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  • Red News
    This article first appeared in the fanzine Red News. Articles on the past, present and future in every Red News - by MUFC fans for MUFC fans.

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    The Original Munich Plaque

    ‘The classic terrace tribute to the Busby Babes starts: “There is a plaque at Man United, it’s underneath the old Main Stand, It bears the name of Duncan Edwards, he was the finest in the land…”, and in the previous four volumes of Great United Songs, there has been, by way of further information, this: ‘this refers to the original Munich plaque, which is now hidden and part of Old Trafford’s brick work within the Main – South – Stand”.

    Though I’d always been fascinated as to exactly what happened to this original plaque, I have to admit, somewhat shamefully, that that was as far as my knowledge went. I presumed that, for whatever reason, the plaque was now somehow enclosed within the fabric of Old Trafford, and knowledge about how this came to be and why was just another one of those little mysteries we’d never fathom.

    But in preparing the centre-spread for RN112, which featured the shot from the early 60s by C Stand showing the crowd approaching the ground, we discovered that the original plaque was in the corner of the image, above the old Directors Entrance. For some reason this compelled me to find out more about the Plaque, to thankfully get off my arse and see what the exact script was.

    And thankfully Red News managed to find out quite a bit. As far as I knew, the original Munich plaque was apparently too fragile to move during ground redevelopments made in the mid 1970s. It was said that the club decided to keep it in its original place but it would not be possible to see it as it became part of the building work itself of Old Trafford. That was as much information as I knew.

    The Red News website can be a bit of a pain, a few lads trying to do their best and update the news in their spare time yet getting abused by e.mail for not having stories up and ready by 9am! But if the negatives of dealing with abuse and bizarre enquiries from Timbuktu, the positives are that through the internet we have opened ourselves up to loyal readers, new and old alike, who go out of their way to help us with appeals such as this we put out.

    Before that though, I came across this priceless first step – – which details the exact architectural and chronological elements of the original Plaque. That revealed that it was unveiled on the 25th February 1960, and was to become the first of three such plaques.

    Three? I knew of two, this original (which had a green pitch as the main frame) and the one currently residing by the East Stand entrance to the right of the Busby statue. Their website explains: “Several ideas for a memorial were considered by the club before one based on the Old Trafford ground was decided upon. The design was produced by a local architect, J. Vipond…The names of those who died were incised in black and gold glass on the green faience.

    Its construction was undertaken by Messrs Jaconello (Manchester) Ltd. The cost was £2,100. Above the memorial was a carving in teak of two figures, representing the players and spectators, standing with bowed heads on either side of a wreath, beneath which was a football, inscribed with date, 1958.

    The memorial was placed above the main entrance to the Directors’ box. It was unveiled by Matt Busby in a ceremony attended by the relatives of those who had died, survivors of the crash and members of the present team. Two further memorials were unveiled on the same day: a bronze plaque naming the eight journalists who died in the crash was placed in the press box by Frank Taylor of the News Chronicle (a survivor of the crash) on behalf of the Football Writers’ Association, and a memorial clock, paid for by the Ground Committee, which was erected at the front of the stadium.

    Alterations to the ground in the mid-1970s necessitated the removal of the memorial. However, due to its fragile nature it proved impossible to do this without damaging it, and the decision was taken to leave the memorial in situ (now part of the East Stand) and commission a new memorial. This was a somewhat simpler and smaller representation of a football pitch in slate, on which the names of the dead were recorded. It was installed in 1976. A third memorial was commissioned to coincide with the installation of the statue of Sir Matt Busby, it having been decided that the statue would stand beneath the memorial at the Old Trafford end of the ground. This followed more closely the design of the original, showing the pitch and stands. It was the work of Mather & Ellis, stonemasons, Trafford Park, and installed in 1996.”.

    I decided to contact the club to see what their take on all this was, and if they could shed any more light on it, as RN readers started to send their own memories in. The consensus, proved above, was that the old plaque had not been destroyed, but was, as we thought, walled up inside the re-building of the Main Stand, no longer visible. But did that mean it was still visible within Old Trafford, say to club staff?

    The first contact we had from a RN reader – and there were many – confirmed the worst, that the plaque had been damaged during the reconstruction in the 70s. Tony told us: “What a load of bollocks about it being safe. Having been brought up on the Stretford End when the match was over and we came out we’d all be headed for the forecourt via the main entrance, you’d ALWAYS look up to the plaque above the main entrance and momentarily quietly pay your respects to the great ones whom tragically met their fate as you passed by. BUT as the building work progressed I distinctly remember seeing a huge hole cut out of the plaque with a concrete beam going straight through it – and that is on my kids lives! I could not believe my eyes, it was sheer sacrilege on behalf on the club, my heart sank to the bottom of my stomach. I just couldn't comprehend something like that being allowed to happen. It should have been saved and placed in the Museum just like the original main front doors were and that red bench you can sit on and the row of wooden seats. They can dig out and resurrect dinosaurs and put them back together (why not this?). Ask them to cut a hole in the tunnel roof under the Main Stand side above where the main door was – my thinking is the proof is there!"

    Though you can’t help but feel times have changed, so that if the same thing happened now, building practices are such that this would never have been allowed to happen, it doesn’t say much for those at the club who didn’t keep their eyes on the ball to prevent this damage back then, as PE Red wrote on 4 the RN forum: “If the plaque was damaged in building through lack of care, that would really p**s me off. Somehow, though, I think this would be typical of some aspects of MUPLC (or the club and the people running it at the time) – the appreciation of history goes amiss in the chase for the dollar/pound/yen, etc. One reader dates the damage happening after 1977 when it was still visible (and safe).

    As someone else put though: “The romantic in me likes to think that the plaque is there, out of sight, built into the stadium and represents the heart of the club.” Then Mike Thomas of had this from a source at the club: “The first one is the one which it was not possible to move, the second one which replaced it is currently in store (and will be relocated to the Museum soon) and the third one is now on the corner of East Stand.”

    A few readers informed us that the club have a whole warehouse full of memorabilia which is currently not on show at the museum, including that 2nd plaque. We hoped then that the 2nd plaque was well protected and Mark Wylie, the excellent curator of the Museum (who even collects RN), told Red News that:

    “The second Munich plaque is indeed waiting to come over to the museum. It is currently in store at Old Trafford and we are planning new display panels for our Munich commemorative display. Once we have the new panels we will then have the plaque and panels installed together, as the current display panels are the wrong shape and size. It is literally just the ‘pitch’ section of the plaque with the names on, not the complete memorial.

    There isn’t really either a warehouse or a room full of items kept in storage for the museum but located outside the museum. There are various storage areas around the ground containing all manner of things from spare seats to the aforementioned plaque, but the plaque is only in there because we had no room in our Museum store for something so large. We do have a museum object store within the museum, which contains the club collection. It contains a large number of items that are periodically displayed in the museum.”

    United’s Communications Dept then got back to us and even managed to get a reply out of one of the Kens (we’re still not sure which one, Ramsden or Merrett!). They told us: “The plan was to move the original when we started to create Exec facilities, (it was located above the Directors Entrance). It was set into concrete, I think, but in any event was damaged and could neither be repaired or removed.” Again, no doubt moving such things would be possible now, but Cliff Butler also informed us about the memorial in the press room. “The original one was stolen from the Press Box in the 80s, the replica is now in the Press entrance behind the counter.” Which journo stole that then?

    United’s reply doesn’t give much hope that much of the original plaque remains (if any?), and the cynic in me wonders if there actually is any of the plaque there at all, and was this story put out to appease any fans’ anger if it leaked out. Sibelius on the forum wrote: “Perhaps it was fixed, and remains in place, but I wonder if reference to the plaque still being insitu is actually a reference to its remnants.” Whatever did happen, it is a sorry tale, for the fact that so little was really known about what happened to it, and why someone wasn’t able to preserve it. But in the RN appeal another source of information came forward in a mailed letter.

