United for Manchester

United for Manchester

Divide and conquer is one of the oldest tricks in the book. If Wednesday’s terror attacker had that goal in mind, he failed miserably. An already close-knit city has formed an even tighter sense of community. Things that are usual cause for division have been shelved. Manchester stands together.

They say by not carrying on with life, the terrorists win. That’s why after the 1996 Manchester bombing, a Euro ’96 game was played the next day, and the Manchester Arena continued to host events the following week.

This time can be no different. The Courteeners will play Old Trafford Cricket Ground on Saturday, and the team from the football stadium still face a Europa League final tonight.

To give an example of this togetherness, a week ago, this Manchester City fan was trawling the Internet for an Ajax shirt. It was going to be worn as I cheered on the Dutch side. The idea of ever supporting Manchester United – up until the events following Ariana Grande’s concert – seemed alien, unlikely: downright impossible.

Now, for tonight at least, it would be preposterous not to get behind a team flying the flag for Manchester. Many of the players – especially younger members like Rashford, Lingard, and even Pogba who lived in the area from the age of 14 – will feel a personal connection. The same goes for members of staff making the journey.

It also goes for the 9,500 United fans in the Friends Arena, and the thousands more travelling to Stockholm to show support.

They will all become the embodiment of a mourning but determined spirit.

For weeks, the press has made The Red Devils favourite to claim the only major piece of silverware that has yet to grace their trophy cabinet. The tragedy aside, it was always going to be a harder game to call than those assumptions.

Ajax are a younger side that play free-flowing football – when given the chance. It sets up an interesting match where the pragmatic Mourinho style will be expected to absorb the early flurries and eventually see off the promising Dutch side.

AC Milan probably had a similar idea heading into the 1995 Champions League final until Patrick Kluivert had his say. United need to make sure nobody becomes the new Kluivert tonight. It would have been easier had Zlatan Ibrahimović been able to signoff his Man United duties on home turf.

Instead they will look to other – rested – faces for success. There are enough mature heads, with plenty of experience, in the Manchester United contingency to ensure the sense of occasion, and the gravitas of events back home, do not overwhelm. You can imagine someone like Rooney using it as motivation to propel the players forward rather than sink with the burden.

After the terror attack, the United players observed a minute’s silence in training. Tonight, they will be greeted with ninety minutes of raucous support from the red and blue sides of Manchester. Sure, at the start of next season, if they’re sitting in Pot 2 of the Champions League draw, it’ll be mildly annoying.

But for now, they have nothing apart from unequivocal support as they represent a great city, unity, honest people, the innocents affected, and the freedom of our way of life.

This City Stands United.

Made of Stone

Made of Stone

The Stone Roses are once again back in Manchester. After the 2012 Heaton Park reunion the unknown has been replaced with a new question: Will they fill four nights of gigs with unheard material?

Leading up to the Heaton Park performances the fear was the band would no longer have the magic. That history had made The Stone Roses the thing of legend. That a reunited band, most likely driven purely by money, would desecrate the memory of something that was fleeting yet special.

The causes of a collapse were made before any evidence surfaced. Ian Brown was a prime target. Bootleg copies of old gigs revealed a voice that was left wanting. Even the most ardent fans braced themselves for a disappointment.

They needn’t have worried. The Stone Roses moved into the modern day effortlessly. The fears over performance immediately subsided. Even if Ian Brown had struggled to sing in 2012, it wouldn’t have mattered – the crowd did it for him. So timeless are the tracks from their two albums, age hadn’t harmed them at all.

Without the concerns they could no longer do it, one can rightly ask what makes this new Manchester experience a must see. Why did extra nights need to be put on? New track “All for One” indicated it was perhaps an old fashioned tour to promote new material. That reasonable assumption would be incorrect.

If the 2012 events were a heavy nostalgia trip, this one buckles under a weight of reminiscence surpassed only by a demand for tickets.

Out of twenty songs performed on the night, only two were new. The aforementioned “All for One” clearly designed for a quick feel-good stadium sing-a-long, that unlike the back catalogue, won’t survive the test of time.

This isn’t to say it was a bad night – far from it. But it was another live performance of their greatest hits album which is really just an album and a half worth of music. That’s all they have ever produced. And there lies the initial fear from four years previous: what if they have nothing left in the creative tank?

Perhaps they don’t? But it doesn’t matter when what remains is so enduring.

Other bands can go under the radar with greatest hits tours, they pull their material from sources spanning decades. The Stone Roses lack that luxury, thus, are bound to face criticism.

Like a stone, they are hard to reshape now. Creatively they have become rigid, captured in time like a fossil. Pure nostalgia rather than pioneering or fresh. However, the audience seems to connect with this condition.

There were more bucket hats on the night than particles of confetti Chris Martin had spread on the Etihad weeks earlier. The fans no longer blown away by a return to form, just soothed into rose-tinted memories of an earlier time.

The Stone Roses have always been a snapshot of a band in their prime, a music scene at its peak. Maybe it is with careful plotting they have decided not to tarnish that with a modern take, allowing their followers to immerse themselves into a myopic musical memory.