobby Dazzler to celebrate. The place was heaving and rocking to boot, and the morning quickly passed in a haze of beer...we drank them out of lager around 6.30am so it was on to the shorts, never a good idea at that time! Finally around 7.30 it was time to call it a night, or morning, get back to the apartment, shower, change and straight to the airport! After queueing, then queueing again, and again and then finally again we made it onto the plane where a much needed 3 hour sleep was had! A 6 hour gap in flights meant only one thing - time for a beer...we were Champions of Europe after all! A few at Dusseldorf main before heading over to Weeze for a few more. The plane bwas mobbed, loads of United faces who we shared stories with and a handful of rather glum looking Chelsea, quality! Planes, trains and automobiles later and home was finally was just before midnight on Thursday, I was exhausted, skint, hungover and drunk, plus I had work in the morning. But it didn't really matter because Manchester United had won the European Cup. It still makes me smile when I say that. I think an enjoyable summer will be had by all...

Kerry Davies

On 21st May I woke early and immediately started to think back to where I was and who I was with last time - in ‘99. I thought of Nigel who travelled with us, and I thought of Roger Brierley, who we bumped into on the Ramblas, and I wished they were both still here. I thought of how unbelievable that whole 24 hours had been in Barcelona and I wished I could have been in Moscow. But to be in Manchester, amongst so many friends and family, was a very, very good second best.

I spent large parts of the day pacing around aimlessly, wishing I was somewhere else. But once I was on the train I was OK. The journey was relatively quiet until a few red shirts appeared at Stoke on Trent, more at Macclesfield and even more at Stockport. By this time a full-on party had started with many cans of beer and United songs. By the time we pulled into Piccadilly a few coppers waited on the platform, but they did nothing but smile as the shirts walked past!

My destination was the MUST tent at Sam Platts and as I walked past Old Trafford I could already hear the singing. The place was packed, the beer flowed and so did United’s football after the first tentative (pun intended) few minutes of the game. When Ronaldo headed past Cech the tent billowed with the sound of rejoicing. Showers of amber liquid sprayed out from umpteen cans of lager and screaming filled the air. The noise level rose a few decibels and even more so when Tevez and then Carrick nearly made it two and three. It persisted till Lampard, with the help of a wicked double deflection, scored right on half time, and everything became a little deflated.

Liquid sustenance was purchased and consumed very quickly as the next 45 minutes were as tense as they come. There were chances at both ends but when Drogba hit the post I remembered Barcelona and wondered if history really could repeat itself. The first half had flown by, the second lasted at least twice as long. Extra time loomed and apprehension abounded. Where were the SAS? Where were Sheringham and Solskjaer when we needed them?

Extra time meant another trip to the bar for more refreshment. The woman who had stood behind us for most of the night and who’d almost strangled me when Ronaldo scored, had obviously been feeling the strain more than most as she re-appeared clutching half a dozen cans - all for herself! The atmosphere was incredibly intense.

When Lampard struck the ball against the bar, Steve turned to me and said, “Just like ‘99”. We all thought it. Maybe history would repeat itself. When Drogba got himself sent off the noise level grew again, but there seemed an inevitability the game would be decided on penalties. How pivotal that moment was, when Drogba cuffed Vidic, wasn’t clear at the time, but within a few minutes it would be.

I wandered round the place again and the looks on the faces were all the same. Staring eyes and nervous half smiles, but there was encouragement. A pat on the back, a handshake, a nod of the head, a look, that’s all it took. In it together. Whole rows stood with arms around each others shoulders waiting for fate to take a hand as it surely would. We were as close to Moscow as we could get, and there in spirit. Hundreds of Reds in a marquee down by the canal willing us to score and them to miss.

I remembered being stood on the Stretford End when we lost the first ever FA Cup match on a penalty shoot-out with Southampton. Then I remembered to forget, and I stood absolutely still just as I had in ‘99 when Bergkamp walked up to send us out of the FA Cup at Villa Park. At that moment I could only hope that Van der Sar would be able to do what big Peter had.

