Our away fans are back - how we've missed you!
After 539 long, tough days, Manchester United’s revered travelling support will be back in attendance at a Premier League game on Sunday, when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side face Southampton.
The 1-1 draw with Everton on the first day of March 2020 – a match which saw Bruno Fernandes score a superb equaliser – was the last time Reds packed into a car, coach, train or plane to see their beloved United play on the road.
We haven’t lost any of the intervening 24 games (in fact, we’re 26 unbeaten away in the top-flight and can equal the all-time record at the weekend) but it cannot be denied that our visiting fans have been greatly missed.
While there’s been the odd trip in the 17-and-a-half months separating Everton and Southampton, with United playing at Derby days before lockdown and returning to Pride Park, before a game at QPR, this summer, the entirety of the 2020/21 campaign saw away supporters unable to attend fixtures.
And that’s a great shame, because Solskjaer’s men served up some really memorable wins outside M16 last year, racking up 18 in total from 29 games, which is the biggest tally since 2011/12.
Kings on the roadCollection
We missed the travelling Reds in 2020/21, especially during these 10 blockbuster away wins…
The Premier League away campaign began in bizarre fashion, with Fernandes netting a 100th-minute penalty at Brighton after the final whistle had blown – it was the latest goal we’d ever scored in the top-flight and just imagine the scenes there would have been in the United end facing that goal!
Four more fantastic away victories in the Premier League followed, at Newcastle (4-1), Everton (3-1), Southampton (3-2) and West Ham (3-1), with United having to come from behind in each game. Could the lack of a fervent following have been to blame for our slow starts?
Punctuating that sequence was another bountiful trip to Paris, although again Marcus Rashford’s strike would have been so much better if he’d been given the opportunity to leap into a euphoric Red mass at the Parc des Princes.
United’s European away form wasn’t quite as strong as domestically, but the 4-0 win over a strong Real Sociedad side in Turin served as a particular highlight.
Some fans have jokingly referred to Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium as a ‘second home’ in recent years and the Reds experienced more joy on the other side of the city in March, with Fernandes and Luke Shaw goals helping us to victory and ending Pep Guardiola’s side’s long winning streak.
Arguably the most impressive away performance came at a ground United fans haven’t yet had the chance to experience.
The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has twice played host to behind-closed-doors clashes between Spurs and the Reds, and we ran out convincing victors in April, as Fred, Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood blew Jose Mourinho’s men away to erase the seething memory of what seemed an unjustly disallowed first-half goal.
Finally to Villa Park – scene of so many cornerstone moments in our illustrious history. As United were wont to do in 2020/21, we conceded early but once again came roaring back to grab all three points.
While all of the above provided joy and entertainment for watchers at home through the darkest of winters and into the spring, it just wasn’t the same being played out to a soundtrack of echoing player shouts in a cavernously empty stadium, or canned crowd noise.
Now, travelling fans are back and they’re coming to a stadium near you.
And you can be sure you’ll hear them, loud and proud, cheering Solskjaer’s men on as we compete again on all fronts.