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Published: 12 May 2002

by Red Kelly

What a rollercoaster ride the 2001-2002 season was! So far out of the running by Christmas we were 10-1 against. But we still take it right down to the wire with a second half of the season that possibly no-one could have imagined. In the end we ended up with nothing in the way of silverware, but wasn't that the same for almost every other team? Arsenal scooped the major pot and deserved to do so, but a season of immense disappointment - I think not. A semi-final in the Champions league and third in the Premiership was by no means a disgrace!

The aways at Villa in the Cup, Tottenham and West Ham in particular, were games I will never forget. The atmosphere at those games and countless others, including the half time madness at the likes of Derby, were superb. At home it has been a slightly different story. So many losses brought back bad memories of times past. The atmosphere, led by the upper Stretford, has been better, but there is still a long way to go.

On Wednesday night against Arsenal I was sat next to big Rich in J Stand and nearly came to blows with someone behind who was continuously outspoken in his criticism of Veron. Why this miserable sod goes to Old Trafford is beyond me. If people are not prepared to support the team they should f**k off. We don't need them. And just as against the likes of Bolton, West Ham, and in particular, Chelsea, many left as much as 15 minutes before the final whistle. Not me. I was still saying how badly it was going to hurt them when we score 2 goals in the last five minutes! My head might tell me one thing, but my heart tells me another. I Never believe we are going to lose and never give up.

I was proud to have been there singing through those last agonising minutes as the clock ticked down and the title finally slipped from our grasp. The 'Red Flag', 'Forever and Ever', 'We are the Busby Boys' went on, and on, and on. The support from the hardcore was right and proper. Manchester United should be seen to act with dignity - with pride in the name.

It wasn't easy staying til that final whistle but there was a defiance in doing so. Those of us who have been watching United for more than a decade know what it is like to lose. Those of you who have come to United in the last decade have been spoilt with success. But you cannot have success all the time. You are bound to lose, and when you do, it matters most how you react to that loss.

It might even have gone our way had we been able to capitalise on Campbell's dithering, but we seemed strangely bereft of ideas, but it had felt a whole lot worse after the Middlesborough game a few weeks ago. So we weren't a such a sad and sorry bunch who were driven back by Nigel. It had been a long time since that had happened, but order will be restored next season.

I had not, and still have not, listened to, or watched any football on TV or radio since. I dumped the single crowing email from a Scouser without reading it. The drawbridge has been raised and no-one has been allowed to enter. It's better that way - if no-one can get to you, you do not have to put up with their prejudice.

Yesterday, on the way to the ground for the Charlton game, the roads were strangely empty. We thought there may have been a few empty seats inside, but that wasn't the case. The sun shone, and there was an air of relaxation about the place. The rollercoaster had come to a halt. We were unlocking the shackles and breathing a sigh of relief.

Not only were we saying goodbye to fellow supporters for the summer, but also to Denis, Ronny Johnsen and Raimond van der Gouw. A few others may also be on their way. Dwight Yorke, Ronny Wallwork will go, and possibly even Barthez. With lumps in our throats, we sang, 'Denis Irwin's barmy army' for the final time as the man walked off the pitch waving a fond farewell. He is one of the finest fullbacks I have ever seen.

In the event, the game was a non entity. The end of a hard season. There were smiles when J Stand and K Stand squared up to each other with various barbed chants. We sang, 'You fat bastard' and Have you ever seen a salad, have you f**k' to Boylie, who was loving every second. But it didn't last.

We were desperate for a penalty or edge of the area free-kick so that Denis could go out in a blaze of glory, but it didn't happen. We were willing Diego to score. He did everything but. In the end the game petered out and we said our goodbyes. The sun was still shining, Karen and Gina were waiting for me in the car down by Platts and we were home before 7pm.

So, the replica Arse shirts will be out in force and expectations sky high. How vulnerable to success will they be this time i wonder? Let them enjoy their moment for now, and while they, and the rest of the ABU's are gloating, we know that we WILL be back. The Wizard's drive for success will deliver the goods next season, and silverware will once again grace Old Trafford.

Bill Stevens said, 'I sense a quiet determination and a gathering fury from 4500 miles away. Any team hoping to get a point, home or away, from Manchester United Football Club next season is in for a terrible struggle.' Absolutely spot on Bill - we are still United.

Red Kelly

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