Manchester United Cafe, Bangalore. Where history was sealed. Where a loyal football fan came as close to orgasm as a virgin would during the course of his journey! Where every battle was personal and every pro-Chelsea chant felt like a slap on the face even though the mouths uttering those squeals were as few as there are traffic-free roads in Bangalore. Where every goal felt like it was scored off your own foot. Where victory felt sweeter than all the losses (even the personal ones) in the past.
After all the drama this season has endured, it finally came down to this one match where a win could remove one team’s hands off the title only to replace it with another hand. Manchester United vs. Chelsea have always been tasty affairs, with animosity brewing from both ends in limitless quantity. Chelsea fans don’t like the fact that every pseudo-football-follower in the world follows Manchester United while ManU fans don’t like the way Chelsea’s fortunes changed after a rich oil-baron came calling and a mediocre club suddenly claimed its place among the very best in the world. So when the stakes are as high as this, it is just totally unfair to sit at home, sip beer and watch the match with a handful of friends when you can very well be a part of cacophony loud enough to light a city for a day (if only sound energy could be successfully converted into electrical energy at this scale!). And so I became part of history, with 3 of my friends. A girl (Saadiya, name changed for obscurity sake), who barely understands football but whose enthusiasm could put to shame a lot of people who swear by IPL and two other guys, one (Johny) who was there only to be anti-ManU, even though the closest he has come to following football is selecting a random team in UEFA Champions League fantasy football which shot to rank 1 after end of day 1 while I and my x-room-mate marvelled at his selections and the other (Kramnik) who suddenly thinks that football is a wonderful sport after attempting to play and failing miserably (I suppose!) the sport in a local ground with his colleagues from office. [Guys, please don’t kill me for this. It’s just the Corona and the Antiquity talking]
So we reached Man Utd cafe at 8:00 only to find a very small line stretching till the main road. Half of the line turned out to be people standing in random order and smoking away to glory, much to our comic relief. We managed to enter the cafe and were told bluntly that no tables were available and that we would have to stand and watch the match. On asking people who were resting their giant asses on comfortable couches, we got to know that people had arrived by 6 to get hold of these plum seats (I made a note to self to come early from next time). We took some time to figure out the semantics of the room and soon found a good spot from where we saw Arsenal playing like they normally do only to lose 1-3 to the highly rated Stoke City(placed 8th in the current league). That was a good omen. Something told me that this wouldn’t be the only win of the day. Ohh and I forgot to mention. I did Foursquare the freaking place once I had found my favourable spot, to keep up with my tradition of letting everyone know that I have a lot of money and that I visit posh,expensive places during the weekend so that people following my timeline can wallow in self-pity.
A huge cheer made us aware of the fact that the team line-ups had been announced. By then my loyal feelings for the club had overwhelmed me and I decided to make a small monetary contribution. I went straight to the merchandise section and picked up a red,shining training jacket. The price of the merchandise can be estimated from the fact that my quick tweet boasting of my new acquisition had a #ThereGoesMyCreditCardBill at the end . Now that my feelings had taken full control, chants of “United!! United!!” were suitably returned with great fervour. Soon it was time for the match as the players made their way through the tunnel. Kramnik was only taking my beer order when the loud noise turned into un-explainable din. I knew that a goal had already been scored and was secretly hoping that it was scored by a United player. The replays turned my hope into pure delirium as I saw Park Ji Sung (so often the un-sung hero of many of the famous United victories) thread a wonderful through ball to the “Little Pea” which the highly talented David Luiz could only deflect into an even promising position as the pea made no mistake, finishing with the calmness and candour that often eludes the crafty Berbatov in big matches. 1-0 to United with only 35 seconds on the clock! Whatte start!
