For a Horsforth lad raised by two Elland Road season ticket holders, scoring against Manchester United at Old Trafford is just about the pinnacle of what you could hope to achieve, if you ever make the dream of becoming a professional footballer. By 27 years old, James Milner had done it — and in a City shirt, just to twist the knife in scum stomachs — so in 2013, he was looking for a new challenge.
Milner is one of few Leeds United fans in history gifted with the power to settle scores with Bayern Munich for 1975. How many times had Milner heard WACCOE wailing around Elland Road? What if they were instructions all along? A rallying cry for justice and recognition that only he could answer?
By the time Milner turned up to the Allianz Arena for his retribution mission in December 2013, Bayern had already qualified from Group D. To make matters worse, the Bavarian bastards were revelling in breaking a Champions League record against CSKA Moscow the previous month. Having won ten successive UCL matches, the team were comparable to the 2002/03 Barça side run by Xavi and Iniesta which they’d pinched the record off. Absolutely full of it.
Within five minutes, Thomas Müller set Bayern on track to extend the record, and history was unkind to Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott, who were more concerned about convincing referee David Fernández Borbalán that Mario Götze was offside than preventing him from making it 2-0.
It was a long way back for Manchester City, but a two-goal deficit was no match for the power of a 48-year grudge. The ultras were undeterred by City’s reply, assisted by the head of Milner, but there was cause for the drums to stop beating, when with the slightest of suggestions of touches by Dante, Milner folded in half in the penalty box. Borbalán blew his whistle — terribly unfair! — and Aleksandar Kolarov made it 2-2 from the spot.
Bayern’s historic winning streak was now in peril, and Milner hesitated none in kicking them while they were down. Three minutes after Kolarov’s leveller, Jérôme Boateng unwittingly wrote destiny for him. Possessed by the troubled spirit of a squat red-head from Stirling, Boateng spasmed in the act of clearing the ball, which rolled temptingly into the path of Milner — ‘til then, merely strolling toward the back post. Right place, right time, the job was half done. It’s awkward to shape your body up for a right-footed shot into the far right corner, but Milner made it look as easy as getting a decision off a bent ref.
It was the decisive goal in an audacious comeback which left Bayern with a taste of their own medicine, Manuel Neuer frothing with rage, and Milner with a contented smile. ⬢
(This post is free to read from The Square Ball magazine season 34 issue 5. Click here to read more)