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Carol Ann Duffy’s 1993 collection ‘Mean Time’ Essay

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The day of the big match had arrived, the anticipation was rising and with only 5 hours to go the crowds were gathering in the pubs and on the streets. Cardiff was the venue, Millennium stadium to be exact. The FA Cup Final, Manchester United vs. Millwall.

The grounds men were on the pitch setting up the sprinklers and cutting the grass at the last minute possible, before the teams arrived to warm up and get a feel of the pitch. The sprinklers started to spray like the ocean. The droplets of water were dropping gently like a leaf from the highest tree. As the droplets were falling onto the bouncy blades of grass, they were running down the blades slowly into the soil creating a nice playing surface.

A bus pulled out side the entrance of the stadium, it was Manchester’s bus and the paparazzi skipped as fast as they could to try and get the best picture of the star striker, Ruud van Nistelrooy. The doors of the bus opened slowly just to add to the tension. It was so quite you could almost here a pin drop. Footsteps where heard, the press started hovering around the bus .

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The crowd on the other side of the road, were waiting for autographs. They started singing and chanting “Ruud, Ruud, Ruud”. Some of the younger players got off the bus and quickly walked straight into the corridor, down to the changing rooms while they were totally focused. Next off the bus steps the man of the moment, every one wanted to see. Ruud van Nistelrooy. He walked straight over to the fans signed the autographs. The press got the pictures they wanted and off down the long corridor he went, hair bouncing like a space hopper.

The underdogs Millwall arrived in there bus minutes later, but the surrounding area was empty. Just one sky reporter there, waiting to interview their manager. The players were fired up ready to fight for The FA Cup.

The Grounds men rushed onto the pitch dismantled and removed the sprinklers. The pitch was ready for the teams. The stadium started to fill up with the crowds sliding through the turnstiles, flashing their precious tickets on the way. Desperate people standing outside the stadium, offering to buy tickets for 200 pound, more than 5 times over there original value, but with a lots of sentimental value attached, were having no luck.

Finally preparations were taken for the two teams as on the pitch 40 minutes before the game, they were jogging from one side to the other, passing the ball with their left, then their right, firing the ball like a cannon ball. You could sense the teams where ready and all hyped up. Back in the changing rooms for the teams, as the manager’s give there last team talk. Before the team’s are announced and minutes before kick off.

The teamsheets are in and there’s a big shock as Manchester United’s Star striker, Ruud van Nistelrooy is only on the bench. Its been reported that he picked up a knock in the pre-match warm up by the sky reporter, Chris Kamara. This final is anyone’s game now.

The teams are in the tunnel ready and waiting to come out. The stadium is a wash of red and blue. Every seat is taken. The anthem of The FA Cup is been blared out of the speakers in the stands. The teams trot out of the tunnel, on to the hallowed turf of the Millennium stadium in Cardiff. The crowd are on there feet cheering, it’s almost deafening, it’s that loud.

The Ball is in the middle ready for kick off. You can almost feel the electricity in the air. Millwall kick off, from left to right all in blue, whilst United are in the famous red, white and black colours. There was an early serge by Millwall, but with no goal, while Ruud sits on the bench waiting for the nod, nothing came of any attacks in the first 35 minutes of the game. Just before half time, the ball broke free to the young United starlet of Cristiano Ronaldo who galloped down the wing, triple stepped-over into the centre and shot towards goal… It hit the post and… into the back of the net, one – nil to Manchester United. All eyes on the ref, waiting for the half time whistle, there it is. The teams go in at the break. Its Manchester United one, Millwall nil.

The Speculation is rising now will Ruud make an appearance in this final. The teams are back out ready to start the second half, after a talking to from the managers. Manchester United kicks off. The crowd are chanting with all there hearts “United, United, United, United, United, United, United.”

Not much happened until; Millwall’s top scorer Harris made a darting run into the penalty area… He’s been brought down. The ref’s pointed at the spot. It’s a penalty. Harris will take it… it’s a goal! Right in the top left hand corner. That’s now one – one there’s nothing separating these teams. Back to the middle for the re-start, oh wait a minute there will be a substitution for Manchester United with only 10 minutes to go, on comes Ruud van Nistelrooy for Alan Smith. It should be all over now!

It’s so exciting only three minutes to go now. Ronaldo has the ball on the right wing he’s not letting go of that ball. Only a minute and a half now left on the clock Ronaldo whips a cross in from the touchline. The defender has missed it. It’s dropped at the feet of Ruud van Nistelrooy, surely a goal now. He’s put his foot right through that ball… what a goal! It went straight through the keeper’s legs with seconds left on the clock. I don’t believe it. The whistle has blown. It’s all over Manchester United have won by two goals to one. They are The FA Cup Champions!!

Well what an exciting finish to this game. Ruud van Nistelrooy saves the day again.

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