    Mick Wilkinson of Darwen wrote in: “I work at the factory that made it and know one of the people who worked on it so I asked him about his memories of it. Trevor was in his 20s when he worked on it, he’s in his 70s now. Shaws of Darwen who made it, actually made two. It was made in seven pieces and fitted together on site. The pitch is in 4 pieces, the figures 2 pieces, and the central feature between the figures the last piece. Two were made in case any part split or cracked when it was fired up in the kiln.

    It was made of clay and then sprayed to the colours it was and he thinks the lettering was picked out in gold leaf. When it was fired in the kiln it came out perfect and the 2nd one was not needed. This spare one stayed in the warehouse until 1982/83 when the company went bust and the site was cleared out so it went in the skip. The company opened under new management and is going strong to this day.”

    A revealing insight into its birth, and two things immediately spring to mind. Firstly, if it's sad that nobody was able to preserve the original, how unfortunate that United didn’t contact Shaw as they had a replacement that could have been used to replace it with – as it is this rare and lost duplicate is probably somewhere out there, who knows where. And secondly if little old Red News can find out all this information, in little under a month with our limited resources, you would hope that a massive institution like the club itself would be better able to keep a tab on certain valuable pieces of information about our history and aspects of it.

    As it is, at least the current plaque resembles the first…


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  • Red News
    The man who kept United going - a tribute to Jimmy Murphy

    This article first appeared in RN144.

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    Arguments over the AIG logo and David Gill's name on the Memorial tunnel aside, I think we can all agree that the clubs commemorations for the 50th anniversary were exemplary and hit just the right tone in tribute and education, allowing what could possibly, and sadly, be the last significant anniversary for those who survived to be shared by old and young United fan alike so those close to the tragic events can mourn their friends, and those far away in terms of the distance of time can keep their memory alive.

    The most heartening theme of all the tributes that took place were that the almost forgotten man of that era, Jimmy Murphy, received more mentions and accolades from his peers and the media than I can recall from any recent anniversary of the Munich tragedy. Of course he has never been totally forgotten - the bust at the Museum is just one recent example of the club finally beginning to pay their dues - and the passionate defence of his fathers record and quite remarkable work and achievements in 1958 (and before and after then of course) by his son Jimmy Junior mean those who go out and learn about United's history will know just how important he was to the survival and revival of the club. But it's fair to say in terms of a greater understanding and thanksgiving from all who have served or watched United, then not enough praise is heaped on the man behind the scenes whose influence upon all of the successes achieved under Sir Matt should never be underestimated. The man who by a quirk of fate wasn't in Munich as he was leading Wales in a World Cup playoff match against Israel in Cardiff and whose absence meant, thankfully, there was someone left to pick up the pieces as the terrible events unfolded in Germany.
    This is neither a detailed historical record of Murphy's life and career, nor a thorough account of all his achievements. There are far better places to research that (starting with Murphy's own autobiography and Starmaker by Brian Hughes); but this is Red News' way of also paying its due to a man who not only kept United going when all could and did look lost, but was integral not just in the emergence and creation of the Babes themselves under his scouting network - “The first time I saw Duncan Edwards touch the ball was enough for me. It was the same with Charlton” - but the remarkable triumph that came 10 years after as a tribute in the 1968 European Cup Final at Wembley.

    For sometime now I've been planning this 4 piece. I've had the honour in recent times to interview or chat to a host of United legends; from Paddy Crerand, Alex Dawson, David Sadler and Bill Foulkes (sadly not well enough to conduct a full interview), and with each I've asked them about Murphy, for use here. It is fair to say that nobody seems to have a bad word about him. They may admit he could be a right tough bastard and taskmaster, but the respect is clearly immense.

    And his work at United covers decades. An incredible achievement. Of course it is to Sir Matt we rightly laud as the leader but reading between the lines it is also quite clear that like all great partnerships, the main man may not have been able to achieve all he did without the wingman by his side. As David Sadler admitted to me, it was Murphy they saw most often: “Certainly Jimmy Murphy was the one we saw a lot more of in the normal footballing week than we did Matt, who we only got to see very occasionally between matches.”

    Too often hero worship is made into a one dimensional pastime where flaws or tough character traits are ironed out or erased when detailing all sides of a persons characters - their strengths, their weaknesses get condensed into a less descriptive praise of their entire character - when knowing about their entire make-up, the positives and negatives, allows you to see the person as a real human being rather than some invisible ghost you are unable to picture in your mind.

    Murphy was clearly one tough bastard, who didn't suffer fools. It is certainly not my role to delve too deep into his personal relationships, but on the surface of all the comments made this February it seems as though everyone admitted that Murphy had one love, one passion, Manchester United, above anything, even his family. As his son said: “He had no hobbies; his job when he got up in the morning was to go down to United and produce football players. He was a driven man even before Munich”. Jimmy Sadler saw both sides as he told RN: “There were two sides to Jimmy, there was the very hard, tough, shouting and cursing one and there was the softer, gentler Jimmy Murphy”. Bobby Charlton hinted at Murphy's singular passion at the memorial service: “I was sorry for Jimmy when the accident happened, he always figures himself as Number 2, and he suddenly had to make decisions and he did a marvellous job. He was in love with the game more than he loved anything else and that's very difficult to say when his family are here. He knew exactly how to make you a better player. I become a professional from an amateur and that was all down to Jimmy”.

    That drive, that commitment is obviously something we can relate to nowadays with Fergie, but there are so many stages of United's history under Busby (and Murphy) that it's hard to know where to start. Of course the days after Munich will always be the ones mentioned the most, not just managing to keep the survivors going and somehow to get the team playing again, but to find the time to bring half a team in, whilst attending funerals of his and Matt's boys, and of course heading to Munich to see how they were doing in hospital. All this as other top sides eyed their opportunity to bag him as their own manager.
    The following tale is not a myth, or urban legend. Sir Matt asked Murphy in that Munich hospital to ‘keep the red flag flying high’, and it's exactly what he did. So he took Gregg and Foulkes back with him, by train, just days before a game where the emotional baggage must have been unbearable. “I travelled back with Bill Foulkes and Harry Gregg and, amid all the tragedy and all the sorrow, I had to get a team together again. I had to find players from somewhere... My heart ached for these two players... I don't mind admitting I felt like crying... Ten years work and planning had been wiped out in a flash.”

    It is difficult to imagine how Murphy coped upon his return to Manchester. “How can I describe what it was like? I was completely alone, isolated. There was no Matt Busby, no Bert Whalley. No one I could talk with on my level as far as the team was concerned. Then the coffins started to arrive at the ground. We put them in the old gymnasium. And there were all the funerals. And all the time I was wondering where I could get players. The League game against Wolves had been postponed, but things had to be done quickly. No one knows what I went through during that time.” But not only had Matt asked him to keep the red flag, and club, going, but Director, Harold Hardman spoke to him on his return: “You have got to keep it going, Jimmy. Manchester United is bigger than you...bigger than me...bigger than Matt Busby. It is bigger than anybody. The club must go on”.

