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Red October in Bucharest: a Red Devils story

It has been one of those days at the office: complaints, quarrels, impossible deadlines, extra work. Add to that, a terrible headache. Tomorrow will bring the Apocalypse, there’s no doubt. Yet, I seem not to care because it’s 20:00 o’clock (local time) and I have a date with the Red Devils.

  • Venue: National Arena, Bucharest
  • Attendance: ~ 30.000 (out of 55.600)
  • Price of ticket: 6 ₤
  • Weather: clear night (1°)

The mighty Manchester United team will face the minions Otelul Galati. Otelul are surprisingly the current Romanian champions, their greatest achievement to date. Just imagine that Norwich City or Sunderland triumph in the Premier League (although both English teams were founded more than 100 years ago while Otelul was founded in 1964). Otelul’s achievement is credited to the managerial abilities of Dorinel Munteanu (the most capped player for Romania, with 134 caps, the one who scored Romania’s equalizing goal against England, during the Euro 2000 tournament). There are no stars in Otelul’s squad, only hard-working bees.

United on the other hand is perhaps the greatest football club in the world. Sir Alex Ferguson has decided to bring all the stars to Bucharest to avoid another negative result like the 3-3 draw at Old Trafford against Basel: Vidic, Anderson, Nani, Chicharito, the daredevil Wayne Rooney and the living legend, my personal hero, Ryan Giggs.

I change a few words with several United’s fans. “Rooney will score tonight”, they all tell me. “What about Giggs?” I ask. They all look delighted and sing in choir:

Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs, running down the wing,
Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs, running down the wing,
Feared by the blues, loved by the reds,
Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs.

I remember singing with other Red Devils fans two years ago somewhere in Crete during United 4-3 win over Manchester City. Brilliant memories!

I enter the stadium and look for my seat. Unfortunately, my seat is located all the way up on the last row in the home supporters stand (west façade of the stadium), where the wind is simply unbearable. At this game, Otelul have 1000, perhaps 2000 genuine fans. The others have come from all over country just to see United play. Scarves, flags, drums, they have it all. On the other hand, in the away supporters stand (the east façade of the stadium), United’s fans sing their famous songs. I wouldn’t have missed this for anything in this world!

I talk to a guy on the right, Mitko (hope I spelled it right) and his friends. They are waving a Bulgarian flag and they’ve come all the way from Sofia to see Dimitar Berbatov play. Football is a universal language, that’s what people say. It’s fantastic!

Both teams enter the field for the warm-up ahead of the game. From that distance, it’s hard to recognize anyone. I see a Manchester United player that resembles Anderson. Perhaps, Carrick is the one running in the middle. The organizers decide to provide us with images on the big screen. There we go! “It’s Evra”, a guy shouts. Look! There’s Nani, another guy says. Rooney appears on the screen and the fans applaud. The one and only Wayne Rooney! Next to Rooney is Mr. Manchester United, Ryan Giggs.

Time stops running out. I look at the 37-year old legend and I am in awe. In a flash, I remember everything: the goals, the assists, the crosses, Fergie’s Fledlings. Memories about a 20-year old Ryan Giggs roaming on the left side of the Manchester United attack are lurking in my head. Has it been that long, Giggsy? Still a huge fan of the mighty veteran. Always a huge fan!

Too bad Becks is not alongside him anymore in a Red Devil shirt. It would have been the perfect night of football. One cannot forget to include Sir Alex Ferguson, perhaps United’s most valuable asset. As managers come and go in football, Sir Alex will always have a special place in our hearts. Truly, a fantastic manager, if not the best!

Never really threatened by Otelul, United wins thanks to a double from “Wazza”. “Funny guy”, my Bulgarian friend says (i.e. Wayne scored two goals against Bulgaria in a 3-0 win for England just a month ago).  Funny guy, indeed!

It’s all over. The referee blows the final whistle and we all shake hands and give both teams a standing ovation. Too bad Giggs didn’t play. Yet, I am not too upset about it. In a second I realize it is all gone: the worries, the insecurity about tomorrow, the negativity, the cold wind.

I am happy. Come what may, I will always remember seeing United play at the National Arena on a cold October night.

P.S. Watch highlights of Otelul 0-2 Man Utd


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