Way back in 2005, we hosted two lovely British football coaches, Suzanne and Helen, who were coaching soccer in the US for a summer. We had a grand time showing them around our area and loved getting to know them. Fast forward six years to 2011 and our trip to Britain, we were really hoping to see them again. We’re looking forward to meeting up with Helen in London, but unfortunately we won’t be able to see Suzanne. She had booked her grand tour of Asia, and departed on the same day we arrived. We were so sad to have missed her, but she has proven to be our Manchester angel! Suzanne was and still is a huge Manchester United fan, and Wes shared that bond with her back in 2005. Turns out Angel Suzanne was working in the hospitality office at Old Trafford, and completely took care of us, scoring us amazing tickets just 15 rows from the pitch, a wonderful tour of the stadium and museum, programs, souvenirs and discount vouchers for the megastore. Suzanne, whether you’re in Beijing, Xi’an or elsewhere, you’re the T O P S ! ! !
After arriving in Manchester and getting settled in the Arora Manchester Hotel (great property that Suzanne recommended that was just a block off the tram station but still super quiet), we headed off to Old Trafford, home of the Red Army. We arrived about an hour before our scheduled tour and had plenty of time to enjoy the museum. There were great exhibits about the history of the team, the stadium, the horrible Munich plane crash of 1958 which claimed the lives of eight players, and the great footballers of past and present.
If you were to ask Wes his favorite part of the tour, he would say he liked all of it. The rest of us particularly enjoyed sitting in the players’ dressing room (and no, there were no players in it, I’m sad to report), sitting in the players’ seats during games when they’re not on the pitch (that’s the field for you non-footballers), and walking through the players’ tunnel. This stadium, this team, this history, all of it is awe-inspiring and really inspires you to well up with emotion at their greatness. I guess their tourism powers are strong.
I have to stop right now and make an admission. I am a Liverpool fan. (For you Man U fans, go ahead and boo and hiss right now. I’ll wait for you to get it out of your system. Liverpool is Man U’s rival, or at least one of the main ones.) The tour, museum and game – this whole experience – were almost enough to convert me to join the Red Army. Almost.
Welling over with Manchester United pride, we went to the football match vs. Fulham the next day. Fulham was also fun to watch, primarily because they have one of the few successful Americans, Clint Dempsey, playing in the English Premier League. However, I didn’t dare cheer him on as we were right smack in the middle of the Man U fans. In my heart, I cheered on old Clint. Our seats were right by the players’ tunnel, and we got great views of the players coming on and off the pitch. We learned a bit of the Man U songs, and cheered the players on. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience watching these footballers play in person, these athletes which we watch week in and week out do their thing.
We were a little sad that our favorites, Rooney (Who ate all the pies, Fat Boy?), Giggs and Van Der Sar who retires at the end of the year, didn’t play that day, but we were still rewarded with some great action right before our eyes. Berbatov had a nice goal, for which Nani had an amazing assist by dribbling through five guys. For the second goal, Nani drove up the left side, cut in towards goal, juked out the keeper and got past him, and passed it to a wide open Valencia who beautifully headed it in. The end result was 2-0 for Man U, and they earned 3 more points to keep them at the top of the league. There you go, Suzanne; there are your 3 points!
We waited in line for the Megastore before the game, and while it would be madness, the kids wanted to get their jerseys for the game. Wes chose a Giggs jersey (because he already has a Rooney one), and Squid chose a Van Der Sar keeper jersey. No, she’s not a keeper but purple is her favorite color. Makes total sense, right?
I asked Wes what his favorite part of the game was, and do you want to guess his answer? The game. That’s right. It was for all of us too. Thank you, Suzanne, our Man U Angel for making this a dream come true!
Tomorrow, we journey to Liverpool and visit Anfield Stadium and the Beatles museum.