Which behind-closed-doors match did you miss most?
It’s been over nine months since fans were last allowed inside Old Trafford, for the Manchester derby in March, and United have been involved in some astonishing matches behind-closed-doors.
Our editorial team outlines which games they’d most have enjoyed attending...
LEICESTER 0 UNITED 2
Premier League, 26.07.20
Paul Davies, United Review editor
“What a finale to the 2019/20 season this would have been; United at Leicester City for what was effectively a play-off for a Champions League place. I’m not the greatest watcher of games on TV, I’d always rather be there without mood-steering commentary and with the ability to contribute to the noise generated for my team. And this one was possibly the first game during the pandemic that I was truly gutted not to be able to attend. Okay, so we’ve been used to much bigger final day fixtures than this over the years, but this one was would have been an absolute nerve-jangler with a full house in attendance.
“It turned out to be a comfortable enough win for United, eventually, but it would certainly have been a far more difficult afternoon with Leicester fans bang up for it and rattling away with those annoying little clappers they give out at matches. Visiting Reds fans wouldn’t have needed any such artificial aids, with the away end likely to have been as raucous as any all season, and I can only imagine the scenes when Bruno put us ahead with 19 minutes left and the relief when, after eight minutes of injury-time, Jesse Lingard wrapped it up. A great afternoon that deserved a crowd.”
Premier League, 26.09.20
Mark Froggatt, Senior Digital Editor
“Here’s a question, and be honest: when Solly March equalised in the 95th minute, would you have left the away end in frustration or stuck it out until the end? It’s hard to say what my answer would have been, given the length of the journey home and the temptation to beat traffic, but I like to think I’d have stayed to witness one of the most dramatic and unusual goals in recent United history.
“Just to remind you of the madcap conclusion, after referee Chris Kavanagh had blown for full-time, a penalty was spotted and awarded via a VAR check for Neal Maupay's handball. Bruno Fernandes stepped up and stroked in a winning spot-kick after 99 minutes and 45 seconds, winning three points from an impossible position with the latest Premier League goal since August 2011, when Juan Mata netted for Chelsea with 100:03 on the clock. Can you imagine how it would have felt to be there?
“This was an adrenaline-fuelled moment of joy that deserved a chaotic and delirious away end, celebrating with the players as one. We love football for goals like this and my clock is counting down to the day we can witness them again.”
Champions League, 28.10.20
Gemma Thompson, Senior Content Manager
“I think it was Axel Tuanzebe who said that the Champions League isn’t about music, as we all know, but there’s definitely something about hearing that anthem at Old Trafford under the floodlights that just puts a strange excitement in your body. Having the Champions League back at Old Trafford this season was a big deal and I’d have loved to have been there when the players were walking out to face Leipzig. Following that, what a performance we’d have witnessed!
“Mason scored a great opening goal and after that it was over to Marcus, and I’m sure we’d all have loved to witness his first hat-trick for the club. He’s one of our own and it’s a shame that he couldn’t share such a massive achievement with the supporters. Everybody idolises Marcus, we all love the fact that he’s Manchester born and bred, so it would have been great to be part of his big moment. In general, what a night it would have been to be there. It’s not often you thump anybody 5-0 in the Champions League, and I’d have loved to clapped the whole team off after that performance.”
Champions League, 04.11.20
Adam Marshall, Contributing Editor
“One of the many perks of working for United is travelling far and wide to see the Reds play, and I was particularly disappointed to miss out on the trip to Turkey. I’ve always been fascinated by Istanbul and this could have provided a wonderful opportunity, on a personal level, to experience the sights and sounds of the city that straddles Europe and Asia. I would never have visited Kazakhstan but for the job and found that a once-in-a-lifetime visit last year before the pandemic struck. Having previously followed United as supporter to places like Vienna, Barcelona, Rome and Moscow, I appreciate this is a thrill of being a fan and something that we have all been deprived of due to COVID-19. So I am sure I am not alone in regretting not being able to attend the Basaksehir clash which probably would have even included a reunion with Rafael and a chance to tell the Brazilian just how much will all miss on him on the media team. The match itself may not have been too memorable but foreign excursions like this stay with you forever and, I’ve found, become great conversation-starters with people you come across, whether they work in football or not.”
Champions League, 29.11.20
Steve Bartram, Features Editor
“Most of my favourite United moments have come when hope has been all-but extinguished. Barcelona, Turin, Macheda, Villa Park (repeatedly) and countless other instances of gilded triumph have followed sustained periods of utter despair earlier in the game.
“Last month’s trip to St Mary’s was another such example. With chance after chance going begging while Southampton quietly sidled into a two-goal lead, it looked like the jig was up. As supporters, however, we’ve been around the block enough times to know that there are periods in games when momentum can shift irreversibly and unstoppably, so the noise that would have greeted Bruno’s deficit-halving strike would have laid bare exactly what was to follow.
“Edinson Cavani’s leveller would have provoked bedlam in the away end, followed by the greedy, primal roar that always greets such circumstances. Back on level terms? With all the momentum? And just about enough time to do something about it? Such situations are perhaps the most humanly joyous to occupy, with the conflicting senses of desperation and inevitability colliding tantalisingly until, in this case, Cavani stooped to conquer. It’s not hard to imagine the writhing carnage of the away end at St Mary’s – precisely the kind of celebrations of which we’ve been cruelly robbed more than once during 2020.”
UNITED 1 PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN 3
Champions League, 02.12.20
Joe Ganley, Staff Writer
“Maybe it’s a tad strange to nominate one of our most painful behind-closed-doors defeats as the game I’d most like to have attended, but the PSG home match tugged away at my heartstrings in every sense. For such a monumentally important encounter, within walking distance from my house, it felt particularly tragic that I and thousands of other Reds couldn’t be there to cheer the team on.
“There’s nothing like big, midweek European games: that sense of anticipation building relentlessly throughout the working day; the slowly-aggregating buzz outside OT; that special charge in the night air. And, on the pitch, the game delivered a truly great spectacle, despite the result. An end-to-end, seesawing contest, with some of the best players in the world strutting their stuff. PSG’s lads weren’t bad either. And – here comes the controversial bit – 70,000 United fans could and would have made a difference. The pandemic has proved once and for all that fans have a big impact on results.
“The frustration might remain from our defeat, but comforting me is the knowledge that, had we been there, PSG would still be shaking from a 4-0 whupping. The sooner we’re back in the stands, the sooner we can start positively impacting on the team’s fortunes again.”
This feature first appeared in United Review on 12 December 2020.