    However uneasy it feels to bring up any negatives at this point, you have to proportion blame to some at the club who seemed culpable for not giving Murphy the credit he deserved. It isn't just in making sure he's detailed in our history, it's what they did to him as a person (and he was not alone, the sacking of John Aston senior another such example). It is perhaps symbolic of the Louis Edwards era, as Starmaker details the sad period at the turn of the decade from the 60s to the 70s where though promised by Busby a ‘high and honoured’ position when Wilf McGuinnnes was appointed, that did not materialised and he retired in September 1971 when he clearly did not want to. His son Nick explained that Murphy still went to OT every single day: “It was his whole life. Manchester United was his whole life. He loved the place, loved going there, he couldn't keep away”.
    As Hughes explained in his book: “It would seem that United never repaid the loyalty Jimmy had given them since joining in 1946. Jimmy did not drive and had a regular taxi which picked him up at his home and took him to Old Trafford. The club suddenly ceased paying his taxi fare and stopped paying his telephone bills. Jimmy... felt very sad, disenchanted and let down by Matt Busby... Matt blamed the Board but everyone knew Matt was the Board”. Hughes later explains that there was never a fall out between the two whose inspiring partnership had achieved so much: “Obviously things were never the same again between the two men... the two men simply drifted further apart. Matt was busy with his boardroom duties while Jimmy was basically a footballing person, happiest mixing with the players, trainers and coaches”.

    But his United career was not over. He'd still go in ever day - how could he not, it was all he knew after all. McGuinness was later to admit: “Of course I would have loved it if it had been possible for Jimmy to have worked alongside me when I was put in charge of United”. Tommy Docherty did bring Murphy back on board though, and it's also here where history forgets what Murphy achieved in his later years in continuing to scout players as he had done in 4 help finding the Babes. As Docherty explained: “Jimmy quickly found Steve Coppell and Gordon Hill, two brilliant wingers. To be straightforward, I never saw Coppell play before he joined United. I just followed Jimmy's advice... Matt was wonderful but he would not have been half the man without Jimmy”. He also scouted Pancho Pearson for United, but sadly his advice to sign ‘at the earliest opportunity’ the young striker in Leicester's reserves, one Gary Lineker, was ignored.

    Norman Whiteside remembers his early days: If I ever saw Busby or Murphy, around Old Trafford, they were wonderfully encouraging and complimentary. I wouldn't have thought they would have bothered giving someone potentially so insignificant the time of day, but whenever I bumped into them they would say: ‘I hear you're doing well’ and ‘keep going’, building me up all the time.”

    Crerand explained Murphy's time - of the man who loved a few pints talking football and life, with a smoke, who called everyone ‘son’ and admitted: “I found it hard to make out with the small talk” - as such in his recent autobiography: “Munich didn't just destroy Jimmy's life in seconds, he lost his great friends including Whalley. He virtually ran the club during Matt's recovery in hospital, re-arranging fixtures and signing players. A proud Welshman from a little village in the Rhondda Valley, he still took Wales to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in the summer of 1958. He stayed loyal to United despite lucrative offers from Arsenal, Juventus, and the Brazilian national team. High profile jobs were never for Jimmy, he was far happier teaching youngsters”.

    On Murphy's treatment, Crerand added: “Jimmy was cut out and clearly very upset at his diminishing role at the club. It seems that no-one at United gave much thought to what Jimmy would do and while he stayed on at Old Trafford, he didn't really have a role. He should have been treated better by a club he had served so well. Jimmy had even camped outside players' houses, refusing to leave until their parents signed United's forms.”

    That isn't to say behind the deep respect from the players - his players - there wasn't fear. Crerand: “Jimmy was a more aggressive foil for Matt. He would say, ‘Fucking sort so and so out, Pat’, Bobby Charlton: “My whole career from the age of 15 was linked with Jimmy Murphy. He was so intense he used to frighten me. He was hell to work for and at times I used to hate him but I owe more to Jimmy than any other single person in football. Everything he did was for a purpose and I am grateful to him. The success of Manchester United is a testimony to his work”.

    Alex Dawson is too much of a gentlemen to repeat in print the swear words Murphy aired at the time but I loved his tale to Red News from that FA Cup game against West Brom in 1958: “I don’t know what came over the West Brom manager, Vic Buckingham, saying things like: “We’re sorry for what happened to United. But we won’t stop at 10 goals” before the game. Jimmy was right up! He gave us this team talk, well the words, ‘effing’ this, he was really going, Jim! ‘Now I’ve told you how to beat them and when we do, I’ll go in there and I’ll pee all over then”. You never saw Matt really angry, but you knew, you knew he wouldn’t show it but underneath he was annoyed. Jimmy gave us team talks, and when the game was finished he’d say: “Well done, I tell you, that’s how to do it”.

    And of course to the 50th anniversary, where mentions of Murphy littered the memorial service. At last! Harry Gregg stole the show, with his description that Murphy's tongue “could cut teeth” and the coaching set up was described thus by Jimmy Junior: “Matt was the architect, my Dad the masterbuilder, who went out to get the materials with Bert Whalley laying the foundations.” David Meek later that week admitted: “I don't think he was appreciated enough after Munich. There was a real danger of the club going out of existence.” and Paul Mcguinness - (a great speech) himself - talked of Murphy's legacy: “Jimmy's special one was the Youth Cup, winning five in a row, Jimmy's legacy is the way United (youth to senior) play now”. Gregg ended with a tale that had everyone smiling: “I owe Jimmy a lot, he could laugh with you, cry with you and fight with you. Jimmy and Matt were like hand and glove, wonderful people. I hadn't a clue what they were talking about though! Matt would say 'Up together, back together,' Jimmy would say “Attack in strength and defend in depth”.

    But of course it will always be to 1958 where we identify his inspiration at work. On turning down the chance to manage elsewhere: “My heart was at Old Trafford. I wanted to help Matt pick up all the pieces and start all over again. Just like we did in 1946.” Murphy was at the ground when fans flocked to it upon hearing news of the tragedy: “Thousands hurried down to the ground to see if they could help; the police threw a protective cordon around relatives and friends who had lost their loved ones. Those of us left at the ground did our best to calm and console the grief stricken. But what word of sympathy could I find to comfort the bereaved. There was nothing to lift the blanket of despair”. On his return to Manchester from what must have been a heartbreaking trip to Munich: “I have seen the boys. Limbs and hearts may be broken, but the spirit remains. Their message is that the club is not dead – Manchester United lives on.”

    Charlton explained the toll that it must have taken on Murphy: “Jimmy, typically, was the strongest presence in those days when the Old Man was surviving only with the help of an oxygen tent. He said that we had to fight for our existence – and the memory of the teammates we had lost. He had been through a war when men had to live with the loss of so many comrades, had to fight on through the suffering and live with what was left to them. It was the same now at Manchester United, Jimmy insisted. But later I heard that it was just a front that Jimmy put on. One day he was discovered in a back corridor of the hospital, sobbing his heart out in pain at the loss of so many young players.” Bill Foulkes: “The doctors told me that I should go away and have a long holiday away from it all, but how could I? I couldn't stop thinking of poor Jimmy Murphy on his own at Old Trafford”. Murphy admitted: “I suffered. I said cheerio to Tommy Taylor, Duncan (Edwards) and all the lads in the gym and told them I would see them on Friday... when they came back they were in coffins.” 10 years on he said: “The heartache of Munich is still there. To the generation which has grown up since then, those may be just names, but to me they were Matt's boys. My boys!”"

    It is testimony to Murphy that so many participants of the era suggest without him United wouldn't be who they are today. Colin Webster: “If Murphy had not been at Old Trafford, the Busy Babes would never have existed. He brought in 80 per cent of them – I don’t think Matt Busy could have done it on his own.” Albert Scanlon on his inspiration: “I woke up again later in Munich to hear a voice saying: ‘Albert Scanlon will never play football again.’ Jimmy Murphy came in and I was crying and I told him what I had heard. He said: ‘That's not true, Albert, you are all right.’ Given that it came from Jimmy, it was enough for me.” Frank Taylor, the journalist: “Three men saved Manchester United from oblivion. They are Jimmy Murphy, Bobby Charlton and Matt Busby. But Murphy was the key figure.”"

