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There was no greater thrill when I was growing up than the feeling of arriving at Old Trafford after 6 hours on a coach from South Devon. Football was (and is) a huge part of my life and the feeling of anticipation before a game is forever seared into my heart and my bones. You never knew what to expect from the game but with players like Eric Cantona in the team, something really special was never far away.

This is the story of a goal. In my opinion the best goal ever scored. It was the 21st of December 1996 and Manchester United were at home to Sunderland. My alarm went off at 5am as it always did on match days and then…

The artwork for this video was created by the supremely talented Mike Miles-Boardman (https://www.visuallyspeaking.studio/).

I’m 16 years old
Four days before Christmas
I fall out of bed
At 5am which is ridiculously
Early for me
But that’s ok cos you see
This day is special for me

This isn’t any day
There’s a journey ahead
To a place far away
6 hours to the north
Past the Somerset levels
Counting service stations
Chewing on revels
Listening on my walkman
To radio 5
It’s a grey kind of day
Driving up the M5

And the bus takes on
A pungent aroma
As fifty football fans
Drink themselves into a coma
And is that an undercurrent of sweat
I don’t think we’re even half way yet

But we drive and we drive
And eventually arrive
And when we do the atmosphere
Starts to crackle into life

As we file off the coach
Into a gathering crowd
Flowing like a red river
Under darkening cloud
And the red river bursts
its banks into a flood
of 55,000 strangers
Now connected by blood

And ahead of us rises
Red brick and grey steel
The Theatre of Dreams
Our dreams made real

The stands slowly fill
The minutes tick by
The chants ring out
And the taunts start to fly
And the teams warm up
And the tension grows
And my mum starts to swear
Because now anything goes
In support of the reds
In support of our creed
We’ll do anything to get the three points that we need

Then an almost reverent silence falls
As twenty two grown men
Spread out around a ball.

The ebb and the flow,
The drama, the skill
There’s half an hour gone
And we’re still at nil-nil
But then Solskjaer scores
The Stretford end roars
We’re starting to exploit
Sunderlands defensive flaws

We’re two nill up when the
Half time whistle blows
And as meat pies are consumed
And the half time beer flows
It’s like everyone knows
There’s something in the air
The sense of electricity
Is everywhere

And so the second half starts
Solskjaer adds to the score
Then on the hour Nicky Butt
Heads in number four

But the sense of something bigger
Still lingers on
And as time ticks away
The feeling grows stronger

It’s passed in to Cantona
On half way
Two men close him down
But he turns and he’s away
And he gets into his stride
Rolls the ball into maclair
And he takes the one-two
Anticipation fills the air


Time expands, hearts skip a beat
as we rise to our feet

The ball rolls across to
The king’s right boot
As he surveys his kingdom
Hesitates to shoot
And then as if imbued
With divine inspiration
He sets the ball drifting
With the perfect elevation
An immaculate curve
Back spin, A little swerve
It floats over the keeper
And grazes the woodwork
And as it falls in to the net
the crowd goes berserk

But the king doesn’t flinch
Doesn’t move one inch
He just stands
Extends his hands to the sky
And he turns to us
As if to say
In twenty five years
You’ll look back at this day
Look back at this moment
And remember what it means
To be UNITED forever
By your hopes and your dreams.

#EricCantona #PremierLeague #ManUtd #poetry #spokenword

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