I placed my right hand over the embroidered Munich 1958 badge on my red shirt. I didn’t move - not even when Ronaldo’s kick was saved. I kept believing, even as Terry stepped forward to become the idol of Stamford Bridge. What more could he have wished for than a chance to win the European Cup with just one kick of the ball? An opportunity for immortality. But Terry looked apprehensive and it gave me hope. My hand moved ever so slightly over the badge, Terry slipped as he went to strike the ball and sent it wide of the post and the place erupted around me.

I closed my eyes for a second, felt my head move back and forth very slowly, and hoped for glory.

Anderson, stepped forward, and with his first kick of the ball, he scored. Malouda did the same for Chelsea. Giggs looked calm as he walked away from his team-mates. Was it too much to expect him to be the one who scored the final penalty on the day he broke Charlton’s record? When the ball hit the back of the net we surely believed.

When Anelka, ex Bitter, ex Scouser, stepped forward he looked far from happy. Van der Sar, on the other hand, looked totally focussed and absolutely determined. This looked too good to be true. This is our moment I thought to myself. Once again my hand moved slowly over the 58 badge. Anelka moved forward and the ball left his foot. A second between winning and losing. The time had arrived. It’s always amazed me how life slows down at crucial moments. There seemed so much time for thought and reflection in the second before Van der Sar leapt to his right and palmed the ball away to safety. And then utter pandemonium.

The whole place went absolutely mental. The noise was so loud I could hardly hear it any more. We were lost in each others arms - screaming in each others faces. After the first wave of madness I found myself stood in the middle of a sea of chaos, wiping tears from my eyes. It was as though I was in an impenetrable bubble where everything happened in slow motion. Outside the bubble was mayhem, inside, calm with a touch of bewilderment. It lasted only a second or two but possibly a whole lifetime as well, as the unbelievable intensity of the previous 120 minutes and penalties coursed out of my body. Finally the realisation dawned that it was 2008 and once again we were Champions of Europe. Champions of bloody Europe I whispered to myself.

Suddenly, from the other side of the marquee my mate Dave from the Stretty came running towards me in one of those Mills and Boon moments when you meet across a crowded room and end up in each others arms! And over the next few minutes there were many more close encounters with various members of the Red Army.

The leaping celebrations calmed slightly just in time to watch the lads collect the Cup, then the place slowly emptied as we all made our way up to Old Trafford to pay homage to Sir Matt and the Babes. The forecourt was already heaving with the celebrating Red Army and over to our left the air was red with flares. “We’ll never die, we’ll never die. We’ll never die, we’ll never die. We’ll keep the Red flag flying high, cos Man United will never die.”

It hadn’t been quite the same as Barcelona, and not the same as actually being in Moscow, but it had been a very, very special night in Manchester. Thanks to MUST - you people did us proud.

Paul Windridge

My moscow experience started a little earlier than most. In fact, it started after we beat Roma. After years of lets downs in Europe i was begging for an English team as we always seem to blow it against the European ones. So when we got two European teams in a row I was convinced we wouldn't make it to Moscow so decided to not worry too much about Moscow. After beating Roma and hearing Barca played shite i started to get anxious. "I've missed very few euro aways in the past few years, i can't not go to Moscow" coupled with "but it's gonna cost a fortune, a fortune you haven't got" were just two of the many thoughts going through my head.

When Scholsey scored against Barca i was happy but also worried that now i had to make a decision. Usually a cheap trip or an away goals rule makes that decision for me if i'm skint. My missus, fair play to her, nagged and nagged and nagged at me to go. She said "i'm not letting you spend all this money and then miss the final" After what felt like years of soul searching i manged to get on a day trip for £700, i know there were much cheaper ways but with work they were not viable. Plus the visa being waived made it more viable.