    And the most known tale of all. Murphy's promise to keep the red flag flying high. “The surgeons felt Matt might live, but no one except those of us close to him, ever felt he would be a force again in football. But I knew. In one of his conscious moments he whispered: ‘Keep the flag flying Jimmy. Keep things going until I get back.’ At that moment Matt didn't even know how many of his boys had been killed. I did. As I stumbled out of the hospital into the snow which still lay as a thick carpet over the city of Munich I was close to tears”.

    Matt Busby recalled his Assistant as: "A kindred spirit, together we have shared the triumphs as well as the heartache and tears of Munich. When all seemed lost, Jimmy took over the reins and not only kept the club going, but took it to the 1958 Cup Final. Jimmy's superhuman efforts then were typical of the man, who shuns the spotlight of publicity...his unflagging4 efforts and optimism in those dark and tragic weeks concealed his heartbreak over the loss of such wonderful boys, and gave us the time and opportunity to rebuild Manchester United again until by the 1960s we were once more a power in the game”. And Murphy ended his own book: "I know in my heart I made the right decision those many years ago in Bari. And if it were possible to turn back the clock I would still give the same answer: ‘Sure Matt...I'll be happy to join you’. That's what Matt and United have meant to me. I would do it all over again”.

    Murphy's son will never stop beating the drum for his father - “My job is to keep my family memories alive. He deserves credit for what he did. I've got a list of people I'm going to write to who have got things wrong recently in the press, and those that (also) got it right” - but the hope is that more younger Reds, and all at the club, listen to it. If there are wrongs to be righted, it is too late to point fingers or lecture on what should and should not have been done for Murphy in his latter years, but what can be done now is something which sounds a radical suggestion but one that I have long since felt would be the most fitting and telling tribute to Murphy and his contribution to United.

    To have a statue erected next to the one of Sir Matt. The men who built United into a dynasty, who kept it going after the crash and the partnership that should be seen - in permanent display - for the crucial dual relationship that it so clearly was. As Matt said: “It must have been a terrible time for Jimmy and everyone at the club after the crash. It needed someone who, though feeling the heartbreak of the situation, could still keep his head and keep the job going. Jimmy was that man.” Later, in 1968, Matt, looking back, described bumping into his old friend Murphy and seeing him coach some army lads in Bari in 1945 as “one of the most fortunate things that has ever happened to me. This was the man for me! And for nearly 23 years we have marched shoulder to shoulder as comrades in sport, working for a common ideal: to make Manchester United the finest club in Britain, in Europe and the best in the world”. That they did, and shoulder to shoulder is where both should be hailed for all to see at Old Trafford in lasting legacy.


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  • Red News
    Here's something I wrote for to celebrate Fergie's 25

    Of course our gaze gets captivated by all the trophies in the cabinet, understandable considering we've won so much under Sir Alex, that you'd have to get an Abacus (google it, oh young readers) to count up exactly just how many we've welcomed. We stopped counting Charity Shields, when once upon a time we’d be giddy about ‘winning some silver early’.
    But come with me on a journey, because whilst the room almost continually stocked full of trophies since 1990 is the clearest definition of his success and achievements,it is not just his trophy cabinet which actually defines him. Leave that room, past the spanky ever growing museum which now includes his own history and that of his players and walk along the corridors of both power and passion, where normal fans can sit, near to prawn sarnie munchers, pacing through the updated facilities and at time unwholesome corporate ornaments on view, and look at how Old Trafford and Manchester United has grown and changed along with Fergie.
    United have always been on the forefront of ground development, and we have always been the bottom line to pay for it, but if pretty much none of this would have been possible without the Red Army, certainly the club owes the debt for enabling all its way and all it has done to the man who has become part of the fabric. Certainly, these past 6 years and more, he has kept it all together, he is the one the scent of Ginge must thank.
    United have always been good at, pretty much (don't mention the Frank O'Farrell debacle, from both sides) of staying loyal and keeping managerial upheaval to a minimum, and if we are blessed to have had two men in the same mould as Sir Matt and Sir Alex, what makes the latter and his time that much more remarkable is the pace of that around him. Football spiralling out of control, yet somehow he manages to ooze control over club, team and players.
    You just run out of superlatives. You can say he shaped a dynasty, the success laid out for all to see, like a embryo growing in the womb, the shoots of 1990, growing with each phase, the tiny patter of a ECWC in 1991, and then re-born in 1993. Such is his way, you can pluck a cliche out of thin air. But they work. Not standing still on a moving bus as he used to say (though I doubt he's travelled on many of those since coming down), accepting every challenge; try and don the cap of Sherlock Holmes to work out where it came from, the ingredients that combined like pure science (or our sort of religion) so Eric like we clicked and then some, but that first Holy Grail we'd have accepted with glee and pretty much then put up with normality. Yet he tore the script up, so we went on and on. 1994, 1996, 1999. To some everything else since 1999 appears a bit dimmer; how can you beat that? But incredibly, him just trying, is worthy, let alone what we actually have achieved since that barmy night. Every year we seem in with a shout of a repeat. Never able, perhaps never will, but the feat of wanting it again, whilst the very players who'd got him there were questioned not long after the Nou Camp for resting on their laurels, gazed themselves at a manager who would accept nothing less, however able or unable the squad at that time around him, however limited or limiting, to eye such treasured heights. But no words, eulogies, do it - his drive, his determination, his stubborness, his ‘mix’ - justice.
    Then and now. United, he, we. We've all changed. But we're all the same, somewhere, and when you look at our lives, and then the world around us, it's mad to think there is a man, greyer, as fearsome if not as often, still doing the jig, still wanting it. It's almost scary. The Presidents and Prime Ministers, the Dictators and despots, they may well have gone from their own realms, but our leader, facing the occasional grumblings of discontent from his people, remains. In a scary world, he is less scary and our focal point. We may moan about him - some way too often - but he keeps us, the United world I mean, safe.
    Now we're on the Old Trafford pitch, having walked through a different tunnel, a stand just for Families (nice if more kids would be allowed elsewhere….), and where once we joked it resembled the film set of Vietnam it was so bad, now it is pretty much able to cope with concerts, rugby, Rooney overhead kicks and Diego Forlan stripping. We've a third tier, so high we can't see them, and they can't see us.
    It's all changed.
    In 1987 when Red News sat down with Fergie for the first time for an interview, the hotel was fairly ramshackle on a pre-season tour of Scandinavia. There were no groupies, bar us oddballs waiting for him, and he called the group in to an empty breakfast hall as he pondered cereal and greater plans for what was to become his club. Able to get away with calling it ‘his club’ where others might be scorned because he's ingratiated himself so well into the fabric, the custodians allow it. There have been mistakes, and some have called him for them. I haven't liked some decisions, but as with my own frailties in life, I have always said that, sadly, even the perfect aren't quite as perfect as you'd want them to be. I look in the mirror, and hush loud calling.
    Nobody came into that breakfast hall. No photographers, no stalkers (bar us, again) and in between the egg cups and coffee pots he laid out a vision. 'To make Europe once again take notice of United'. We've always been big, if not the biggest, but now we are in a different universe to then, again of his making, again not all great, all of which the bean counters should be grateful for, but here he laid our his plan to put United back on the map. A map remember all screwed up because, because of them, we weren't even allowed into European competition back then. He'd argue time and time again behind the scenes for reinstatement - he had a plan you see.
    At times we doubted the plan in those early days. He talked of playing ‘total football’ in one programme before a game where I struggle to remember seeing any type of football, but we know now. Not settling to just concentrate on the first team and save his skin. If we remove ourselves away from Old Trafford, look at Carrington; he was working not just on the XI we were watching, but the ones that would come afterwards, and those in ten years time. He picked up Sir Matt's blueprint, long since discarded. And had a go.
    In his time we've seen the road we all share littered with glory and trophies - Warwick Road itself is now Sir Matt Busby Way. The core and essence is still there, what we stand for, thanks primarily down to him whatever our recoil about those above him and those he has to deal with it, but every facet; the Cliff, gone, terracing, gone, Assistant Managers coming and going, yet he has not just stayed, and remained, he's evolved. He’s finger tipped a connection between then and now. And not let go like a Taibi short connection.
    Steve McClaren was supposed to be the innovater of our first changes into Sports Science, Carlozzz into defence, tactics, but it devalues and doesn't give credit to the man who employed them, and took something from all of them. We have quibbles as any family does, but the man picking cereal is now a Sir, the ground all seated, the trophy cabinet full. In changing times, Thatcher in charge, then Grey, then Blair, etc, we have our constant. As I conclude the Ed in the RN 25th edition (sorry, got to get a plug in! : "It's only when he's not in charge any longer that it will just sink in just what he's achieved. And how much were going to miss him."
    I talk to younger Reds and they can't believe some of the horror stories from the 70s and 80s. There is a fear of that cycle returning if this one ends. But not under SAF, time and time again seeing the media throw him into the water for sharks with 'crumbling empire' talk, he calmly walks to shore, drying off, and eventually sitting on his lounger, laughing his tits off. Wondering how to carry all the treasures he’s just picked up.
    It's not just been a remarkable journey, it's been a life shared. We have walked each step, we have grown old, been born, had kids ourselves, become men from kids, all during his reign, and that's what it feels like, like a fiefdom such its length. Ruled over maybe, but connected. We'll pick out on field memories to translate that quarter of a century into specifics that makes it easier to comprehend, none more so than the Nou Camp, we'll think of off field moments - Eric signing, Keane gone, in an instant - but it is he who touched every one. If you’ve met him, you won’t forget it. It may have been but a second, but he carries the aura that only the greats like Sir Matt and Bestie can.
    Blessed to have both he and Sir Matt, only Manchester United could have both. Its story, his story, they sort of merged somewhere. Manchester United's journey will continue of course, as it always has, but for now, pause for thought about when you joined this marvellous adventure, and all the changes then and now (the FA were still after us, so no rare change there then), and that is as defining as all the silver that glistens. That United coped in a football industry that suddenly speeded up and mutated, whether we liked it or not. Fergie is that link between past and present, and bloody hell, hopefully more future too. Because, yes, I really do. I love him like every single one of us.

