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12 Days of Eric Cantona (or the price paid for hearing your own voice in a crowd of 80,000 on a frigid night in Manchester)

Manchester United Old Trafford Bournemouth

There may have been a few dreams conjured inside the theater of Old Trafford on this pre-Christmas night but those would’ve been of the dancing sugarplum variety courtesy of a middle management approach to football played by the home side, ushering supporters into an earlier long winter’s slumber.

Those who managed to remain lively were either expressing their displeasure at the absence of anything even vaguely resembling attacking flair by Mourinho’s men with hearty Mancunian groans or singing a reductive version of 12 Days of Christmas with ‘Eric Cantona’ replacing all of the gifted animals, golden rings and lords a-leaping in the never-ending carol.

No one could be blamed for trying to entertain themselves when the presumed entertainment before our eyes was failing so miserably to do so.

I was in the corner of the Alex Ferguson Stand, smack dab on the end line, about 15 rows from the drenched, shimmering green pitch and from where former Saint Luke Shaw was taking corner kicks.

The guy, a slim bloke of maybe 30 but with a hairline belying a more advanced age, was seated one section over to my right, in line with the 6 yard box or thereabouts. He had a white megaphone with a United-red handle and trim.

How he got that damn thing through the turnstiles, no one knew.

We were all patted down twice, three times if a pop into the United megastore preceded taking your seat, which it did for me.

“Maybe he stuffed it under his hat”, one fan cracked wise to another.

I imagined a cartoonishly large Abe Lincoln style top hat, the mental picture of which made me laugh out loud a little bit. Ah, some entertainment at last.

Manchester United Old Trafford Bournemouth pano

The turgid affair received no boost after the interval, and megaphone guy stood up to shout-sing along with the 12 Days of Cantona.

Are you not entertained?

He was all smiles, one hand on the device, the other punching the air in admirable synchronization with each numerical day of Christmas as puffs of visible breath crawled out the sides of the mouthpiece.

He made it through 3 choruses of the sped-up iteration originating from the terraces behind the goal in front of us before yellow clad stewards made double time up the steps to remove the megaphone.

He didn’t put up a fight, and I thought maybe they were in cahoots, that maybe the megaphone was already at the ground, that maybe it was an inside job.

Less than a minute of gametime passed before orange bibbed stewards, the muscle of this operation as it were, climbed those same stairs to remove megaphone guy, quickly dispelling my guess of a clever scheme.

Inspector Lewis, I am not.

Sure, it was a sullen match on a frigid Wednesday night, but the idea of doing something, let alone something so frivolous as obnoxiously inserting yourself into the communal narrative, to get yourself ousted from the Theater of Dreams with some 40 minutes to play is beyond comprehension.

In the end, like the half chances created by both clubs on the night, the entertainment among the rows of bright red seats was also fleeting.

The rest of us in that corner of the Fergie stand in Old Trafford were left only with one more thing worthy of shaking our heads in disbelief over.

Manchester United Old Trafford Bournemouth

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