FORGET Darius Vassell, forget Benjani. One man was responsible for Manchester City’s first win at Old Trafford since 1974. And that man was BBC Radio Manchester’s Ian Cheeseman.
At least, that’s the case if you listen to Vassell, who scored the first goal in City’s 2-1 victory this afternoon.
Interviewed after the game, the striker revealed that City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson had gone for the minimalist approach in his team talk to inspire the players ahead of the game.
“The manager told us how long it was since the last City win at Old Trafford and that was all he had to say,” Vassell said. “It inspired us.”
Quite a revelation, given that Eriksson didn’t appear to know himself how long City’s winless streak at Old Trafford was before Cheeseman pointed it out to him in this exchange at a press conference two days ago:
Cheeseman: History says it’s a difficult fixture this. City haven’t won there since 1974.
Eriksson: I didn’t know that! 1974! That’s a long time!
Cheeseman: Is it an impossible task to win there?
Eriksson: No. Nothing is impossible in football.
So there you go. As the Sun might have said, It Was Cheeseman Wot Won It.
Whatever the inspiration, City were the better team. Micah Richards and Richard Dunne were outstanding in defence, frustrating Cristiano Ronaldo and Co, and ensuring that keeper Joe Hart was well protected. Dunne’s performance was particularly astonishing given that he spent yesterday in his sick bed with a fever brought on by a bout of tonsillitis.
Equally outstanding were City’s fans, who observed impeccably the minute’s silence in honour of those who died in the Munich air disaster 50 years ago.
A mystery remains over who was responsible for the loud bangs outside the ground during the silence: it sounded like a series of gunshots, but there were reports that it was someone letting off fireworks outside. It certainly wasn’t planned as part of the tribute, and it’s a puzzle that will probably remain unsolved.
But the silence inside the ground from both sets of fans was a fitting end to a series of tributes to the Munich dead. As a journalist working in Manchester, I was glad for that fitting end.
When you work for the Manchester Evening News, as I do, you get a reminder of the significance of the disaster every time you enter the office.
For on the wall, next to the sports desk, is a plaque in honour of Tom Jackson, the MEN’s United correspondent, who was one of eight journalists to die in the crash. Another, of course, was the News Of The World’s Frank Swift, the legendary former City goalkeeper, and a man that Blues fans have been paying their own tributes to this week.
Because the horror of Munich will never go away, because it is a tragic part of Manchester’s history, and because it affected the city as a whole, it was uplifting to see fans on both sides show such class in respecting the silence. They were a great credit to a great city.
Those fans saved their rivalry for the match. And as a result, when City fans go into work tomorrow morning, they can enjoy teasing their United-supporting colleagues with a clear conscience, enjoying their victory safe in the knowledge that the build-up was not soured in the way many observers feared it might be.
City deserved their win. And maybe the local BBC radio reporter deserves to take some of the credit for it too.