Let me start by saying that more than 24 hours later, I've still got blisters on my feet ..
I had been to Old Trafford before, three times actually, but none in the last 10 years. My last visit was with my uncle as an 11 year old in 1999, so this trip was long overdue and I was dead excited.
I was accompanied by my usual group and my 7 year old niece, who I was meant to drop off with her Mancunian father. I decided it would be good idea to take her to her first Chelsea game before dropping her off. Me and my room mate went down to London the day before to pick her up.
I delayed telling her of the day I had planned for her until Sunday morning. As far as she was concerned, I was simply dropping her off.
Sunday morning arrives, and as with every other 7 year old in the world, she could not contain her excitement when she found out she was going to Manchester United vs Chelsea at Old Trafford.
As usual, our schedule was strange but cheap, and in theory at least, should have saved us a lot of time.
We, my niece, my room mate and I, caught the train to Birmingham New Street at 10.05am, where we connected with the rest of our group Marlon, Ashley, Ahmed and Michael.
We rushed to make our connection train to Manchester Picadelly St. On the platform we ran into hordes Chelsea supporters, and once on the train we easily took up 2-3 carriages on our own.
Everyone took a keen interest in my niece, eager to fill her with stories past Chelsea experiences and the good old glory days of err, 2012. Lovely to see her so excited, but I insisted that she tried to get some sleep as we had pretty long day ahead.
We roll into Manchester in full voice.
The plan was to find a place to eat and then re-connect with the others outside the ground, but due to the sheer number of Chelsea supporters coming off the train, the police, who were waiting for us at the top of the platform, in fear of attracting trouble if we waded through the city, insisted that we went directly to Old Trafford.
Not the side of football I wanted my niece to experience. At least not yet.
Due to the terrible traffic, we got there with just 10 minutes to spare, with just enough time to be padded down outside the gate and find our seats.
Inside, the Chelsea supporters were already in full voice and a round of the Amsterdam song were drowning out an understandably subdued home support.
I had no idea who Rafa had gone with, so the Hazard exclusion due to injury caught me by surprise and I was immediately less confident.
My niece stated her intentions pretty clearly, she had come to see David Luiz.
We kicked off, and almost immediately a misplaced pass gave the ball away. I turned to Marlon and said this was going to be a very long afternoon.
Not much to report on the first half though. It was slow, dull and generally very boring.
What wasn't boring however, was the selection of chants that Chelsea supporters were belting out. Not going to repeat them on here, and for the record, I had explained to my niece on the train that there would be quite a bit of swearing and that just because the nice people in the stadium were doing it, it did not mean that she was allowed to do it.
When she heard the first song containing a swear word, she looked at me politely acknowledging the conversation we had earlier.
'Fergie's B*tch, Fergie's B*tch' was met with every decision Howard Webb awarded United's way, even if it was a perfectly good decision, and each time it would last for several minutes.
There were no anti-Rafa songs to my recollection and the Di Matteo chant stopped ages ago. Both seem to have been replaced with pro-longed chants of 'Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho'.
Not much to report on the second half either. United upped the tempo a little, which in fairness the game needed.
I don't understand why Chelsea insist on slowing the game to walking pace, or in Moses' case, a complete standstill, when these very same players have proven in the past that quick passing usually lead to a goal, or at the very least a good chance. Particularly on a day like yesterday, where we had so much to play for and were up against opponents who were already on their holidays.
The Amsterdam song, easily the most prominent song on the day, would sometimes carry on several minutes at a time. When we weren't singing that, the always amusing 'We'll race you back to London' and 'Ken Barlow is one of your own' were doing the rounds.
I was resigned to a draw when suddenly Ramires robbed Rooney of the ball. My initial thought was, 'he's fouled him', but Webb didn't give it and Lampard raced away with the ball. He found Mata, who tries to put Torres through. The ball was cut out by Evans, who was kind of enough to the ball back to Mata for a second go. This time Mata finds Ramires, who leaves it for Oscar, who in turn finds Mata, who had ghosted into the box and BAM! 1-0 to the Chelsea.
The away end goes mental.
By the time I was done celebrating, the game had already restarted. This was when my 'please don't mess this up Chels' nerves set in.
Didn't see the Luiz/Rafael incident as we were stood in the opposite end. We didn't even know he'd been sent off until it read 'Sent Off - Rafael' up on the scoreboard.
Full time whistle was met with jubilant scenes. Almost as if we all collectively thought 'phew, this was the big one. We've got top 4 in the bag now.'
My niece announced that she was over David Luiz because she had found a new hero, Juan Mata.
Finding a taxi proved incredibly difficult. Knowing I had to drop my niece off, the plan was to drop her off and meet the others at the station. That plan went out of the window when literally every taxi company we phoned up said they weren't coming our way due to the heavy traffic and hordes of people walking on the street.
We finally managed to convince a nice couple to share their taxi with my niece and I into central Manchester, where my niece's father would meet us.
The last thing she said to me before I left was, 'when are we going to the next game?', which made me the happiest man in the world.
By the time we all gathered at the station, we had missed our train, so we had to wait nearly 1.5 hours for the next one. In what seems to be trend with our away trips, missing that train earlier, we also missed our connection train from Birmingham to Derby and were forced to wait another 2 hours for the next one.
We said farewell to the lads and went our separate ways. Little did we know, disruption would hit us once more. Once we boarded the train and we departed the platform, we were told via the PA that due to a family walking along the railway track, we would be delayed for a few minutes. A few minutes turned into 1.5 hours.
We didn't return home until 11.30pm that night, but it had been a brilliant away day and excellent bonding time with my niece. She made me promise to send her a Mata shirt.
We had recorded the game on Sky, so we watched the whole game again before going to bed ..
Three huge points.
Sore throat. Bruised fingers. Blisters on my feet. I wouldn't have it any other way. Good thing today was a bank holiday.
UP THE CHELS!!