Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Forget the Cynics and Relish a Real Fan-Fare

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Forget the Cynics and Relish a Real Fan-Fare

Article excerpt

BUT for the 6,000 away fans clad in blue and white and waving Basque flags, Old Trafford was almost empty half an hour before kick off last night.

The Real Sociedad fans, who'd swapped the glorious beachside city of San Sebastian for a day of Mancunian wind and rain as good as anything that the Bay of Biscay can throw up, were full of enthusiasm and refreshed after a day in Manchester city centre.

They'd got in the ground early to savour their first and probably last visit to England's biggest club stadium. La Real, eighth in the respected all-time Spanish league table, were a surprise fourth place finish last season, earning only their second ever Champions League performance.

The stadium's status quo changed 30 minutes before kick off when United's singing section, located in a wedge shaped block of seats between the main stand and the Scoreboard End, began to fill up quickly.

The 1,400 fans - largely season ticket holders who'd chosen to relocate there from other areas in the ground in an attempt to improve the atmosphere for a trial game - were soon in fine voice.

And they never stopped. Not for the 30 minutes before the game, nor during the 90 minutes of United's victory.

The term 'singing section' sounds contrived because it is. It sounds phoney because it is, but there's not a single Premier League stadium which doesn't need a lift. Prices, seats, commercialisation and changing demographics have all affected the noise levels inside English football grounds.

Last night's trial came about after United met with groups of fans and there was nothing contrived or phoney about the intentions of supporters of all ages clicking through turnstiles in the section normally used by away fans.

They had marched down Sir Matt Busby Way 45 minutes before kick- off and into the stadium, to be met by stewards who knew the score. …

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