I am currently working in the delightful city of Bern, near Switzerland. I have been here a couple of times before and last April I watched United beat Barcelona 1-0 in the Champions League semi-final thanks to a great goal from Paul Scholes.
Unusually for me, I watched that game with a colleague. Unfortunately for him, I don’t think I was very good company. Well, I mean - who really wants to discuss whether ’late delivery of the extracts pose a serious risk to the success of the project’ when you’re watching your team play in the crucial second leg of the European Cup semi-final.
Anyway, last night I returned to the same haunt to see United take on the Barcodes at St James’ Park. The venue for the night’s entertainment was Mr. Pickwick which is a sports bar with the obligatory football scarves and photographs adorning the walls, serving English beer (London Pride) and Guinness with three large TV screens.
I wasn’t entirely confident that the United game would be televised as I knew it wasn’t being shown by Sky or Setanta back in dear ol’ Blighty. As I enter the hostelry, it doesn’t look too promising; football is being shown but, alas, the TV’s are only showing ‘Young Boys of Bern’ and highlights from the German Bundesliga.
I confidently order my customary pint of ‘Feldschlosschen’ and enquire if there’s any chance the United game will be on. The helpful gentleman behind the bar tells me ‘Oh yes - Manchester will be on at 9 o’clock’. He then rather unhelpfully short-changes me by 10CHF which I successfully challenge.
OK - so it’s 19:43, the match kicks off at 19:45 and we’re going to get the United game in 15 minutes. So I grab a barstool and nervously kill time, watching ‘Young Boys of Bern’ play in front of a very meagre crowd (10, 758)
For some reason, I find the ‘Young Boys of Bern’ a very amusing name for a football club. It is also fitting and somehow appropriate that the ‘Young Boys’ play their home fixtures at the ‘Wankdorf Stadium’.
If United hadn’t been playing tonight, I might have actually gone to see the game as I have now mastered the (very efficient) public transport system in Bern. However, the prospect of getting lost and asking a local ‘Where can I find Young Boys, please ?’ was not an attractive one.
At 9 o’clock, multiple remote controllers appear from behind the bar, TV channels are switched and we all play musical chairs as we jostle for a decent viewing position for our chosen match.
To my horror, I see that United are losing 1-0 to Newcastle after Chelsea and Liverpool both won the previous night. I console myself by ordering another beer. Ten minutes later, normal service is restored when John O’Shea rampages forward (shurely shome mistake here - Ed) and crosses for Rooney who turns sharply to equalise.
I spot the Newcastle owner, Mike Ashley, sitting in the stand. This must be his first visit to St James’ Park since he sacked Keegan and necked that pint in 12 seconds flat for the TV cameras. I sincerely hope the loud United following greet him with the traditional ‘Come to see United, you’ve only come to see United’.
Half-time arrives and, much to my surprise, I see Edwin van der Sar drop a clanger for Newcastle’s opening goal. Kind of ironic after his brilliant, record breaking run of clean sheets.
Newcastle are playing pretty well but United are in control and always look threatening. United take the lead when Park crosses to give the classy Dimitar Berbatov a simple tap-in.
Over on an adjacent TV screen, ‘Young Boys’ have triumphed 3-0 in a cup quarter-final. 10 minutes later, supporters who have been to the game drift in for the post-match analysis and a couple of drinks.
The YB fans are clad in club colours; Yellow and Black - hardly any of them are ‘Young Boys’, more like ‘Middle Aged Men With Beards’. I am forced to gawp at one man who comes in with a YB shirt adorned with the unbelievable slogan ‘Young Boys Forever’. A brave man. I truly hope for his sake, YB never qualify for Europe and he travels to the away leg in England.
Better still, imagine if BSCYB were to meet Chelsea in the UEFA Cup next season. Then we would have the dream fixture - ‘Rent Boys’ versus ‘Young Boys’ !
Next fixture: MUFC versus Milan, Wednesday 11 Match. Location: Madrid.