Reds enjoying the ride
There is something in the air whenever United visit the North East, still a hotbed of football after all these years. The first contest between these clubs was back in 1895 and the visit of the Reds rarely ceases to crank up the atmosphere at St James’ Park.
Driving to Newcastle, the ground is suddenly there in front of you, almost before you know it, dominating the city centre as the club does for the lives of so many of the locals. As the opening game of 2019 for these teams, it was one being greeted with relish by both sets of supporters.
Rafa Benitez, very much a United foe from the past considering his Liverpool allegiances, is much loved by the Geordie public. And the same can certainly be said of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, somebody who rivals most former Reds for the most number of terrace chants in his honour.The Reds were buoyant approaching kick-off after three successive wins during Ole’s tenure but this was likely to be the sternest of the opening tests for the Norwegian.
Alan Shearer, a man who knows a thing or two about being an arch rival of United’s, was in the media room beforehand and suggested he felt anything could happen. Quinton Fortune said he would guarantee there would be goals.
After the stadium announcer suggested, or even ordered "enjoy the game" as it kicked off, it was clear from the first whistle which set of fans were set on getting the most fulfillment out of this experience. Belting out the back catalogue of Ole songs, from high up in the Gods, the travelling Reds certainly made themselves heard. Yes, Newcastle's passionate support roared their approval at times and did their best to get behind their team but the mood of optimism from the away end was palpable.
When the goals arrived in front of those who made the trip to Tyneside, courtesy of Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford, it only heightened the excitement.
Nobody is getting carried away but the connection between supporters and the staff - players and management - was obvious again at the final whistle. Ole saluted the fans and showed just what this means to him. And it would be foolish to underestimate the Norwegian's management capabilities as there is a lot more to him than just being a nice guy.
For the moment, United's followers are enjoying the ride and eagerly anticipating the next instalment. The substitutes warmed down on the pitch afterwards and were joined by Scott McTominay and Tahith Chong, who linked up with the squad. There could be opportunities for youngsters, as is the United way, when Reading visit Old Trafford in the Emirates FA Cup at the weekend.
Ole said afterwards you have enjoy the victories and he is right. The buzz is back - and long may it continue!
The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.Reading this in our app? If not, you might miss some exclusive features not found on ManUtd.com. Download the Official App here.