    P.S. Saw this video today. Not seen before. From Ewood Park as the marvellous taste of 19 was first pressed against our lips. And look who he looks to. Not the players who got him over the line, not his staff. But us. He knew what it meant, because it meant the same to him. That's his key. He got United. He gets it. And aren’t we the lucky ones.

    Cheers, Barney

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  • Red News
    Tuesday was the longest day of the year.

    Though to be honest, you could have taken the pick of any during June as the absence of real international tournaments to provide even a passing distraction before the real thing begins with MUFC again, has seen this transfer season drag on already, misrepresented at ease, and pathological like, allow the wildest of rumours or mere speculation to be passed around like some drunken Chinese whispers as on one day alone United seemed to be linked with nearly a whole team in itself. I was half expecting Michael Knighton to put on his old United shirt, run (well, waddle), back on the pitch and scream at the altered Stretford End that he's ready and waiting for a bid. And this time he has all the proper forms.

    Yes, this could well be a long, barely hot, summer.

    I was reticent about joining twitter; then realised if it is a mythical island full of nutters and drunken loners, then I'd fit in perfectly. But it's great to have shortened, at times even intelligent, United debate with amny decent Reds, and, for United breaking news, it's good, with not a manic staring Sky Sports News frothing Jim White in sight. The downside is anyone can pass off rumour as 'in the know' fact, without much of a bullshit detector going off in the heads of many, so that an Arsenal blogger managed to convince some that Phil Jones had failed his medical and the deal was screwed. All manner of bizarre and illogical names get linked, spread and then doused quicker than Willie Morgan would if the Doc was on fire, when it's realised that United aren't actually in for X, and Messi is not coming in a swap for Gabby Obertan's head.

    The internet started all this, 'my mate has just seen Xavi having a chip at Macari's before he signs' and with much the same compulsion that any cabbie on Irish soil would explain that he'd had George Best in his cab once, so the merest hint of a thread to reality gets twanged like BB King with a guitar string; ie United will buy somebody, and that player has two legs and kicks a football, will extend its tenticles to links with so many, you half wonder how Martin Ferguson gets time to tuck into his steak having scouted so many players that we're now not just watching, but signing.

    With twitter though the flames may die quicker than they ever did on a forum, it's a very unsatisfying dance to have anybody believe that Pele is hang gliding into Carrington as we speak, however soon it's pointed out that it can't be true (he doesn't have a gliding license) and I refer back to when my Mum clipped me round the head as a kid when I'd believed the latest 'you've won a million' circular. 'If it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true.' And not a mention of the Glazereconomics to back that up.

    I'd like to say at this point that you'd like to expect better from the fourth estate. But why should they? If they spout shite for 300 odd days a year, why an exception when the transfer window opens (who has the keys to lock it, who cleans it?), and it makes financial sense if not actual intelligent sense, for them to try and shift a few copies as we're linked with all and sundry in an attempt to catch your eye in a world where people no longer look towards the back page of a newspaper in a shop for their first port of call each day for United news coverage.

    So with it all being a game anyway - from players and their agents after better deals, or pay days, with links that make no sense and bear no relation to the truth - why not everyone hop on the madness, and spin the wheel. Papers say Sanchez is coming, the next day, no he's not. Panto, but who cares, few actually remember who said what, just taken in, or not. A game to pass the days, bar the frenzied nature of it all deep down and the fact that United fans nervously eye the real events hoping that this player we now refer to only as CM (central midfielder) will come, cure all ills. A bit like some fascinating bacteria they've created in some lab to see off dirty viruses, or in this case, city's money, and Chelsea's seconday school attending manager.

    We'd like to think with the background transfers already down and nearly sealed (and God help us all if our tote was on 0, with Jones, Young and De Gea we're already on 3 which is good, and creates a certain air of 'no pleasing some Utd fans then as you still want more…'), but this CM is preyed for much as any deity as we think a team who did the business but rode its luck will finally be sorted, be righted in an area causing more worries than a euro dropped on the floor in Athens. You'd like to think Gill is deep in negotiations for CM, but the reality with 3/4 or 3/5 of all business done already, he may well be deep into his second bottle of Malbec on holiday, happy with his work so far.

    So I decided to sort of get off the train early in its journey. Don't get me wrong, providing the MUFC news on RN and my obsession for all things Utd means I'm not actually distracted or anything, but I'm letting most of it wash over me. I want Wesley Sneijder to come (I'd happily take him and Sanchez, if you are interested David, and I agree, malbec is nice), but I'm far fatter and balder than when I was a kid writing to players asking if they'd think about joining United that summer, and realise, somewhat sadly, that my will makes no difference to the reality. They will come or not, we will bid or not, we will buy or not. So what some even more fatter than I hack or nerd says isn't really going to make that much of a difference, in tabloidland or twitter. Only SAF really knows who he wants, and Gill if he's then allowed the money. Nobody else but a few know for sure, and sadly, certainly not I, or 'ITK' on the net. Well, maybe only Phil Jones' Mum then as she told a Red and he did announce our first signing of the summer on twitter! So one was right!

    So I hope just to wake up one day and see it in bold, 'X, signed'. It would be some fitting karma if the net failed for that morning and it was left to the dying embers of teletext to provide the news as it did when we were younger and the term 'hard drive' was nothing more than a long irritating trip with family. But as we're only still in June, we may have to wait a bit longer. We waited 26 years for a title. We can hold line in the reception waiting room I'm sure, if but for a few more bitten nails.

    Not able to fully escape the clutches of football, I've watched whatever I could so far this summer. Most of it hasn't been pretty (and I don't mean the women's World Cup to come…), but the kids have been given their chance, in the under 21s across Europe, and under 17s for the World.

