Driving out to the M6, through the drizzle-washed streets of my home town, Altrincham, on Boxing Day morning, I was flooded with very happy memories. My husband and baby dozed in a post-Christmas haze as we shunted onto the motorway going south, I glanced over at the opposite direction – bumper to bumper with Manchester United fans on their way to Old Trafford to watch our team play. I was excited for them.
Spin back five years and that probably would’ve been my Boxing Day. Either gloriously sandwiched between jolly fans trooping down Sir Matt Busby Way, or jammed into a pub, craning my neck to see the team run out. Festive games were always my favourite. Everybody was in a good mood. We sang the 12 days of Cantona song. Then home, cold and red cheeked, to sink in front of the telly.
I’m the lone red in our house. My husband supports another team and dislikes mine. All my previous match day companions also have young families and new Christmas traditions to spawn. These days, I confine my United following to games on the radio, or MOTD highlights if I’m still awake. We grew apart – the sporting widow moniker fits, but it was a self-imposed death. Family took over.
So this Boxing Day, as we charged at the pace of a snail with the rest of the traffic back to Bristol, I listened to the game on the radio in peace whilst the other two slept, and enjoyed another real treat. The lovely people at Betfair and Pamper Parcels sent us the most gorgeous hamper to celebrate the season’s passing and enjoy some proper sporting fun, so I celebrated Falcao’s sensational passing by tucking in to some car-based luxury pamper food.
I enjoyed the glorious Joe & Sephs salted caramel popcorn as Wayne Rooney popped a couple in for us. When we got home, we shared a delicious bar of Montezuma’s chocolate. Today I found a bit of time to watch the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow and stuff my face with Duchy Originals. The hamper was the most lovely surprise I’ve ever had and it was brilliant to have that car journey yesterday, just me, my popcorn, Radio 5 Live and 65,000 other United fans cheering away. I didn’t even have to wish I was there.