Approximately ten minutes after Anthony Martial scored against Everton in the semi-final, I was using Tipp-Ex for the first time in about thirty years. The one-time must have accessory for any school neat-freak was being used, hastily, to cover the damage I’d caused to the 3D Butterfly picture that had previously sat on our living room wall.
I couldn’t go to the Everton game so I patrolled and paced, sat and stood, for 93 minutes in my living room. United looked like United again: attack-minded, risk-takers, dominating the game and then nearly throwing it away before snatching victory, dramatically. What a shame it was the exception and not the van Gaal rule.
Anthony Martial took one of those risks by playing a double one-two infield, when the safer option would be to see it out until extra-time. As Martial went for the return, I rose slightly from my couch. Herrera poked it through and I was now mirroring reds behind the goal. A ‘GO ARRRRRRN’ was followed by that silent, expectant, pause; that moment of serenity before the net bulges.
Martial’s calmness was the antithesis to what followed. I can’t recall exactly what I did, but at some point I accidentally punched the aforementioned picture, and then carried on my riot galloping round the living room like it was Whiteside in ’85 all over again. 43 years of age and acting like a bit of twat, but I didn’t care and the picture lay chipped on the floor. I’d damaged a prominent part of the frame and the picture is right on the eyeline by the living room door. It wasn’t the crime of the century but I’m a peace keeper by nature so I set about restoring it (sort of) before the wife returned. Two days later, as I type this, my better-half sits equidistant between me and said picture. It appears that I did retain some rudimentary skills from my school days – the secret is ours lads. *Taps nose.
As the weekend progressed I replayed Martial’s goal repeatedly. Not just for the goal, but to watch the United end ferment too. The carnage that ensued at Wembley looked fabulous from my television vantage point. A proper United end doing what it should do during a moment of greatness. I must confess I have a bit of an obsession with gooning; bloody noses and accidental punches to several friends and strangers down the years will confirm that.
Given our success, any debate about the greatest United goons could be as enjoyable (and difficult) as picking United’s greatest eleven. The quality of goon obviously reflects the importance of the goal (and the inebriated state of the United end). But that importance can be relative. The carnage in J-Stand when Carrick scored against Fulham at Old Trafford in the Moyes era was completely at odds with the usual reaction to a goal in that fixture. But it was brief respite from what we’d been witnessing at home all season and, although we still failed to hold on for a win, it was a top moment.
Among many favourites, one that I remember fondly was Cantona at Hillsborough on Boxing Day 1992. United were 3-0 down but McClair’s goal gave us hope. What followed gave us a glimpse into the future with regards to the mental character of Ferguson’s United (Jose take note!) and the myriad goon possibilities that would come our way. McClair’s second on 80 minutes was added to four minutes later by Eric, whose goal completed the comeback and had the end of season DVD commentator proclaiming, ‘Ooh la la, says Cantona’.
In the top tier of the Leppings Lane end, we held a giant ruck which included battling against obdurate seats. Unlike today’s goon-friendly plastic affairs these seats were made from remnants of dried Weetabix and Toblerone: they would not be moved. The goalmouth scramble that preceded Cantona’s equaliser enhanced the chaos, and the clattering of seats added to the noise that echoed brilliantly off that apex roof as we all bonded.
Ferguson was quoted as saying: ‘the 3-3 draw at Sheffield Wednesday was magnificent…….it’s the way the team are playing that’s got middle-aged fans jumping about like two-year-olds.’ Similarly, a UWS regular tweeted the following after the Martial winner, ’….and we acted like we were 13 when it went in. Amazing goon around.’
Although the game continues to become even more contrived (Leicester’s clappers!), the goon, thankfully, is still sacrosanct. Blocking gangways during normal passages of play may not be to the liking of the local councils who scrutinise our every away end move. But even they can’t force a ticket reduction because a superstar in the making has just ensured that a chaotic United end has traded rows, blows, and ended up strewn across the aisles. And long may that continue.
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