Tues 18th Aug
Man Utd 8 v 4 European XI
8: Giggs, Scholes, Cruyff, P.Neville, Butt, Notman 2, Eric Cantona.
 4: Papin, Blanc, Dahlin, Mark Wilson.  

  Multi Media Diary by Barry Leeming.          The Dennis Viollet Fund

A tearful goodbye
             By "Our Salford Lass"

Having got home at 11.45pm, just in time for the highlights programme (which should have been "done" under the trade descriptions act - since when was that awful Mick Hucknall song a highlight!?), being only human, I had to watch the game again - didn't I? Then of course, it was almost 1am and I was knackered. I sat down at my computer, which is in my bedroom, took one look at the bed, and succombed! I've woken up this morning with a hangover, despite having not taken a drop of alcohol, I was on such a high yesterday. My friends, it was one of those days that I will remember all my life, for many reasons. I will try below to share it with you, despite the fact that words can never do justice to the many emotions I felt in just a few short hours.

The day began in the Throstles Nest, having lunch with the Mad Dane. It being so early in the day, Barry was (almost) sober, although a little under the weather following the evening before. A warning from Pete to stay sober if he wanted to get into Old Trafford kept him in reasonable condition. At least as long as I was there, what happened after I left I know not - presumably others will take up the story as the day unfolds. Suffice to say we had an really enjoyable couple of hours and a good natter, something we haven't been able to do before because our previous meetings have been fleeting.

Just before 4pm I headed off in a taxi for the Copthorne Hotel where I met up with Paul and Mick for a meeting with Helen Viollet, Dennis's wife. Helen was over for the game to represent Dennis, who was not able to attend, because of his illness. It was wonderful to meet Helen and members of her family and to spend so much time chatting about Dennis and some of her memories. She is a lovely and very brave lady. We were also privileged to see the original drawings of the prints that Paul has done to raise money for Dennis - I advise you all to buy one/both - they are wonderful, we have amongst us a very talented man. Mick, as usual dragged the tone of the afternoon down a couple of notches, by having an unusual liaison in the Gents toilets - I will say no more! I had intended to get back to the Throstles before the game, but we ended up spending the next couple of hours in the Copthorne, like kids in a toyshop! The survivors and the families were staying at the hotel and we sat in the foyer and watched as past Manchester United legends walked by. And Helen kindly introduced us to Noel Cantwell, Ray Woods and Roger Byrne Junior. I was very pleased with myself - outwardly I managed to behave like an intelligent adult. Inwardly I was a star-struck kid! But the star of the day was Mrs Edwards (mum of Duncan) who was gracious enough to allow her photo to be taken with Mick and Paul. With an energy belying her 88 years, she brought a bright ray of sunshine into the hotel with her smile, a meeting I'll never forget. The crowning point of the afternoon for me was receiving a print of a painting I have coveted for a long time - of Old Trafford in 1957.

So I set off to OT with my print under my arm, and my head buzzing with excitement. I arrived at 7pm to find the son-and-heir waiting for me. After telling him all my news and having a quick pasty, we made our way to our seats and into a stadium almost taking off on the sheer nervous energy that was around. As we waited for the game to start, we played spot-the-player as both sets of players warmed up. "Hughsie, Hughsie", "There's only one Bryan Robson". Eric was, of course, nowhere to be seen - obviously preparing for his big entrance. Seeing Sparky almost had me tipping over the edge and I had to wipe away a little tear (although he didn't look too good in the awful black and white stripes that the Cantona eleven were wearing - surely those shirts weren't chosen by Eric?). Robbo looked a little portly (sorry Ethel!) but obviously raring to go and delighted to be back at OT as a player. Gascoigne looked as portly as Robbo! Blanc, Papin, Prunier (!) - all famous names. No sign of either Ince or Kanchelskis (although one of the lesser known Frenchmen did fool some of the crowd (including the son-and-heir) into thinking he was the Russian and looked a bit confused when called a traitorous Russian tw*t by one rather drunken gentleman in the front row! Lee Sharpe was also supposed to be present, but I didn't see him - perhaps its just my eyesight or (I believe) his new hairdo! Pally wasn't playing but was in the crowd and introduced towards the end of the game. Finally, I also have to report that Joel Cantona is almost as good looking as his brother, not that I notice this sort of thing of course, only being interested in the players' footballing skills!