I know reds out there who went through 3 or 4 countries, some even went to beijing and the train from beijing. I almost felt a fraud doing a day trip!
The day started at 1am, taxi and down to the airport to sink some beers before boarding. At the airport i saw plenty of reds who are regular euro awayers and they were in the same boat as me, they'd used up holidays thinking we'll fall short again and were forced onto the day trip or lose money at work. Just shows how the team can always prove you wrong.

We'd heard a rumour russian planes were not serving alcohol so me and chris decided a bottle of vodka poured into water bottles was in order for the flight. Here we are going to the capital of vodka and we're sneaking it in! Upon landing the plane seemed to take an age to find a parking space with a 12 point turn being done before stopping. When arriving in the terminal we were expecting all these horror stories of moscow customs etc and shady people knocking about. But within 5 mins of leaving the plane we were on a bus on the way to the ground. I thought it was organised brilliantly. In fact kiev airport was a much shadier place.

At the ground we decided to head straight to the centre for drinks, a copper smelt alcohol on chris and warned him not to drink in red square, but not in a twat way. Brennan paid for the tickets fot the train only for a copper to then shout everybody on, all free today. Gutted, it was only about 2 quid for 4 tickets the tight fucker.

We spent the day in moscow with plenty of russians drinking with us and all in all it was a good day. Game time, we got there early, viva ronaldo in the train station was phenomenal especially with the sound echoing about. When we got outside it went quiet like it was about to kick off, but i think people were still worried about the police. Once inside the first cordon it all started again. The ground itself is quiet a nice ground with good views all over.
BELIEVE looked awesome, looking around we had 3/4 of the stadium, reds are here.......

Kick off, the roar, the the build up, the tension, this is it. Go and make history boys. 1-0 Ronaldo the place went mad and i broke my watch in the process it was worth it though. Lampard 1-1 how the tv microphones didn't pick up 21,000 reds saying stuffy twat i'll never know.

On to extra time and my voice had well gone, shouting at that little twat joe cole and lampard who were really annoying. Step up Tevez, putting the ball in the corner and calling everyone in, not long after chelseas had done the same thing. Only this time Vidic's mind games on drogba in the lead up worked wonders and he hit out, get off. This is it, it's ours. Giggsy could've saved us a lot of pain if he'd have put that chance in late on, but he made up for that later.

On to pens. Ronnie's season was too good and everyone around was saying please don't let ronnie miss. He missed, shit! I thought this wasn't our time, my words as i looked down "i'm not watching this *&*& terry score the winner". The place went mental as i was shouting the obvious question "has he missed?" What an idiot!

As it went on it was looking more and more like ours, VDS saved from le sulk and the rest is history.

After the celebrations and a bit of russian dancing in the stadium in front of highly amused police it was time to leave....... or was it.

Brennan said "fair play to moscow they've handled it really well" I said i'll agree when i'm on a plane out of here. How right was i. Getting out of the ground was murder block by block and patience was running thin the buses were packed and people were getting irate when a bus wouldn't open the doors.

The airpot was an experience to say the least. Queues, queues and more queues. Total mayhem, get on any flight you want was in effect and that just caused pushing and shoving all round. MUtravel customers were trying to tell me i couldn't get on their flight cos i didn't have a band on. My patience was gone and my witty response was simply go get f**ked. My flight had gone with plenty on MUtravel on in even though i'd come with another firm.

Back in to manchester and straight to town, plenty of reds met up in "the picadilly" a city pub! The irony, end of season celebrations in a city pub. Then onto shambles square and numerous more beers with ex-united player David May in attendance. Can't remember much after that except staggering in a 1am friday a full 48 hours after leaving.

No sleep, loads spent, mrs not impressed, worth it?

You f**king bet it was! Roll on Rome 2009!

jasper_hulme red

RN 148 out August 17th 2008
RN 147 Champions of Europe Moscow Special Summer out June 30th 2008
RN 145 out March 29th 2008
RN 144 out March 4th 2008
RN 142 out January 12th 2008
RN 140 out November 27th 2007
RN 139 out October 27th 2007

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