Manchester United – Memory Lane
This season, I am taking a walk down memory lane, back through my 24 years and over 600 games of watching Palace.
For each home game, I am reflecting on the highs and lows that I have seen against our opposition. Some clubs, I have a rich history of great Palace moments, and for others, there have been limited encounters but I will try to capture the emotion, context and excitement of the Palace life.
Despite all the losses, I used to be able to look back happily on my record against Manchester United. There really was only one game that I wanted to talk about. Unfortunately, as we all know, there are now two that need to be mentioned and one that I don’t think I will ever recover from.
Palace…2 (Ambrose, Murray)
30th November 2011, League Cup Quarter-Final
Sometimes, things play into your hands. I had already looked up getting a train after work to make it to our quarter final at Old Trafford in 2011. Thankfully, on the day, there was set to be strikes around teacher’s pensions so I used the excuse to take the day off and make the journey.
It is amazing that we took six thousand fans up there that night. Nowadays, with us used to the Premier League and regular trips to lose at the country’s top grounds, we struggle to sell out three thousand at the Manchester clubs. However, back then, it was a huge thing to be playing on the same pitch as Sir Alex Ferguson’s reining champions of England.
Since the draw for the quarter final had been made, we hadn’t scored in eight matches and had fallen down the table as we collectively took our eyes off the league.
I remember hearing the morning of the game, while having a fry up in Kingston after going to a strike protest, that United were set to play a team of kids and I began to have hope. Unfortunately, when we saw the team in the concourse, Fergie had listed a team of internationals. We had no chance.
Although the beauty of football is that you always have a chance. No matter how small. Wilfried Zaha destroyed them, I still ‘wanna know how Ambrose scored that goal‘ and Glenn Murray sent us loopy in extra time.
I sleep-walked through the next day at work and still had not recovered the following day, when I overslept and was nearly late to class (as the teacher) but it was well worth it! Worth it for a magical night in Manchester. Worth it to see one of the great Palace nights.
Pride of the South. Conquerors of the North. That was the banner when Sky TV made us play at home to Derby County two days later.
21st May 2016, FA Cup Final
This is still painful. Too painful to write at length about. I have still not braved the highlights and I don’t think I ever will. The three minutes that followed Jason Puncheon’s goal, as a child-less, un-married man, are probably the greatest three of my life.
Unfortunately, the mistake I made was that I didn’t prepare for a win or loss like I usually would. In the semi final, we had to win. We couldn’t blow our big chance against flippin’ Watford. But the final? It might never happen again. Just enjoy the day I told myself. And I did…until we took the lead. Immediately, I couldn’t cope. Tears flowed. For a couple of minutes.
When the reality of the loss arrived at full time, I carried a weight around with me that – while it would be distasteful to compare to the death of someone special – certainly felt as empty as even the most painful of relationship breakdowns.
So I will leave you with a poem, inspired by Five Year Plan’s similar one from before the game, that I wrote as I sat silently in the dark in the days that followed.
It was waking up early. It was like Christmas Day. It was pulling on the semi final’s shirt and underpants.
It was seeing the Crystal Palace TV mast. It was the West Norwood train. It was the Balham tube. It was South London.
It was meeting up with my Dad. It was breakfast. It was being there from the start. It was baby Max in a Palace shirt. It was family.
It was Dan. It was Cliff. It was Dave. It was Jerry. It was Neil and his kids. It was friendship.
It was America. It was Hungary. It was New Zealand. It was Russia.
It was Australia. It was 40 hours flying. It was 48 in England. It was catching up. It was the flag. It was my friends from afar.
It was beers. It was Covent Garden. It was red and blue. It was unity. It was Andy Johnson’s magic. It was my brother.
It was the tube. It was singing. It was forgetting words. It was friendly crossfire with mancs. It was building up.
It was Wembley Way. It was returning. It was a new scarf. It was a programme. It was excitement.
It was Novotel. It was Pavel and Georgina. It was Dom and Ameer. It was baby Murray in his shirt. It was photos. It was jäger. It was too much jäger, Dan.
It was the ground. It was flags. It was friends and family. It was pride. It was singing. It was anticipation. It was peeing (and peeing again). It was unbelievable.
It was tense. It was Clattenburg. It was eventful. It was half time. It was 0-0.
It was singing. It was ‘united’ in our end but not theirs. It was loud. It was louder. It was dancing. It was bouncing. It was even the upper tier.
It was Puncheon. It was pandemonium. It was hugging (hugging Dad, hugging Dan, hugging strangers). It was sitting down. It was tears. It was disbelief. It was ‘we’ve been closer before’.
It was Rooney. It was ‘close him down’. It was Rooney. It was ‘tackle him’. It was Rooney. It was ‘foul him’. It was Mata. It was gone.
It was Wilf’s chance. It was Dwight’s shot. It was Jedi from outside the box. It was disappointment.
It was pride. It was giving everything. It was no tears for hurt. It was defiantly clapping the crying and collapsed players.
It was walking out upset. It was the somber tube. It was the sleeping, jet lagged 8 year old from Singapore. It was 26 more years.
It was Victoria. It was pride. It was reminiscing. It was ‘what if’. It was drinking to forget (and remember).
It was Palace. It is painful. But it’s not Lloyds Bank. It was an FA Cup Final.
Live in the knowledge that thanks to CPFC2010, it could be again. It could be next year. It could be rectified. It will be a fun ride.
My Personal Record of Live Matches Against Manchester United
- Played 8
- Won 1
- Drawn 2
- Lost 5
- Scored 8
- Conceded 15
- Home 5
- Away 2
- Neutral 2
Manchester United…5 Palace…2 (Premier League, 2004) – Granville, Kolkka
Palace…0 Manchester United…0 (Premier League, 2005)
Manchester United…1 Palace…2 (League Cup Quarter Final, 2011) – Ambrose, Murray
Palace…0 Manchester United…2 (Premier League, 2014)
Palace…0 Manchester United…0 (Premier League, 2015)
Palace…1 Manchester United…2 (FA Cup Final, 2016) – Puncheon
Palace…1 Manchester United…2 (Premier League, 2016) – McArthur
Palace…2 Manchester United…3 (Premier League, 2018) – Townsend, van Aanholt