Before the game got underway, we had to endure the awful bleatings of Mick Hucknall. I apologise to all those of you who like him (I actually quite like his music myself) and I know he is a long-time local Red etc etc., and I know Eric asked for him personally, but I thought he was dreadful. He could have used the occasion to sing something appropriate such the Flowers of Manchester but no, he chose to sing "Everytime We Say Goodbye" and I found the words not only inappropriate, but if anything a little sick. Never mind, during his warble, we were entertained by the humour of some lads behind us and luckily, he didn't go on for too long. Once that was over, there were some presentations - for Reserve Player of the Year (Michael Twiss), for Young Player of the Year (Wesley Brown) and for the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year (Ryan Giggs). Then the teams came out on the pitch.

By now, we were all in a fever of excitement having sung the United Calypso and "Ooh Aah Cantona" until we were hoarse. Still, there was no Eric. The teams came out and lined up, we sang "Hughsie" and "Only one Bryan Robson" and waited. Then the big announcement - "Welcome back , Eric Cantona" and the whole place erupted as Eric came down the tunnel, hand-in-hand with his son. Wearing the black and white stripes of the opposition, he took his place as their captain in the line-up - Eric, Sparky and Robbo playing together again. By now, I was still a little tearful, but the tears were rapidly being replaced with a massive grin - which lasted throughout the next two hours. I haven't had such pure enjoyment at a game for a long time (well, since Anfield last season!)

Before the game started proper, we had a minutes silence for the victims of the Omagh bombing which (once a few idiots realised what was going on) was total and very moving. Then the game started, Pascal Olmeta came down our end in the goal, and a legend was born! Olmeta was wonderful, I just hope Peter wasn't watching! He went off up the pitch on long winding runs, defeating 5 and 6 players, he took a free kick which just shaved the bar a la Beckham, stood to attention with his hand on his heart whilst we sang the Marsellaise. Soon the chant "Fergie Fergie sign him up" was taken up by the whole stadium as he danced in front of his goal. Later, watching the highlights on TV, the commentators could hardly speak for laughing, watching this guy. He was absolutely wonderful and lit up the whole stadium with his personality. The rest of the players were taking the game a little more seriously. Unlike most friendlies, which tend to be boring 0-0 or 1-1 draws, there were goals galore, 12 of them in fact - including a couple for the opposition by two of the United youngsters, and all the players were playing their best football, although obviously enjoying themselves too - lots of smiles and shaking of hands, nice to see the United first team relaxing and just enjoying the football. Robbo was having a great time - a little slow, but still the same old Robbo, putting his heart and soul into it and obviously making the most of his last chance to star ar OT. The younger United lads (particularly Wes Brown, Nick Culkin and Alex Notman when he came on later in the game) were taking the game seriously, using it as their chance to shine and show what they could do. Alex and Kiddo were also getting into the spirit of the thing - smiling and waving to us and particularly enjoying Olmeta performance.

And as for Eric - as the game wore on we saw more and more of the old Eric. He may be a little over-weight and rusty, but the flicks, the movement, and particularly the presence - it was all still there. It was soo good to see him strutting about the pitch, chest out, as arrogant as ever. The second half though was the time that the real Eric re-appeared. Coming out of the tunnel, in a Red shirt, leading the United team, it was like he'd never been away. Gradually he began to enjoy himself, linking up with the kids he had nurtured. After about 10 minutes, the collar went up and the King was back. His every move was cheered and the chants rang out around OT. We willed him to score. Eventually, the opposition defence opened up, Eric shimmied past one, then another and then lifted a cheeky ball over Prunier and into the net. The crowning moment to a wonderful game as we all stood and sang "Ooh Aah Cantona" and "What a friend we have in Jesus". We didn't care that it was probably set up (it was the 7th goal after all), the King was back (if only briefly) and time had stood still.