    I was going to say a few days ago, turn down the din from some of the more absurd transfer bull, and switch onto eurosport to watch the stars of the future if you get a chance each night. You might, just might, see some good football. Already at the early stages, there's been some good goals, a bit of skills, a hell of a lot of cramp which is never funny when it's you but comedy gold when it's someone else. But sadly a hell of a lot of diving and cynical rolling around, even trying to get opponents booked. It's sad enough seeing adults do it, Nani even, but when it's someone who looks too young even for Hollyoaks there is a depression that this is the future, still here. It seems as bad as their adult counterparts. These 9.6 rolls aren't, on the whole, the signs of tiredness or the heat, a North Korean realised he'd rolled off the pitch during his high jump and got straight back up and raced back to play. It's not their fault as such, they have just been taught this way. It's the wrong way.

    We seldom look as high as FIFA. We sigh at their excesses and corruption, so we are happy to avoid direct eye contact and just worry about our level, the matches, the drama, the pathos, it way too sapping to worry about the whole damned show, and instead love our game for what it is, on the whole, still a game under the backdrop of some pretty shady business. But make no mistake, football is ill, from cheating from top to bottom to bloated excess right up top. Why risk United being the ones to avoid the greed (we see enough of it from our owners after all) and saying 'no, we will not pay that for X player when he's worth half that' but spending £20m, £30m in a game badly sinking in debt isn't really going to help the game is it? But who can? The star of the future, who believes it's win at all costs? Us facilitating all the nonsense spouted when SAF knows very well who he's going to sign, and where they are (not on a flight from Chile).

    There is another point for another day about all these conversations and shrugging about the failures of the adults at tournaments and in competitions, and then the kids seem to have exactly the same mentality and issues, there not to learn, and develop, the pressure solely on winning there and then, the bigger picture hidden because it's a 'results industry', but we'll leave that for another day.

    Maybe it's best just worrying about just which CM is coming in as you could wait and look for answers at Stonehenge for an eternity seeking a better way forward; fans not priced out, the money exploited and abused, the corruption, the way the game is actually being played and conditioned, conducted, and know that we are merely the spectator to it all. The stall seats, not knowing when the cue for the Panto Dame to come on actually is. Sepp Blatter would look good as one that's for sure.

    So we've a few more weeks left yet. The back pages compete like some childish 'anything you can do, I can do better' with their back page gluten, and the milkman will whisper into your ear 'I've just spotted Sanchez having a green tea with Ralph Milne in the Stretford Suite'.

    Try and take it with a pinch of salt and for what it's worth. Discard or take on at your leisure and pleasure. Of course we are concerned, we do take such an interest, because we care so much, but it's all fish and chip paper anyway, the low key signing arrival like Hernandez can have the greatest impact anyway. How much did Eric cost?

    Despite it all, we still switch on, we still eye the first United fixture. Because of what the game represents to us, what United represents and is in our lives, not what it can be to them. And then, of course, there is the drama. Even with the writhing. Uruguay beat Rwanda last night with the last kick of the game, and cue more happiness from their under 17 team than if they'd been given a naked pic of Megan Fox. They have dreams of being spotted so who can blame them, this game has us and them by the balls, we and they will be exploited for the gain of others, but if they get lucky they will do well enough to turn the tables and enjoy the rewards of fame, for their gain. To become such a name that one day in ten years ago we'll be anxiously checking the net and news to see if we've launched a bid to sign them.

    Barney, 23rd June 2011 email - [email protected] twitter - @barneyrednews

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  • Red News
    And now, we're here. Last stop, mind the gap?

    The journey strange at times, certainly worryingly for a while, dogged and determined if not flourishing, the needs and the handling of the many, now outweighing the one, as we saw in the lead up and in Rome. That jaunt was fun in its progress, but where did it ultimately get us that night?

    The days this week seem to have rushed by, like a sprinter who you want to fling to the floor and just pause for breath, 'STOP', not wanting it to go too quickly. There is fun to be had in the build up. Of course we bask in 19, and will for some time yet, must do in fact, because for many that was always the main eyed prize and target for this summer. But once you get one, and are in another, the happy eyes, start eyeing more. And why not.

    Europe now beckons, of course the excitement grows, indeed since Chelsea at home a bit more dogged determination from Reds themselves as quiet confidence hasn't quite been replaced by peacock preening, or 'we're Man Utd, we do what we want' misplaced arrogance, but a steel nonetheless that despite Barcelona's clear ability, why can't we, on our day, make it our evening. They are not, despite what the fawning and slightly excessive and embarrassing 'grab the kleenex for spillage' media would have you think, invincibles, as even our league's lighter invincibles showed earlier in the season; that they can be beaten if harried, and it would be a fool to underestimate any United side.

    We know SAF's always suggested he knows what went wrong in Rome. We'll find out if it was so clear cut, like a cloth that can wipe away that stain, but though some now remember us as favourites that night, I bit my nails as I always do before, during and then threw them down after, worried about their attacking strengths, what if our great strikeforce, as it did, limped. We had to take our chances. We didn't, and be it because he was under orders, or under his own weight of self belief, Ronaldo, a player we couldn't dare call for helping us to Moscow and Rome, took the Catalan bull by the horns as if he felt invincible too, and was lobbed off with a bump as his long range efforts and mazy runs came to nothing.

    United wilted, and as we celebrate 19, the tense approach to that piece of silver glistening saw all eyes concentrated on just overcoming Chelsea/Blackburn/Blackpool, Europe, and its Final, something to wait on when the main event was done. As it can turn out for these SKY hyped season climaxes, we actually won it be 9 points and could give our own players a breather they had no real time for before Rome. It just said that we hoped United would just give Barcelona a game, 'unlike Rome'. Pep now remembers things differently, and says we did give them a game, in the first half. It could all be mind games, even Fergie's suggestion that he knows what went wrong, and what to do right now. Mind games won't win this one. They or he not Rafa. It'll be whether Wayne Rooney has the world class game, and performance, he needs, if Park plays like he did against Chelsea. If Chico gets his break like Chelsea, first minute. Of course the counter is Messi on a run, Xavi and 'Ini' passing us to checkmate, but I much prefer looking at United and hoping.

    Now it's here, whatever the levels of confidence or nerves, Reds just want to give it a go, and have no regrets like two years ago. We trust the management to pick the right team, it of course a running joke that you're better prepared to predict what Ian Holloway might say next rather than a Fergie rotation XI, but strangely after a run of 1000 games or whatever it was before we saw the same side picked twice, though that changing will continue, a side, a settled backbone of a side, has started to come together. Unless we're talking major gasps when the teams are announced, there's probably only two spots up for grabs that are up for debate, and only one real tactical doubt; to Chico or not to Chico. I hope we do have a bit of Chico starting time. He's a surprise element, they don't know enough about him, and though even with an outstanding debut season his record in the biggest games is either good or indifferent, it is the United way to gamble. Put some pressure on them early, then press, press, press. It'll put some incredible weight and pressure itself on our midfield, but of course the irony of an incredible season could be that the very midfield everyone has doubted and mocked, could be the cementing of a great night to come. If they do, Michael Carrick can pick up old big ears, and rightly ask for not scarves thrown at his feet by Reds in the ground, but humble pies.

    The prices of tickets, the sham of wanting the Final to be for the football family, we have detailed before, but as Reds near and far prepare to share the day with each other, in Manchester, London and Planet Zarg if needs be, it makes me hope that you find a Red face to watch it with, rather than an angry ABU one to spit bile. I wrote recently for the Red News/Stroke Association fund raiser: 'You see together we hug and goon when a goal goes in, we'll share a pint before and after a match. We'll say 'hello' or help out when a Red mates needs it. Just as the players know that Sir Alex and Sir Matt never forgot their time at the club, and loved it, so fans know that their mates made at United can last a lifetime, making the unique experience of supporting MUFC even better if it's shared with like minded souls you get on with. Supporting United is unique, supporting it with mates, with family, is even better.'

