By Matt Tasker
Old Trafford was packed full of football fans once again last night, but not to see the usual home side. Instead, the crowd were there to see celebrities and ex-footballers play for Soccer Aid, a charity match set up to help raise funds for UNICEF. The teams lined up as England vs Rest of the World with the (somehow still famous) Jonathan Wilkes captaining the home side and The Damned United star Michael Sheen skippering the foreigners.
For the United fans, like myself, who decided to brave the Vuvuzelas and screaming teenagers, there was footballing eye-candy in the form of ex-reds Edwin van der Sar, Jaap Stam and Roy Keane, who were part of the starting eleven for the Rest of the World. Teddy Sheringham, meanwhile, completed 90 minutes for the England side while another former Red, Ruud van Nistelrooy, had to drop out due to personal reasons.
There was another opportunity for Manchester United fans to make some noise, albeit in a slightly different tune, when Martin Keown and Rest of the World manager, Kenny Dalglish’s names were read out.
The Rest of the World defence was mainly comprised of ex-United players. Keane and Stam were partners at centre-back with van der Sar behind them. It was great to see both at United again. As for Van der Sar, the lanky Dutchman fumbled an early shot but went on to make two or three good saves in the first half.
Keane had a quiet opening period before eventually having to be substituted due to a knee injury – a low key exit for a legend of the Old Trafford pitch. Stam seemed determined to return to Old Trafford with a bang though, as he crunched in to various England players – Olly Murs was on the receiving end of one heavy tackle in particular.
This solid ex-United backline proved to be a platform for first-half success, as the away side broke the deadlock after 20 minutes. Kasabian guitarist, Serge Pizzorno gave ex-Arsenal and Manchester City goalkeeper, David Seaman a little Déjà vu when he lobbed the ball over the Englishman’s now-ponytail-less head to give the visitors the lead.
Despite the initial cheers when the fans’ favourites touched the ball, the start of the game was fairly muted as a lot of the crowd quickly lost interest. And in truth, I don’t blame them, it was hard to get in to. Just when Clarence Seedorf linked up promisingly with Freddie Ljungberg, they’d pass the ball in the direction of Gerard Butler who had the footballing panache of a llama.
The crowd were also treated to a marauding left-sided run from Stam, who almost capped it off with a carbon copy of Pizzorno’s goal, but instead finished just wide with the chip, meaning the score-line ended at 3-1 to England. Although, one of the moments of the match had to be Teddy Sheringham’s punishing hit on Gordon Ramsey that left him in need of a stretcher.