It was with sadness that we heard the final whistle. After all the excitement and the joy of the game itself, reality once more asserted itself. Eric was presented with a trophy in memory of his time at OT, but it was the Busby Babes and the Munich air crash which were the focus of attention as we remembered why we, and Eric and all the other players were there. Then it was time to say goodbye to the King, and in our hearts to those wonderful boys who died so long ago. He spoke to us of Munich and of his wish to do something to help commemorate it and raise money for the families and survivors. He then explained that he had left because he had lost the passion for football - he had had 10 years in football, and the 5 years he had spent at OT were the best of all. He told us he loved us and that who know, he may see us again soon. At this point, there were a more than a few people wiping away the tears. He then ran around the pitch as 55,000 people sang his name and said farewell. A moment no-one present will ever forget.

Finally, some people have expressed doubts about the game - believing that it had become the Eric Cantona roadshow, rather than a Munich memorial game. I have felt these doubts myself. Having been there last night, however, I don't believe that this was the case. Of course a lot of people came to worship Eric and to see him for one last time, but the reason for the game was never forgotten. I would not be happy with anything that showed anything less than total respect for the Babes and I was very happy with what happened last night. It was a fitting tribute, a celebration of exciting, passionate football which the Babes would have loved. A celebration of Manchester United and all the very special players we have been privileged to see at Old Trafford. Eric didn't "take over" the occasion, he represented all those players - in showing our appreciation of Eric Cantona, we were showing our appreciation of every great player who has ever pulled on a United shirt. I loved it and will never forget it.

Manchester Utd: Culkin; G Neville, May, Brown, P Neville; Beckham, Butt, Keane, Giggs; Scholes, Sheringham. Subs: Curtis, Gibson, Cruyff, Wilson, Notman, Greening, Higginbotham, Clegg.

European XI: Olmeta; Festa, Prunier, Blanc; Vahirua; Robson, Gascoigne, E Cantona; Dahlin, Hughes, Papin. Subs: Sharpe, J Cantona, Ferrer, Galtier.

Referee: R Dilkes (Mossley).

Copyright © 1998 by "Our Salford Lass".
All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission of the author

A Family Affair    
personal report written by "RED KELLY"

That's what we are aren't we, a family? A family bonded by our love for a club - Manchester United. What brings us together are not just the players on the pitch, but the whole history of the club and it was that history that we were commemorating on Tuesday night.

I first started being interested in football around the time of the Babes so this was to be one of the most important occasions I can remember. I will never forget the feeling of utter despair and the tragedy that happened at Munich over 40 years ago. It is a long time ago - half a lifetime, but the memory lives on and should live on in the hearts of every true United supporter forever and ever.

The event started for me in the early afternoon when BDS Meade called in. We had something to eat, finished off some work and then set off for Manchester at around 1.30. Our immediate destination was the Copthorne Hotel at Salford Quays to meet up with Linda, Andy Walsh and another friend Karl Smith and his wife Wendy. More importantly we had an arranged meeting with Helen Viollet who is over in this country for a few days having left Dennis with their daughter Rachel. It was never really going to be possible for Dennis to make the trip over.

After a good journey up the M6 and a phone call from Andy to say that he wouldn't be able to make the meet, we arrived more or less on time and walked to the Copthorne along the banks of the Ship Canal. The afternoon was warm and friendly and there was an expectancy in the air.

We spent a good two and a half hours at the hotel chatting mostly with Helen but also had the pleasure of meeting and shaking the hand of the man who lifted the 1963 FA Cup, ex captain, Noel Cantwell. While we were seated in the foyer, a United party was going on in the bowels of the hotel and every now and then a familiar face would come pass, say hello and go back again. It was a very strange experience to be amongst so many ex players you have watched over the years and admired from afar.

While we were there I passed on the original pencil drawings I did for the Dennis Viollet Fund to Helen. She must have shown them to everyone in the place and came back to say that one in particular had been admired by Roger Byrne. Naturally it was the one which featured the great Roger Byrne himself holding the 1957 championship trophy aloft.

I sought out Roger later on and had a brief chat with him, he's an unassuming and nice bloke and is the absolute image of his father which made the experience even more poignant. It will be an honour to send him a copy of that print in the post free of charge!

