Mark Rose was at Old Trafford on Saturday as Tottenham defeated Manchester United for the first time since 1989. Mark, known to his friends and fellow supporters as Rosie, goes to every match, home and away, in Europe and across the globe as he follows Spurs to friendlies and on tours which in recent years have included the United States, South Africa and China. Mark was at Carlisle on Wednesday evening, having observed his faith’s Yom Kippur religious festival which included fasting for twenty five hours prior to the game. He then travelling home on the overnight bus to go to work on Thursday morning and will be in Greece this week for the Europa League match against Panathinaikos and then at White Hart Lane on Sunday afternoon.
On his travels, having missed only one match since 2001, Mark has had to endure many disappointments so Saturday’s victory was especially pleasing for him and he will always be able to say, “I was there!” – at Old Trafford on the day when Spurs beat United 3 – 2 after twenty three years of waiting.
Mark recounted the events of last Saturday on the Spurs Odyssey messageboard giving a full account of his day which had required an early 7.00am start as he travelled north with friends via the Midlands to take in the Spurs Under-18 morning match against Aston Villa. The report clearly shows the emotion and tension that every fan experienced whether in the ground or watching on television and the refusal to get carried away with the early score line because they’ve all been there before with Tottenham, only to be sorely disappointed. Even in the final seconds there was still that the doubt and the expectation that it could still go wrong and only after the final whistle could the celebrations begin.
Into the ground then and, as usual, I was dreading kick-off. I took my seat and prepared for the usual punishment. Five minutes in and we were 1 – 0 up thanks to Vertonghen who was a man possessed in the first half. I celebrated but then quickly stopped. It was far too early. We were still going to lose 4 or 5 – 1. As the half wore on we dominated it more and more and Bale deservedly got a second. I still celebrated but again quickly stopped. Let’s get to half time first. That we did and deservedly so with a 2 – 0 lead.
I spoke to a number of people at the break and looked at many more. We were all thinking the same. ‘We were 2 – 0 up at half-time a few years ago at Old Trafford and we all knew what happened then.’ I was just wondering how we were going to throw it away this time. Sure enough the second half started and Manchester United dominated possession. They scored, as they usually do, with their first real chance after 53 minutes. Here we go again. But no! Just a minute or two later we broke, a shot was saved, and Dempsey tapped in the rebound. This time I went crazy, this time could it be different, this time had we learned? No was the answer. Virtually straight from the kick-off Manchester United scored again, a soft goal from our perspective. 3 – 2. I was heartbroken again. At this point I was absolutely certain that we would lose 5 – 3 and that therefore it would be even worse than a few years ago and, at that point, I just wanted the game to be over.
Rooney had a free-kick and it curled towards goal and the crowd roared and it was the inevitable equaliser and…oh hang on, it’s hit the post and gone out. No matter, United will score in a minute. A few minutes later, and here they come down the left, one on one, it’s 3 – 3 and…oh hang he’s dragged it wide. At that point I had a slight bit of hope in my heart but then I immediately checked myself. Don’t be so silly. There’s still thirty minutes left. They will still win 5 – 3.
I must have looked at the clock every 30 seconds for the next 30 minutes. I felt sick, stomach knotted, as if I was about to have a job interview or take an important exam. United were dominating and it still only seemed a matter of time. 70 minutes gone. Still time for them to win 5 – 3. 75 minutes gone. 5-3. 80 minutes gone. Hmm. At this point I thought now, maybe, they’ll only win 4-3. Then we made a sub and all of a sudden looked solid. But there was still too long left. 85 minutes. 4-3. Then all of a sudden it was 88 minutes. Hang on. Maybe, just maybe, we could get a 3-3 draw out of this, something I would have taken from 60 minutes onwards.
The injury time board went up. 4 minutes. About right. Surely United couldn’t score twice in injury-time? However one was inevitable. It was going to come. 93 minutes gone. A United corner. How cruel but how typical. But no, it was cleared. Then I looked at Chris Foy.
Foy looked at his watch but didn’t blow. That was fair enough, there had been two substitutions in injury time. A minute later I looked at him again, he looked at his watch again and put the whistle to his mouth. I didn’t actually wait for him to blow it. The last competitive Spurs game I didn’t deliberately attend (I missed Aston Villa away in 2005 due to being “drunk” at the stadium and being denied entry into the ground) was the last time we beat Manchester United, in May 2001. Previous games at Old Trafford where we had been robbed by corrupt officialdom made me question the purpose of it all, the purpose of my lifestyle. I never thought I’d see us win at Old Trafford and thus, prior to this split second, I hadn’t thought we would win this game either. Thus, as the first of his three whistles went, I went absolutely mental as the realisation of winning the one fixture I wanted to win more than any other had sunk in. Similar to the feeling at the Emirates a couple of years earlier it was like an electric charge had gone through my body as eleven personal years (and 23 club years) of emotion came out. It was an indescribable buzz.
The first time I felt that something could be different in the game was after 43 minutes. Right in front of us one of our players slightly tugged one of theirs who fell down like he had been shot. Foy was about to point to the spot. His arm slightly moved in that direction. Then he stopped and spoke through his mouthpiece. I immediately looked at the linesman who shook his head. Foy then changed the direction of his arm and pointed for a corner. He then looked at the Spurs fans, indeed he seemed to look directly at me, as if to say, there you go, I got it right this time. In the second half, at the other end, he waved away three spurious penalty decisions. It was only now, in the 94th minute, that I realised that a dodgy decision, finally, hadn’t gone against us. Perhaps Foy was influenced by what he did to us at Stoke last season. Who knows? But for once a referee held firm in a fixture at Old Trafford.
The next twenty minutes were spent hugging and shaking hands with other away regulars who were feeling the same as me. Eventually, I looked across at the Manchester United fans to our right who were looking at us, partly in amazement and seemingly, despite all their success over the years, perhaps partly in envy. True success can only fully be savoured when the lowest depths have previously been reached.
Last night, like many of you, I watched the Ryder Cup and saw perhaps the greatest comeback in the tournament’s history to cap off perhaps the best summer of sport ever. On Saturday morning though I got up, with nothing but trepidation. It was that fixture again. I’m really not bothered how we won the game or the details of it. Sport is about creating history. Europe did it last night and finally, finally, Spurs created it at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ as our dreams became a reality in the toughest fixture of them all.
I awoke on Sunday still with a buzz!
Any fan of any team in whatever sport, reading Mark’s account of the tension and his emotions at Old Trafford will know exactly how he felt. They’ve been there and been through it all as well.