Time has been a luxury for me this year. With a hectic semester laden with various assignments and my overwhelming responsibilities as a part-time tutor, I rarely had the time to catch a game with my friends. Yet, on March 8 2020, I somehow found myself with some time to spare and after an impromptu discussion with my mates, we decided to head down to a bar to catch the Manchester Derby.
My ragtag quartet comprised some of my best friends, Asyraf, Rynaldy and Murali. Rynaldy, Murali, and I are die-hard United fans while Asyraf was an ardent Liverpool supporter. However, on this day, we were in unison in supporting the Red Devils. Liverpool were close to winning the Premier League at that juncture and a loss to Man City would only expedite their journey to clinching the title. We arrived half an hour before the match commenced and the bar was already packed. Somehow, we were lucky enough to snag a table outdoors that was directly in front of a large TV screen. We had an awesome view and after ordering several food platters and a tower of beer, we were eagerly awaiting the kickoff.
There was one player that we all kept tabs on – United’s new talisman: Bruno Fernandes. For most of the season, Manchester United have been mostly inconsistent. Some of their displays have been god-awful and as fans (everyone except Asyraf), we were frustrated with the team. There have been a number of times where Murali and Rynaldy stayed up late or woke up in the wee hours of the morning to catch late fixtures – almost all of which have been utter disappointments. “We should have just slept,” they usually remarked. Bruno’s arrival breathed a new spirit into the squad and the entire team functioned better as a unit. Up till that point, I had only seen highlights of Bruno’s contributions, but I had never seen him play live. And well, he did not disappoint one bit. Besides setting up the first goal for martial in an ingenious manner, he was making critical passes and dictating the flow of the ball whenever United were in possession.
There was something special about watching United play with my friends that day. Besides the alcohol (disclaimer: Asyraf does not drink and did not drink that night), sharing those moments with some of my greatest friends reminds me now of the power of football. How it connects new people together and strengthens the bond you already share with your friends. The new and improved United squad definitely made the experience all the more enjoyable. It was such a pleasure to see United dominate whenever they had possession against top tier opposition like the Citizens.
United were far from perfect though. There were some potentially grievous errors that were committed by the United back-line.We gasped each time United players gave the ball away and all of us had our hearts in our mouth when City came close to scoring. Fortunately, the City players couldn’t capitalize on these errors and make their chances count.
Little did we know that was the last day we ever caught a Premier League match live. United did go on to play LASK in the Europa League days later but their heroic display in their 2-0 victory. Life without football has been miserable, to say the least. Weekend nights were times where you’d look forward to catching matches live and discuss them with your friends the morning after. Now, most of us do not know what to do with our weekends. The coronavirus has reminded us that football is more than a past time, it is an integral part of our life.