As we sat a diminutive figure almost raced past us and outside to a waiting car. It was Duncan's mother. A while later she returned and while she scurried back it was Karl who approached her for a chat and a photograph. Karl and his family visited Dennis and Helen in Jacksonville after we did in June and are the only other united supporters to have seen him since his illness and so we have a very special common bond.

Mrs Edwards was only too pleased to pose with him for a photograph. Then he called on Mick and I to join her. Now Mick is six foot four and I am six foot two, and there we were stood next to this lovely old lady who could not have been any more than five foot two. I suppose we should have just stood there for the full effect, but we decided to crouch down to her level and almost certainly looked like complete prats. But who cares! The woman is the mother of a United legend.

Next, Karl was off again only to reappear a few minutes later requesting our presence. This time he had filtered into the United party and had collared Ray Wood. Ray was one of my first heroes. He was the goalkeeper in the first game I ever saw United play - the 1957 FA Cup Final and had been subjected to a crunching challenge from a mad Irishman called Peter MacParland. The result of that challenge was that Ray suffered a broken cheek bone and was forced to leave the pitch for treatment.

There were no substitutes then so Jackie Blancheflower went in goal but couldn't prevent the villain MacParland from scoring two goals. Ray had come back on in the second half and played as a passenger on the right wing when with only a few minutes left Tommy Taylor scored to make it 2-1. Ray went back in goal for those last few minutes and United went all out for the equaliser. To me he has always been a hero for that. So it was a real treat to be standing next to him and the others indulging in yet another photo.

What an extraordinary afternoon this was turning out to be.

I apologise if this post is becoming over indulgent, but we were like small children coming face to face with these men. Face to face with United greats who were very much a part of our childhood and a part of the history of the club.

We said goodbye to Helen and made our way to the ground after meeting up with my daughter Eliza and Steve. The news was that the place was buzzing. As we walked over the bridge and came closer to the ground the streets were full of people rushing to get inside even though there was still well over three quarters of an hour to go before kick off.

Old Trafford was packed and a smell of expectancy was in the air.

This was the night when the Memorial Fund became reality and it was the night when our latest 'King' was returning to say farewell to his adoring subjects. There is no doubt that the presence of this one man helped to swell the crowd and thus the Fund. I would have expected a sell out crowd anyway, but it may not have been reality had not Eric been willing and able to make it.

At five to eight the teams appeared to rapturous applause. Perched high up in K Stand we searched for the man himself, but never one to miss an entrance he appeared a few short minutes later hand in hand with his son Raphael. The noise was deafening, the feeling I felt was one of relief at seeing the man again, but one of devastation at the same time, because it would be the last time and because of the circumstances.

Here was the man who had been the catalyst for our most recent successes returning on a night to commemorate our most beloved Babes. It was almost too much to bear all in one go.

The teams lined up and eventually the singing stopped. A lone voice shouted "we love you Eric" but then the ground fell silent and we stood still for an impeccably observed minute's reflection.

It was a moment I find difficult to put into words. We stood there together bonded by our club, in memory of those who lost their lives while serving Manchester United and in memory of those who have been left behind. Roger Byrne, who never saw his father, but who is the embodiment of him. Duncan's mother who says she loved her boy so much but never told him so and Helen who's beloved Dennis is tragically smitten with cancer due to an injury he received on that fateful day.

We had been with these people only a couple of hours before and now we were remembering them along with 55,000 others packed into the ground which has been our second home for it seems forever.

All the history came back during that minute's silence and was to reappear once more that night.

The game was a celebration. The score and who scored is mostly irrelevant, but it was entertainment all the way with the majority of the crowd joining in with the usual favourites. The United Calypso, What a Friend we have in Jesus, Eric the King and many more. We walked down the Warwick Road in song and sang the Twelve Days of Cantona willing Eric to score as we stood and reached a resounding crescendo, but as much as he tried he missed his cue!