By now, United were bossing the mid-field and they were doing it in some style with the Chelsea team absolutely refusing to turn up. Rooney smashed a wonderful shot off the outside of his right foot which was heading to the top corner only to be denied by the fateful hands of Cech who made what looked like (from the slow-motion replay) a top-drawer save. The pace of the match only increased and Chicharito, the scorer of the earlier goal. missed a golden chance to make it 2-0 as he was put-off somewhat by Luiz’s presence. Everyone had only made peace with the missed opportunity when Rooney was sent flying by a clumsy challenge from Ivanovic which earned him a deserved yellow card, the first of the night. The pace had been electric so far and nothing less than what was expected from two of the best teams in the league. Chants of “Ji Sung Park! Ji Sung Park!” reverberated across the cafe only to be changed to “Van Der Sar! Van Der Sar!” a few minutes later. Meanwhile food and beer arrived. The next 15 minutes went off in a frenzy as the mouth worked furiously on some wonderful pizzas and the delectable Tower burger. Manchester United’s pace hadn’t slacked a bit and the tempo at which they were playing was causing Chelsea plenty of problems. Rooney had another shot go fizzing past the post and Park Ji Sung continued to remain immense in the mid-field. It was only time when fate struck another crucial blow to Carlo Ancelotti’s nutters. From a beautifully worked short corner, the Sachin Tendulkar of Old Trafford, Sir Ryan Giggs (He is not yet Knighted, but will soon be according to this) sent in a wicked cross which was headed powerfully in by Vidic(why do I not have him in my fantasy football team!) as most of the other Chelsea defenders sat ball-watching. 2-0 to United and things were looking really good.
ManU continued to dominate the proceedings and with that the confidence of fans shot up. Fingers were being shown to Chelsea supporters all around, even though one of them was only 6’5” and must have weighed some 240 pounds. This so called Goliath from Chelsea base of supporters got hold of one puny ManU fan who incessantly manifested his love for the “birdie” and told him to shut the hell up or fear for his dear life. Since the showdown happened right next to where we were standing, I had already planned 10 different evasive actions in my mind, in case he were to come after me after spotting my shiny, new, red jacket! The rest of the half passed in a blur amidst yellow cards, off-target strikes and some intelligent ball possession. Before we realised it was half-time and ManU had just had one of their best first-halves ever. “Glory Glory Man United” was belted at full blast from the really impressive Bose speakers. Now time for the second half.
The second half started with Chelsea making a slew of changes which seemed to work. Suddenly Chelsea were the better team and the break had broken United’s momentum. However, the main talk of this half was still restricted to the substitution that would allow Torres to finally prove worthy of the menial fee of £50m. Drogba had already made his intentions clear with a strike which he dragged wide of Van Der Sar’s right post. Torres’s introduction was being disputed hotly when Lampard struck. From a corner, which Ivanovic cleverly managed to flick on, Lampard just hung his boot out and before we knew the match had transformed into a really intense battle. 2-1 to Chelsea with over 20 minutes to go. Tension was suddenly palpable in every face except for a few who thought that 1 one goal was their road to perdition. Abuses were now flying thick and fast. Some aimed them at the referee for not awarding an “obvious” penalty and others at United’s players for misplacing their passes. Slowly but surely United got their game together and were now threatening Chelsea’s citadel with every surging move. Valencia had decided that enough is enough and chose instead to display that he had fully recovered from that devastating ankle injury. He was running rings around the defence and was getting inside the Chelsea defence much too easily. First Rooney and then Chicharito missed glorious opportunities to put United ahead 3-1. Chance after chance went begging as Man United piled on the pressure only to lose it in the final third of the field. Time swept from 70 to 80 to 88 mins. The inconsolable feeling that every United miss might come back to haunt them kept rearing its ugly head only to go down with United’s next goal-bound effort. 90 minutes up. 4 mins of injury time. Now was the time when tension reached its crescendo. Every time Chelsea had the ball, a terrible feeling of a goal being scored ran in my mind. However disaster was averted as Manchester United kept their cool to register what should be the most important victory of the season, the one that almost seals their 19th Title.
The celebrations after the final whistle is something that I will never forget. Johny was disappointed that his presence didn’t result in a United loss, after all his presence had led to 2 United losses this year, one of them at the hands of Wolves. Kramnik and Saadiya were enjoying the celebrations although they found “Glory Glory Man United” to be similar to a “Christmas Carol” [codename for “gay” these days]. There was dancing and high fives all around with supporters forming huddles here and there. The Chelsea fans had fought valiantly right till the very end, but the cafe is like Troy where Achilles slays Hector irrespective of whatever happens in the rest of the movie! We made the wise decision of getting out while the party was still on. It was truly satisfying to have been part of this victory, for it gave me leverage to two things. One, to wear my shiny,new, red training jacket to office the next day and second to rub it in the faces of all the Chelsea fans out there in my office! In the end, its “Glory Glory Man United, Glory Glory Man United, Glory Glory Man United, as the reds go marching on on on!!”