Manchester United V Fulham, from inside the second ‘Singing Section’ trial.
The general consensus after the Real Sociedad match was that the singing section trial was a success. Players, managers and supporters stated it improved the atmosphere, there were no reported ‘incidents’, and, most importantly, people enjoyed themselves. Two common suggestions afterwards were for it to be bigger (some in the Stretford End said they struggled to hear it), and tried in a league game.
The decision to move it to J Stand for the Fulham game addressed both of these, but did not receive unequivocal support. Rumours around New Year were of long-standing Season Ticket Holders being ‘forced’ to move to make way for the fans who had trialled the Sociedad game, although United claimed to have contacted all STHs to ask rather than demand. Come the game itself, most from the original trial were in there again, along with some regular J-Standers and new supporters wishing to join the Singing Section. The club had placed me with the same lads as last time.
Manchester United’s 2014 has so far been rotten, the arrival of Juan Mata aside, which no doubt contributed to the pre-match mood being less boisterous than Sociedad. There was possibly also an element of being on someone else’s patch, whereas for Sociedad there were no ‘regulars’, making it seem more like an away game. Nonetheless, I arrived to much bouncing and beer-swilling on the concourse. In the stand, the pre-match airing of The Flowers of Manchester was as poignant as every time I hear it, with J-Stand holding scarves aloft. A nice touch.
We stood throughout the match, again with no steward interference, and there was a lot of noise. And colour, too; the J/K divide was clearly visible when looking left, as was with North when looking right. There was nowhere to hang flags this time, but lots of scarves were swirled along with the general movement and swaying characteristic of an away end. Songs were plentiful, although not as concentrated as Sociedad, but there was a noise and a zip all game. Increased numbers meant pockets of Reds were often singing different songs, but that is not a problem, as it all contributes to the overall atmosphere, which was bouyant. Nearby K-Stand seemed up for it, and there were even ripples through the North. Despite the game frustrating for large periods, as has the season, the crowd remained lively and upbeat. Another plus. Carrick’s goal was celebrated like a late winner in a cup-tie, with the accompanying gooning and shin-bruises to match. Someone at the time compared it to Bruce’s Wednesday winner. Had Bent not scored, the memory would be of this celebration, and another late United comeback, quite possibly aided by the home crowd. Instead, the injury-time sucker punch left a sour taste, tarnishing the day and subsequently the Singing Sections’ second outing.
I always set my Old Trafford barometer at Boxing Day 2004. An early kick-off (at home to Bolton), the league already gone, and the team in ‘transition’. Sound familiar? As the quietest home game I remember, there was not much Christmas cheer as the Stretford End watched an uneventful ‘routine win’ (sounds less familiar). Any improvement on that Bolton game gets the thumbs-up from me. The whole ground may not have been rocking like Madrid last year, but we weren’t playing the nine-time European Champions in the European Cup. Old Trafford has been decent all season considering, and the Fulham atmosphere and occasion was certainly that, at the very least. If a permanent home can be agreed on by all parties to keep groups of vocal Reds together, singing, and enjoying being at the match, then I am all for it.
For more Singing section info, follow the Twitter account @FansUnitedMUFC
Here are my thoughts on the first trial: http://wp.me/p4ckyX-2X