For many football fans around the globe, the game holds a perpetual and omnipresent place in our lives. Club matches take up approximately nine-and-a-half months of the year, with international friendlies and tournaments interspersed through the club season and well into the summer months. At times it feels as though matches begin to blend together, coagulating into an immeasurable series of passes, shots, saves, fouls, etc.
Despite the consumption of football content existing as a seemingly never-ending meal, specific proverbial dishes stick out as particularly memorable. All football fans have certain matches– whether positive or negative– ingrained into their memories, with glaring vividness as if the match was played just a few hours ago.
In this new section, “A Match & A Memory”, we will discuss Newcastle United matches that have seared themselves in our memories throughout the years. For the inaugural narrative, I am turning back the clock to December 7th 2013, when Newcastle United traveled to the hallowed halls of Old Trafford to face Manchester United.
An alarm set to 7:00am on a Saturday morning is a rarity for a student in their first year of college. Due to this early wake-up, paired with a late Friday night full of booze and debauchery, the headache began to set in almost immediately as I poured my coffee and muttered about my morning ailments. Finally, having showered, drank several cups of water and coffee, and donned my customary Newcastle kit adorned with “Jonas 18” on the back side, I slipped back into my bed to put on the match.
It was Matchweek 15 of the 2013/14 Premier League season, and despite coming off a 3-0 defeat at Swansea in the midweek, Newcastle was sitting 7th in the table on 23 points. In fact, we were a point ahead of Manchester United, who under new manager David Moyes, were off to an inauspicious start to the season. I remember feeling oddly positive at the kickoff, a residual sentiment from the 3-0 battering that Newcastle had given Manchester United at St James’ Park in the previous fixture back in January.
The first half contained little to remember, a tame period that saw limited shots on target, with Mathieu Debuchy coming closest just before the break. With the home side Red Devils lacking any sort of attacking potency in the initial forty-five minutes, I had an optimistic hope that we could leave Old Trafford with at least a draw.
The second half began in exciting yet worrisome fashion, as a Patrice Evra header led to a last-ditch goal line clearance by Vurnon Anita. Immediate protests by Manchester United players followed, and replays showed that Anita handled the ball before clearing it away into the stands. However, this was a time before VAR reviews, and Newcastle was lucky to not concede both a penalty and potential red card for Anita’s prevention of a goal opportunity.
In the 61st minute, Newcastle found the breakthrough. Evra tried to clear a loose ball at midfield, but the ball struck Moussa Sissoko, who proceeded to bolt down the right side into acres of space. Surveying the box for crossing options, Sissoko played a cut back to the onrushing Yohan Cabaye, who slotted the ball into the bottom left corner past a diving David de Gea.
I instantly erupted into a silent rendition of my typical screaming and jubilant elation, as to not wake my roommate who lay asleep about two meters from my corner of the shared dorm. This was Cabaye’s third goal of the campaign, and second consecutive goal against Manchester United (with the former being his cracking free kick in the 3-0 victory eleven months previous).
Newcastle buckled down defensively for the remaining thirty minutes with Cheik Tioté– in what was a signature performance by the Ivorian– bossing the midfield as the Red Devils sought an equalizer. My own silent cheering coincided with the triumphant roar that exploded from the away end at the final whistle, as Newcastle had completed their first league win at Old Trafford since 1972.
I rose from my seat with sweat underneath my jersey and corroded fingernails, the price paid for an immensely nerve-wracking ninety minutes. However, despite the final few minutes of the match seeming like an eternity, Newcastle had come away with a famous victory. We finished with 53% possession……. in a Premier League match………. away………… against Manchester United. A shocking statistical reality that would seem an absurd dream in the modern-life of a Newcastle United fan.