It was 4:40 am and the dreaded alarm had sounded. In the usual morning daze I reached into my closet, grabbed my fitted jeans, and my United jersey.
Another hour ride to the local train station was in order as I prepared to enter the Big Apple, alone. And needless to say I was scared out of my wits. The occasion on the brisk mid-October morning was momentous – I was headed to New York for the I Am United fan party where the reds took on Stoke City and our previous number seven, Michael Owen.
As I arrived at the venue nearly 2,000 reds piled to watch Manchester United amongst two United greats in Dion Dublin and Bryan Robson. For the 10am (EST) kick-off time, my thoughts were just as jumbled: Will United hold off a rough and tough Stoke City style? Peter Crouch and Charlie Adam were two of whom I worried slightly about, but we had Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney to quell any threats. Despite my diminished worry about being alone in the city, I felt immediately at ease with 2,000 reds surrounding me.
In preparation to the match, Robson and Dublin gave a few interviews before addressing the entirety in attendance. To be expected, Robbo interviews well as a reds ambassador, and was a superb guest. As for Dublin, he gave his trademark “I gave you Cantona” speech. His light-hearted nature brought a smile to my face, again easing any underlying tension I had left.
The time finally came, I was about to meet Robbo. I made certain to wipe the sweat off my palm before shaking the legends hand, whom returned my boyish smiles with a firm greeting and “It’s a pleasure to meet you as well.” Unfortunately, I didn’t bring myself to ask for his autograph – maybe another time.
Needless to say, seeing reds flock to New York on a brisk October morning was stunning.
Dublin and Robbo addressing the bright-eyed crowd and the lady next to me, legs crossed and extremely attentive, politely asked “Who is that” in reference to the charismatic speaker. I answered the only way I knew how “That, is Captain Marvel.” The woman smiled in that I-have-no-idea-what-he-just-said, and glanced back to the former red.
Her reaction was typical, but I understood every red needed a starting point, and that for a young red like myself, I was ahead of the eight ball especially in America.
Luckily enough, I was able to attend the I Am United fan party (the first of it’s kind) and was one of nearly 12,000 applicants who applied for a ticket. On the day, Wayne Rooney bagged a hat-trick – two for United and one for Stoke. Robin van Persie tallied right before halftime, and Danny Welbeck tallied immediately at the start of the second half.
With United up 4-1, Kightly bagged a consolation goal just before the hour mark. And yes, Owen made a cameo appearance – one which was booed by those true reds in attendance.
A true experience of a lifetime, United gave me a bit extra love and support that morning. Three points were on my mind; however, the atmosphere was electric and meeting former United members was a heart warming time.
Upon the conclusion of the event, I remember what happened next vividly. Exiting the venue with the blue-sky and sun blaring down at my face, I walked back to the train station in solace…I Am United.