As a kid she was dragged twice by me under sufferance to Old Trafford and was bored rigid while arguably Fergie’s greatest ever team at the peak of their powers pulled their opponents apart like a well drilled pride of lions. If memory serves, she spent much of a Champions League game against Sporting Lisbon fashioning a flower from a hot dog wrapper.
Back then I figured that if I could get one of the kids into football that would be my weekend pass sorted for the next decade. But no. A seat in an orthodontist’s chair for two years of braces had more appeal than one in the Stretford End.
So what caused this change of heart? A few weeks ago she bought seats for her boyfriend’s birthday for a run-of-the-mill game against Newcastle. Then United re-signed Cristiano Ronaldo and suddenly the Second Coming was the hottest ticket in town.
CR7 bagged a double and United cruised to a 4-1 win. They sat a few rows away from where I had season tickets for a couple of years and, amazingly, Daughter #1 had a wonderful time of it. They even bumped into and had a chat with Donny van de Beek in town that night. The next day she said: “I can’t get that Viva Ronaldo song out of my head.” I was the same at her age, only my terrace anthem was about Brian McClair.
Yours truly was there to witness Ronaldo’s first debut in August 2003, gingerly hobbling around on tiptoes three days after a vasectomy. Me. Not him. “Painful? You want to try giving birth”, says every mother reading this.
Even after necking high strength painkillers like Smarties for 72 hours and wearing tighty whitey Y-fronts (otherwise known as Harvest Pants - all safely gathered in– the last thing you want is them clanging around like clock weights) a few days after the snip it still feels like you’ve been hoofed in the knackers by a horse.
But as a gangly 18-year-old skinned a poor Bolton full-back alive during an unforgettable second-half cameo in a 4-0 stuffing, I recall thinking: “My balls don’t hurt as much anymore.”