    What are our chances? Who knows. But I no longer wake up in a cold sweat about facing Barcelona. This season has been surreal, it's had its incredible, dramatic moments, but like a well tuned engine it has pretty much chugged along rather than raced to its destination. Yet it got here all the same. But it's a finale we didn't think possible. Typically cranky, crazy United. Who knows when it started to come together, when, dare I say the now branded to our foreheads phrase (and marketing ploy) of 'believe' entered our minds this season but I feared Chelsea would knock us out. Not because of any greater ability, but just that it might be their turn, that some irrational footballing argument that some anonymous lurking footballing gods would decree it their turn, like Moscow was ours, like Bayern had theirs just two years after 1999. That it evens itself out in the end. With that logic, for Rome then… Maybe it is just our turn.

    Of course, the superstitious nature of footballing support doesn't come into it. We can sing loud and give the players a bit of belief, but what shoes and socks I wear will not affect the outcome. United on their game, a ref on top of his, the vital components.

    Because whilst Real Madrid were, rightly at times, portrayed as the big bad wolves out to get the damsel in distress that was Barca, let us remember that whilst most of the time the likes of Messi just do want to get on with it, and play, they too can play up, let themselves down. A sight in Rome when victory was assured but Puyol still seemed to want to assure himself of 'Tit of the Match' Award as he rolled around and generally made an arse of himself. Most of the time they are incredible to watch, but when things are not going their way, or even when they do, they can show that they are not immortal, and human, with all its foibles. It's not pretty. At least when Nani rolls, United fans say 'get up'.

    Alex Ferguson recently talked on MUTV about United chants and songs and suggested he'd like to hear the 'Impossible Dream' played at Old Trafford. It's not the song for this weekend, because beating them is not an impossible dream. But what he is, what he has achieved, is just that. He has taken a sleeping giant and made it roar, transform a club, a side, a youth structure, an institution and made it, well, believe in itself again. He has made us. He has changed our lives of a certain age. Giving the riches we doubted. We dreamed of, as all fans do, and then, they started to arrive. He is incredible and his achievements even more so. He may too show that he is fallible - as even the Rome question mark that lingers uncertain in the air may show - but that he has moulded one of his most unspectacular questioned squads into one of his most determined, and on the brink of most successful, is just even more kudos to the man. Perhaps his ultimate accolade.

    For him not to enjoy the build-up, that feeling after Rome showed that though Europe is like a long coursed meal, with mighty build up, and then finished in a flash, to leave either a smile or sour like constipation, only victory is remembered, not the long journey to runners-up. The hassles and stresses of costs and VISAs for Moscow made the build-up to that one pass also in a hectic, harried flash, but we savoured the outcome of that slip, but though now just two days to go, let's not just enjoy the fact that 19 is in the bank, never to be taken away, but that we are also in our 3rd Final in 4 seasons. A competition we struggled to fathom for so long, now one we flirt and dance with, its tango beat to our liking.

    The stages may be drawn out, but as you think of Wembley, of the United side led by the master, following in the footsteps of his master 43 years previous, you can't but smile, at how this has become possible, how we must try and enjoy it, and let us and the side realise we are there on the same merit as Messi and co., who may now be tired, ill at ease, as we were last Autumn. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but not quite an impossible dream, because under Alex Ferguson, anything is possible with Manchester United.

    I wish more good lads and mates had tickets. I wish we had a few more days to get ready, to take what is coming, in. I wish Messi has a quiet game, I wish United give it a go, with history and our ethos on our side, that the name of Manchester United resonates around the world as much, or more, than anybody. And I wish come the approach of midnight on Saturday night, we're all googling just how the words of the Incredible Dream do go, because this mad, crazy, shake your head in disbelief season has had so much to it, and not all of it good, that who would put it past them to reach its heights right at the very end, with the final beat of the season. A call to arms? Nope, I'll leave that to Fergie. But we should be proud of where we stand, on top in England, and wanting to aim higher in Europe. Enjoy the day, and night, and bring on the Spaniards by the score. As hopefully United, once again, always score...

    Barney. Thursday 26th May 2011.
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  • Bunter1969
    ***** PEDNAT

  • Bunter1969
    Great read, Barney, and from what I have read elsewhere, it sounds like everybody had a top night as well......

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  • Red News
    here's what I wrote for the programme for Tom Clare's RN fundraising dinner.

    It is often said that Manchester United are a family. Players have said it to Red News in our interviews, staff past and present too, that though the big organisation, brand obsessed a little too much for many of our liking, deep down its roots that tie, umbilical like to those who connect with it.

    It sounds disputable, until you head to Carrington and see the warmth from secretaries and PA's that have worked for United, with all its changes, for years. They connect United's past and present, its soul as such, like we fans do, and represent that kinship more than any Glazer could, or would fathom.

    Alex Ferguson remembers his staff, and despite the odd hairdryer will treat them well, and with respect. Players once spurned will be welcomed back, forgiven (even Big Time Charlie seeing a thaw as time moves on, not on the terraces mind) and whilst it's easy to say 'the only way is down after United', players with no links bar playing for the club, stay. They don't move back home, wherever that may have originally been, they stay in or around Manchester; Paddy Crerand, the great Sir Matt even. We take it for granted sometimes, because of what United has become, and because of some of the unhealthier demands of the marketing men, but scratch the surface, or see away from the megastore tills, and there is still that sense of community and belonging as much to the men who played for United as us watching. It's maybe not unique, but it's not what you see or hear of elsewhere. Once in the United busum, we aren't easy to let go of.

    United fans may have their disagreements, but cut through the rank and file and the adage I grew up with that a Red is a Red is a Red and we should stand proud together, with and of each other, holds true. Individually when we mix, we generally get on. There may be unecessary rows from some eager to try and overdo it - what people should sing, how to behave, even dress- - but we share something so special then only a pint or 90 minutes together can, on occasion, see that single moment of Red kinship become a lifetime friendship.

    We are also eager at times to criticise the internet because of the more rancid elements who pour bile when in front of a keyboard, these anonymous warriers will let rip about everything and anything if they can, but think of the friends you have made first through old email lists, or forums, and now through the many streams like twitter which continue to expand at crazy levels. What once was a distant old style virtual pen pal relationship, can become great pals in the real world, and I count myself lucky to have made truly outstanding friendships through United mailing lists and forums. Because we share something special, we should see the bigger picture, like any family we can argue, but we are united as United, with enemies everywhere, so it much better to get along and appreciate what we have in common, than the smaller things we don't.

    Proof of the United family can come in many forms. The Red offered accomodation when short on a euro away, or given a ticket at face value at an away gate. We've all seen it happen, and it warms the cockles that we can still get along. Tom Clare and Graham Wilde are two such great lads, first encountered merely by names on a screen, then meeting, sharing a pint, getting alone. True Reds. Red family.

    So their offer to help Red News this year meant a lot. I turned it down at first, the stubborn so and so I am. But it came from their and your hearts. In new evolving times on the net, it can be hard to keep a fanzine going, even though I consider them as vital as ever giving United fans a voice. I realised they offered to help out the United family we stand so proud of. Even more that they accepted that we could share this fund raiser for the Stroke Association which means so much to myself, and Tom.

    My Mother, a match going Red until a severe stroke paralysed her, was known by many Reds, and as a senior female Red still growing strong in her 60s and 70s, did what Mums in a family do, helped out many a Red, be it as her time as Branch Secretary, or just helping them out on euros, and the like when the odd light ale would see them get in silly situations. Though she has been unable to go for 4 years, everyone still asks about her, still sends her cards, still visits when United are playing nearby. Still making her know she will always be part of the United family.

