Opinion: United's turnout at Bolton was so special

Wednesday 14 December 2022 12:05

On Tuesday night, exactly one month on from Manchester United’s most recent competitive away fixture, 1,600 travelling Reds turned up in sub-zero temperatures to encourage the Under-21s in their Papa Johns Trophy last-16 match against Bolton Wanderers.

It felt like fans who came had been starved. Of United. Of live football. Of relentlessly, and raucously singing ‘12 Cantonas’ all throughout the build-up to Christmas.
Some immoral souls had belted out the Eric chant in early November, desperate to give the tune – which no doubt ranks in the club’s top five – a pre-Christmas airing. But here was a much more appropriate venue.

Crunching snow was underfoot outside and even double socks didn’t quite cut it in these conditions. The car’s temperature read -3 Celsius by the time we swung out to make the short journey home towards Manchester.


This was a mini-revival of a local derby that evokes different passions for each set of supporters. 
Bolton, just 12 miles out of Manchester, is a proud city, but one in which the success of United attracted kids into supporting ‘them’, as it would be to local Wanderers fans. United are ‘them’, the much-despised global, successful ‘super-club’ down the road. 
For Reds packing out the away end at the University of Bolton Stadium on Tuesday night, it was a chance to bring out some old favourites, songs poking fun at Bolton that have remained unaired since their Premier League relegation in 2012.
The turnout was something a bit special. 
Some 1,600 Reds in spite of the weather, but also the train strikes and the fact an enticing World Cup semi-final between Argentina and Croatia was available live on free-to-air television.

That being said, news of Argentina’s dominance in that game seemed to seep through as the end picked up chants of La Albiceleste’s name, in honour of Lisandro Martinez. 
“World champions twice, once more than England,” was another regular, referring not only to the South Americans but United as well, of course.
Papa Johns Trophy highlights: Bolton v United U21s Video

Papa Johns Trophy highlights: Bolton v United U21s

Our Under-21s took on Bolton Wanderers in the Papa Johns Trophy Round of 16...

For the young players, it was a deeply frustrating night. A 4-0 defeat in a game which they never got a hold of. Spearheaded by Shola Shoretire, they looked dangerous on the counter-attack but couldn’t finish what chances we did create, while Bolton’s strong side spurned opportunity after opportunity.

That was until a mix-up at the back allowed them to take the lead and then an impressive curling free-kick followed. Certainly, 2-0 would have been a respectable scoreline against a good League One side who showed some real quality, but two late goals conceded left a bitter taste in the mouth. Four-nil. A heavy defeat. Lessons to be learned. 
Nevertheless, that only emphasised what it would have meant for these players to have such strong travelling support. 
Shola Shoretire impressed on a challenging night for our youngsters.
“The fans were brilliant,” said lead coach Travis Binnion after full-time.
“To come and support the lads is the mark of the football club really, and the interest they have in the young players, and how passionate they are.
“It’s a great experience. It was tough at the end, but they were brilliant throughout and we’re thankful for them turning out in the numbers that they did.”
Binnion: Plenty of positives Video

Binnion: Plenty of positives

Despite our Under-21s' loss to Bolton in the Papa Johns Trophy, Travis Binnion believes there is cause for optimism...

Many of these young Reds played in the FA Youth Cup final in May, attended by a 67,000-strong crowd. And this was yet another clear demonstration of the special connection there is between United fans and the club’s Academy sides.

One great moment in particular stood out for me on Tuesday.

Bjorn Hardley successfully crunched into a challenge on the left wing, 25 metres away from the travelling support.

A thunderous roar of ‘UNI-TED’ followed in recognition, echoing around the empty upper tiers of the ground.

The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manchester United Football Club.