The ManUtd.com team spend a lot of time in the Old Trafford press box, which isn't the roomiest or most luxurious of places. So when fellow club media scribe James Tuck and I were asked to review a Matchday VIP hospitality package, we jumped at the chance.
Normally, our matchday experience begins three hours before kick-off with a cup of tea and a meat pie. On this day, however, glasses of champagne and a selection of breakfast snacks were presented on arrival as we were led to our immaculately presented table in the Europa Suite. It’s fair to say, this was a step up.
A quick browse at the menu prompted the day’s toughest decisions: soup or pâté, beef or fish? Deliberations were long and stressful, interrupted only by the presence of club legend Frank Stapleton, whose anecdotes proved to be as entertaining as his performances of old. On the sly, the Irishman was also an excellent addition to our table's quiz team!
After we'd devoured three courses with kick-off less than half-an-hour away, Stapleton took to the stage to preview the forthcoming action for the room of well-fed Reds. Several young supporters were then treated to an exclusive meet-and-greet with Ashley Young, who kindly took time out to sign autographs and pose for pictures with his adoring fan club.
The only sour note of the day came on the pitch as Blackburn recorded a shock 3-2 win over the champions, spoiling Sir Alex’s 70th birthday celebrations and dampening the New Year's Eve spirit inside the Theatre of Dreams. Fortunately, the complimentary bar that is included in all VIP packages helped drown a few sorrows after the game.
And spirits were soon raised further when our table were declared winners of the aforementioned quiz, with each participant receiving an official Manchester United ballpoint pen. Admittedly, we were sat with a very knowledgeable family who deserve most of the credit, as the only question we could answer was 'which 1970s Red, the last of the Busby Babes, was dubbed the next George Best?' Answers on a postcard, then.