    I know some of you may not know much about strokes. I didn't until Mum had hers. But they are sadly more common than you'd think, and research and the scientific knowledge about their cause and treatment is still at its embryonic stage, so the fundraising for those affected and those caring means and helps a lot, which is why all the kindness shown tonight really means a lot.

    You see together we hug and goon when a goal goes in, we'll share a pint before and after a match. We'll say 'hello' or help out when a Red mates needs it. Just as the players know that Sir Alex and Sir Matt never forgot their time at the club, and loved it, so fans know that their mates made at United can last a lifetime, making the unique experience of supporting MUFC even better if it's shared with like minded souls you get on with. Supporting United is unique, supporting it with mates, with family, is even better.

    Cheers all, it means a lot,
    Barney Chilton, Red News.

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  • Red News
    Originally posted by stalky
    excellent read. I shall ask more often if there's such a long gap again!!
    thanks mr stalky, I'd had that one in my head since the goal, but you kickstarted the column back.

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  • stalky
    i'd toss Anderson off for free

  • stalky
    excellent read. I shall ask more often if there's such a long gap again!!

    wonder if in years to come michael owen might crop up in lists of peoples fave goals?

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  • Red News
    Roughly six weeks ago, around tomorrow at 2.25pm, we experienced that ballooning, gooning celebration that gnaws at us during the build up, as we contemplate a draw, or God forbid, a rare defeat, and then leads to unbridled screaming, hugging of mates and strangers and a stared, glared, manic expression of joy that I can’t quite pinpoint in description, but you will know exactly what I mean and have gone through many times by being a Red, especially in Fergie time.
    I mean in Fergie era, of course, the ABUs and disciples of doom will laugh at their own jokes, always a bad sign, by pointing at an invisible watch, and tutting ‘Fergie time, eh’ as if our manager sacrifices new born Bebe’s to gain last minute advantages. That we just never give in, seen with an oddly taken, but greatly accepted Berbatov goal last week, doesn’t cut the mustard to them, but I don’t care. In old age I have tried to realise life is a lot more fun concentrating on the fun, than being bogged down in an online version of mud wrestling with non Reds because they just don’t get it or like us. I no longer care. We do get it, and that is all that counts, as, I hope, we count ourselves lucky. So we gooned some more. A winner with 10 men, ticked off before, of course, but always nice, especially when we could have been behind long before Evans’ arguably semi-reckless, but not malicious, ball challenge.
    So six weeks ago, along came Rooney. Or Rooney’s shin to those who just won’t let anything go and have to seize on something, clenched jawed and fist at any United target. Like some cartoon character, pumping fists at us. You know what you felt when it went in, so it doesn’t need to be described. Just sit back and remember. Quite nice, eh?
    United being United, we knew that those temporary headlines about it being the best Old Trafford goal ever were nothing more than enjoyable pub chat, headline fillers because the press didn’t have much to report for a day or two, but quickly we are moved on, at times forcibly, as if wanting to enjoy the then, is not possible because of the manic nature of events surrounding Manchester United. To some extent it may now be half a season ago, for we’ve had Rooney’s elbow rather than shin being seized upon, and a probably justified red card, rankle so much that the baying mob got their lynching the very next game when Fergie changed ‘fair’ ref to ‘strong’. Hang him!
    We’ve won a few games since, we’ve lost a few. Not being able to enjoy the here and now for very long is something we have to accept, otherwise you’d stand still, but with an international pause for break, now would be a nice time to revisit that Rooney goal. Not least for the goal itself - very, very good, nice as the Fast Show might say - and then let us re-engage the pointless but enjoyable thoughts to great Old Trafford goals we’ve seen.
    It’s all objective, eye of the beholder nonsense, but much more meaningful than still trying to win a battle of wills with the village idiots who hate United so much. They still want to bring up Fergie over coffee breaks, in the supermarket, over a loud speaker if they could. They dissect every morsel on United like a lab rat. Move on, you can’t beat them, much as you’d literally want to at times, and a bit like Fergie accepting his fate through gritted teeth, just take it for now and just desire to have them stewing all summer by winning things. It’s the only argument that really counts.
    I’m lucky enough to be in an email conversation group with United authors Iain McCartney, Tom Clare, Tony Smith and Paul Windridge. At times I feel almost afraid talking United knowledge with their encyclopedic orbs on all things MUFC, but we share joy at late winners, groan at poor defeats, and generally let off steam to each other about the issues affecting us and United, away from prying ABU eyes. For all modern technology, this old (well, ten years!) method of chain email works because we share the passion, in whatever form.
    As chatter across all United fans went to their own best goals, as Fergie introduced the subject with a throwaway line after the city win, I got thinking how hard it would be to choose my own; what criteria? A mental goal, the celebrations, the importance? Then I realised, it didn’t matter. There be no Top Red manual to crucify me for my choices.
    So here goes, Martin Buchan against Everton, rattled in and great delight to me as a kid as I’d seen what those horrible fans of theirs could do in the 70s on the little train from Oxford Road to the ground. Mark Hughes. Which one? That blaster against Sheffield Wednesday, midweek. Robbo? One of the Barcelona 3-0 goals just for what that night was, my best ever at OT. Norman Whiteside against Forest, showing the world what ability he had to go with the brawn. Eric, Sunderland, raised eyebrow to go with the collar, but his dip to Denis Irwin that got the commentator so excited when detailing it that night on Match of the Day. Eric’s free kick at home to Arsenal. Little Lou a belter. Pathetically, I feel guilty if I leave some out. There’s not even a bloody number or list to choose from!
    We’re just lucky, like with late winners and the gooning, that we have so many to choose from.
    The others in email had led me here. They talked of Rooney’s against Newcastle in 2005; Bobby Charlton’s against Spurs in the FA Charity Shield in 1967 ( ; and Duncan Edwards against Everton in the FA Cup in 1957. And Ruud’s half-way to penalty box run and goal against Fulham.
    How many great goals did United’s grandfathers see? How many lost because no benefit of the modern film that we now can watch the Holy Trinity, or any manner of obscure matches we thought would be lost when growing up. Maybe the best ever was when we first moved to Old Trafford. Or the 20s, or 30s as United’s financial future was up in the air (cough, cough). Who knows? Who cares? All that does matter is it filled a nice few days, and still does. It’s a great pub chat to have rather than spending all our days cursing the FA, and whilst the ABU focus seems always trained on us, when we look at the good things at United, we can smile, chat, and enjoy what MUFC is really all about and let it shine through.
    Let the goals and gooning continue.
    Barney. Friday 25th March 2011.
    You can bag the new RN177 by ordering at or
    You can order
    Tom Clare’s Forever a Babe here
    Tony Smith’s United Road, Take me Home here
    Iain McCartney’s Old Trafford: 100 Years of the Theatre of Dreams here
    A Seat In The Crowd - by Paul Windridge & Linda Harvey by ordering via RN (email us at [email protected] for details)
    You can read previous blogs at

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  • stalky
    i'd toss Anderson off for free

  • stalky
    blog on!!

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  • MickMc7
    Originally posted by Red News
    for the one that cares, there is now a twitter feed (against better judgement I hasten to add)
    Good to see you're tweeting on the important issues already!

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  • Red News
    for the one that cares, there is now a twitter feed (against better judgement I hasten to add)

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  • Red News
    Originally posted by Fat Boab
    Only two players have ever said no. Keano and Berbatov.

    What was Berbatov's reason for not doing an interview?
    'he did not feel it was appropriate at this moment in time'.

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  • E.S.
    Red News and stats #love

  • E.S.
    Originally posted by Fat Boab
    What was Berbatov's reason for not doing an interview?
    i suspect Nani may have got the blame...:mrgreen:

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