Tag Archives: Manchester United

Shanghai Express

Being Shanghaied was something that used to happen to sailors when unscrupulous captains were looking to fill a crew for a voyage.

A man would go into a bar, people there would get him very drunk, and he’d awaken the following morning aboard a ship bound for the far east to pick up spices (and scurvy).

The modern, Tinman equivalent is to go out for a quiet drink and come home having committed yourself to go to a football match in England next Saturday.

I was out with a friend last night when his phone rang. His side of the conversation went “hello…what, why can’t he?…well, maybe we can get someone else…actually, hang on a second.” He then turned to me and said “how would you like to come to Manchester United v Sunderland on Saturday,” and yet again the derealised me heard a voice very like mine saying “sure, I’d love to.”

Now, I do like football, and have been to matches in the UK before. Indeed, this will be my eleventh game. But the first four were when I used to be sent to the UK for work, and was there anyway, and the later ones were reached through the medium of flight. I used to bring Tinson1 to a match each year as a Christmas present, then the last time we brought Tinson2 as well, and the tradition only ended the year I was blacking out, & we decided it probably wasn’t a good idea.

Each year we made an event of it, flying over and staying in a hotel both the night before and after the game. In other words, we did it in style, and, if we weren’t quite part of the “Prawn Sandwich Brigade” so denigrated by Roy Keane, we certainly weren’t the re-incarnation of old fans in flat caps with rattles. If anyone ever chanted “who ate all the pies” at us, we’d have to reply “well, not us, because we wouldn’t eat that crap.”

My friend and his three mates (well, two this week, which has opened the door for me) don’t do it that way. The match is on Saturday. They are leaving Ireland on Saturday, and leaving the UK on the way home on Saturday. And doing it all by car and boat.

As far as I can make out, the itinerary is: get up at six, get picked up at seven, drive to Dun Laoghaire, catch the boat to Holyhead, drive through Wales to Manchester, have a few drinks, watch the match, have a few drinks, drive back from Manchester through Wales to Holyhead, have a few drinks waiting for the boat, catch the boat back to Ireland (having a last few drinks on the boat) and then be driven home, arriving at 7am on Sunday (I should point out here that the driver is a non-drinker – we’re not totally mad). All that just for 90 minutes of football (well, 96 minutes, probably – it is United, after all).

As GoldenEyes here at work says, it sounds like the kind of weekend that four 25-year-olds would have. But, although I am the age of two 25-year-olds, I don’t have twice the drinking capacity, and I’m quite worried.

My mate is hoping that it’s a good game. I’m just hoping I don’t throw up in the car.

The World Isnae Enough

“Fergie Denies Plot to Remove Agent” (headline in Evening Herald).


The phone rang in the Manchester United Players’ Lounge. Agent 11, Ryan Giggs, picked it up, listened and then handed it to Agent 10. “It’s for you,” he said.

“Cheers”, said Agent 10, “put the phone on scramble”.

“Don’t need to”, said Agent 11, “it’s Fergie”.

Agent 10 took the phone and listened to the dulcet (*) tones of the head of MI6, Sir Alex “Fergie” Ferguson. “Seeyoujummy hootshoots muttermuttermcmumble absolooly gityerfuckenarse up here noo”, he heard. (*Dulcet, by the way, is an old Scottish word meaning “sounding like a cat being passed through a bin lorry”).

“I think he wants to see me,” said Agent 10, and headed out the door to the “Manager’s Office”, as Fergie’s room was known.

It was now over 30 years since MI6 gave up its cover as trading company Universal Exports and assumed the guise of a leading football club instead. The new cover was far more beneficial. As Manchester United, MI6 could sign Agents of many nationalities without having to explain themselves. They always had an excuse for travelling abroad in large numbers. And the income from the sale of  United shirts was so large that it entirely financed the Gadgetry Department.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

It also meant that they no longer had to have female Agents, which was an advantage since they spent most of their time on missions falling in love with their opposite number and going around in revealing attire.

They had not expected that the team would actually prove so successful, but in hindsight this was not totally surprising. After all, expertise in moving about quietly and unnoticed made their forwards very hard to mark, while the fact that the defenders knew six different ways to silently disable an opponent meant that they weren’t troubled whenever an opposing corner-kick was swung into their penalty area. Not after the first corner, anyway.

Now MI6 had a problem. An independent foreign Agent, Kia Joorabchian, had taken total control of one of MI6’s Agent, Carlos Tevez, using a mind-control technique (he offered him 32 million pounds). The men at the top had decided not to pay this man, and had directed Fergie to get rid of him. They had told him to send his top man.

His top man was busy, however, so in a moment of weakness he had sent Agent 10.

Agent 10

Agent 10

Agent 10 gave the secret knock and entered Fergie’s room. He took off his baseball cap and threw it towards the hatstand, and they both watched as it bounced off the wall and spun on the floor on its crown, like the centrepiece in a game of ‘Spin the Tortoise’. “Allright, boss,” said Agent 10,  “the name’s Rooney. Wayne, er…” he stopped, took a card from his pocket and looked at it. “…Rooney”, he finished.

Fergie sighed. Wayne Rooney was a Special Agent. There is more than one possible meaning to that sentence.

Now Fergie had to hear his mission report. He was dreading it. He had not forgotten one of Agent 10’s earlier missions, where he had been sent to interrogate a granny in Liverpool and “find out everything she knows”. And by God he had. Some of the stuff the granny turned out to know still caused Fergie to wake up sweating in the middle of the night.

“Sit doon, Agent Rooney, I need to ken hoo ye got on wi’ tha’ mission I gave ye.”

“Well, boss,” said Rooney, wondering vaguely who Ken was, “I think I did really well this time. First of all I got some equipment from Um.”

“You mean M?”

“No, Um. That’s what I call the Serb bloke we have playing at centre-back. I can’t pronounce his real name.”

“Nemanja Vidic?”

“Yeah, whatever.”

“What sort of stuff did you get from him?”

“Well, hair gel, Lynx deodorant, stuff like that”.

Fergie started to feel a sinking sensation. “Agent 10, what exactly was your mission?”

“Well, you told me to find Kia Joorabchian…”


“… and you explained that that wasn’t a Korean car…”


“… you explained that it was this Agent who was messing our Carlos about…”


“…. and you said you wanted him taken out.”


“Well, I took him out. We went for a few beers and then went trying to pull biihds.” (I’m sorry, you try writing “birds” in a Liverpool accent).

“Och, mon,” said Fergie, “that wasnae what I meant. When I say I want somone taken oot I mean I want them did. Though, o’ course, if ye were caught I’d have to disavoo any kenness o’ your actions.”

Agent 10 hung his head. “Sorry boss, I didn’t understand.” Then he brightened. “Hang on, though, there’s a chance he might have caught that swine flu”.

Fergie looked at him excitedly. That would be perfect – topical, with no known cure, and completely untraceable back to MI6. “Really? How did ye manage to give him that?”

“Well, at the end of the night we went for a Mexican.”