There were some classic moments - Becks tried desperately to outdo his Wimbledon chip, but the ball came back from the bar, Giggs and Scholes showed off their party pieces and we were forever entertained by an absolutely ridiculous goalkeeper called Olmeta. This man will live forever in our hearts. We willed him to score as he chased out of his goal and left Red shirts sprawling on the grass. He even took a free kick which only just sailed over the bar and as we advised Fergie to "sign him on" he disco danced to the Stretford End.

We would never have forgiven him though if he had prevented the goal we were all praying for. I don't care if it may have been even slightly staged but with the European defense in tatters Eric eventually placed the ball in the net wearing the Red of United for the last time. He stood there with imperious arm aloft and how we cheered. How we wished he would return and do it in a competitive match, and how we've missed our 'King'. We could go home content now as we stood for the last minutes with beaming faces.

At the end of the game the PFA's Gordon Taylor came out onto the pitch and made the announcements. It was difficult to hear exactly what he was saying but there was one most special moment reserved for the last. This was a moment when we really were a family, a huge Red family, together again in celebration of our history. At the end of one announcement as one the whole crowd rose and sang the Red Flag. We sang at the tops of our voices and from the depths of our hearts. The words resounded around the stadium, "we'll never die, we'll never die, we'll never die, we'll never die. We'll keep the Red flag flying high, cos Man United will never die". What more fitting song than that and what more fitting way to show our devotion.

As we sang the memories came flooding back and so did the tears. It was the single most poignant moment of the whole experience. We stood as one - as Manchester United in honour of those who have gone before and those who will come in the future.

Eric then made a short speech and came to visit us all for the lst time. He took his lap of honour around the ground. As he passed by K Stand and around to the United Road I stood there with a heavy heart and watched his number seven fade from view. To think he'll never wear that number again is too difficult a thought.

Copyright "RED KELLY" 1998

Merci Eric (ET)
Curtain falls for last time on Cantona
By William Johnson

Manchester Utd 8 European XI 4

ERIC CANTONA brought the smiles to Old Trafford last night, his continuing allure to the Manchester United faithful enabling the club to raise about £1 million to donate to the survivors of the Munich air disaster 40 years ago.

His every touch in opposing colours was greeted with roars from a capacity 55,000 crowd in the first half and then when he changed into his more familiar No 7 red shirt he became the idol once more for the team he inspired to four championships and the Double Double.

It was a testimonial for King Eric in which the central figure was not the beneficiary. The team he left as champions of England 15 months ago to pursue a career in acting stood alongside his own hand-picked opposition to give him a rapturous welcome back to the Theatre of Dreams on a night which tried to mix celebration and commemoration.

After a minute's silence in respect of the victims of the Omagh bombing, Cantona and his cosmopolitan mix set about trying to make life uncomfortable for a fairly strong Alex Ferguson selection.

Motivated by a midfield of Bryan Robson, the former United captain, and England outcast Paul Gascoigne, whom he brought with him from Middlesbrough, the European XI recovered from the minor setback of seeing Ryan Giggs open the scoring to roar into a surprise lead.

Former European Footballer of the Year Jean-Pierre Papin, now with Bordeaux, produced a first-time finish to match that of Giggs to give United's stand-in goalkeeper Nick Culkin - Peter Schmeichel was on international duty - a less then happy start to a rare night in the spotlight.

Culkin, who gave way in the second half to Paul Gibson, was beaten again by Laurent Blanc, the French World Cup defender who so unluckily missed the final against Brazil. He responded enthusiastically to Gascoigne's inviting tee-up to drive home spectacularly from nearly 30 yards.

United, who struck the frame of the goal four times before the interval, drew level just before half time when Paul Scholes played a neat one-two with Teddy Sheringham, to flick the ball past Pascale Olmeta.

United, who had a Cantona 'goal' ruled out for offside, were behind twice more in the second half - Martin Dahlin and Mark Wilson breaching their defence - before they eventually took the lead at 5-4 through Phillip Neville. Substitutes Jordi Cruyff and Alec Notman both equalised for Ferguson's frequently shuffled line-up, who added a sixth through Nicky Butt.

The coup de grâce not surprisingly was Cantona's 10 minutes from time, the Frenchman dribbling through a static defence before Notman claimed his second just before the end.


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