Cleat Geeks

M.U., PSV, George Best Remembered and A Match Best Forgot

In 1967 an English pop group called Herman’s Hermits had a best selling song called “There’s a Kind of Hush”. It was later recorded by the ‘The Carpenters’ in 1976 for their album ‘A Kind Of Hush’, entitled “There’s a Kind of Hush” ( All Over the World)”. It is interesting for a number of reasons when related to the latest Champions League match at Old Trafford.

Manchester United played PSV Eindhoven in game 5 of the league stage of the tournament and were expected to take all three points to secure passage to the knock out stage of the competition. So what does an old English pop song have to do with this particular occasion?

On the 10th anniversary of the death of George Best, the best if not one of the best players to play for the club, ‘a kind of hush’ came over the ground as a mark of respect. In the 7th minute (Best mainly wore the number 7 shirt) supporters used the lights on their mobile phones to illuminate the ground as once the player himself did on a regular basis. It was a touching, poignant moment when for a minute or so those with older memories could once again imagine Best out on the pitch. The Manchester United team could certainly have done with even a little of his skill, his bravery and his determination on a night that they were found lacking in all departments.

The match itself ended 0-0  and leaves United in a precarious position in the league table, although in second place their last match in the group is away at the home of VfL Wolfsburg in Germany, the leaders of the group. PSV Eindhoven’s last match in the group stage is a home tie against CSKA Moscow who have already been eliminated from the competition. Unless CSKA pull off the surprise of the round anything less than a win for United will see them relegated to the Europa League competition in the new year.
European nights at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ as Old Trafford is known have always been a special occasion. Whatever the European competition there has mostly been a sense of magic in the air, a sense anything could happen and probably would. Historically this has roots in the fact that it was Manchester United who were the first British club to play in any European competition in season 1956-57. They challenged the Football League who in 1954-55 had previous denied Chelsea the opportunity to take part in the European Cup after they had won the league that season.

However, Sir Matt Busby, the manager of Manchester United at the time, was a forward-thinking man and was determined to have his team compete on the European stage. Busby took United into Europe in the preliminary round of the European Cup in the 1956-57 season, beating Anderlecht 2-0 away and 10-0 at Old Trafford, a record score in the competition which still stands today.

munotforgetSecondly fatefully it was while returning from a European match, the away leg against Red Star Belgrade that eight of United’s first team players, and many in the traveling party, lost their lives in the Munich air disaster on February 6th 1958. United had earned a 3-3 draw in Belgrade to progress in the competition but were eventually eliminated as a result of the air disaster.

With United’s past history in the competition Wednesday nights match against PSV was eagerly awaited. With the defeat in the first match away at PSV, along with the horrific injury to Luke Shaw, there was a real need for the match to be excised from memory and the three points from the game were the prescribed medication.

Louise Van Gaal picked a team which looked capable of scoring the goals which were needed with Anthony Martial in the main striking position and Wayne Rooney just behind. This formation has been long awaited by United supporters who sense Martial is the future and Rooney’s future at the club is more to be found in a less forward position. However even with United’s striking options the game itself was poor with little to excite the crowd on the evening. The best chances, as in previous matches recently falling to Jesse Lingard who failed to make his mark on the game. Lingard missed the best chance of the evening in the second half skying the ball over the bar when it looked easier to score. In the post match interview Van Gaal expressed surprise and disappointment that his team had failed in such a poor way on such a special evening.
Other critics were not as understanding with the former United captain Roy Keane expressing his frustration at Wayne Rooney, even to including remarks about how he lives his private life. And once again Paul Scholes the former United midfielder commented unfavorably on BT Sport with regard to the body language and emotion of Marshal. “He ( Martial) doesn’t look bothered if he misses a chance, he doesn’t look bothered if he scores a goal. As a centred forward all you live for is scoring goals, all you want to do is score goals, he does not look that kind of player for me”, was Scholes’s opinion on the new United striker.

In the MUTV studio Lou Macari summed the evening up by saying, ” for a European night, it was a terrible game, it was a terrible performance I felt. I’ve been here on European nights there’s always been drama, there’s always been excitement, there’s always been goals as well. Tonight all those things were in short supply I could not see where a goal was going to come from, it wasn’t dramatic. Performance poorish, and at the end of the 90 minutes I don’t think we deserved to win the game. We (United) have it all to do now.”

On a night which had varying emotions, some for the past and some for the present, there was a sense of unfulfilled achievement. United now have the difficult task of winning in Germany and hoping another team will do them a favour in Holland. As the crowd left the stadium into the Manchester rain late on Wednesday night they took with them the memory of the ‘mobile light liturgy’ for one of their heroes in the 7th minute off the field, and the ‘ponderous litany’ served up in the of 90+’minutes by their current heroes on the field. A kind of hush settled over Old Trafford Wednesday night as the lights faded with perhaps yet another European dream fast reaching its conclusion, unless, like the European nights of old, United can rekindle the magic from former day.

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