December 26, 2008
Manchester United returned from Tokyo as Champions of the world but were nearly taught a lesson in the basics of football at the Britannia Stadium this Boxing Day. United emerged victorious with a late goal from Carlos Tevez in a fractious and ill-tempered local derby with Stoke City after Andy Wilkinson's sending off.
United can count themselves lucky that it was a player in red and white stripes who recieved his marching orders after both Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo had done their best to earn straight reds themselves. Rooney could easily have been dismissed for aiming an elbow at Abdoulaye Faye, which the referee chose to ignore, and Ronaldo could similarly have been punished after kicking out at Wilkinson minutes before the Stoke man retaliated.
December 21, 2008
Milan were delirious, Sao Paolo went crazy, Manchester United complained about a lack of sleep and kept an eye on the match at Stoke. We are a funny bunch in this country. It is a tremendous honour to be able to represent your nation and for United fans this is the way to do it. The general consensus on the England team around the stands of Old Trafford is that England are a London club who play at a London ground whose sole purpose is to injure United players. Well this time, we got to be both United and the representatives of our nation. Plus nobody got injured.
Of course, we don't know how this competition will evolve but it is appropriate, considering our history with the European Cup, that we embrace the challenge and take it seriously. Not to do so would be un-United.