|Famous: The wall of the Daisy café in Hải Dương Province. — VNS Photo Paul Kennedy|
by Paul Kennedy
Although it pains me to say it, and I’ve said it before in the pages of this newspaper, Manchester United is the biggest football club in the world.
This point was hammered home to me only last week in, of all places, Kinh Môn.
For those of you not familiar Kinh Môn, it’s a district in Hải Dương Province, about 70 kilometres or so east of Hà Nội. And it is famous for onions. And I’m not just talking about any old onion here. I’m talking the crème de le crème of onions.
But it was in this very place, let’s call it Onion Town, that I was almost reduced to tears.
I was there at the invitation of the local People’s Committee who were keen to show off the excellent agricultural work being carried out in the region.
The trip started with a briefing from those in charge, but as my Vietnamese is limited to counting to ten, telling a Grab driver to turn left or right and asking where the toilets are, I decided to swerve the meeting.
Instead I went in search of a coffee shop and stumbled across one a few hundred yards away called Daisy Acoustic Coffee. Perfect.
Or so I thought.
The woman working that particular Saturday morning was having a snooze when I entered but was surely woken by my screams.
There, on the wall of this café, in Onion Town, was a huge mural of the Manchester United crest.
With my coffee options limited I decided to bite the bullet and order, although to be honest, I drank it outside.
I was only in Onion Town for a day trip so wasn’t around to see how many of the locals were packed into this café cum Kinh Môn branch of the Vietnamese Manchester United supporters club for their game against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday evening.
Under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, sorry, I mean Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United beat Spurs by a single goal to nil to record their sixth straight win.
For a large portion of that match, second half for sure, United were under the cosh and it was only thanks to the heroics of David de Gea they managed to secure three points.
This was virtually the same team that earlier in the season had lost against West Ham and drew at home to Wolves. They had also been comprehensively beaten by Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool, the final result leading to the dismissal of the previous manager, Jose Mourinho.
Cynics may point out that other than the Spurs game, the previous five matches in their winning streak were against below average teams.
True, but what has caught my eye more is the style in which Manchester United are playing now that Jose is no longer at the helm.
The football is more attractive to watch, their defence is tighter and the enigma that is Paul Pogba is finally looking like the midfielder we all know he is.
Also this week it was interesting to note that Solsjkaer has brought back a rule within the club that disappeared when Mourinho was in charge.
The players now have to wear suits before the games. And I’m talking about proper fancy two piece suits, not tracksuits.
It may only be a little change but it’s an important one. It was something that Sir Alex Ferguson was a staunch advocate of and that’s clearly where Ole got the idea.
Six wins out of six will probably earn the Norwegian manager of the month, but I fear it still won’t be enough to give him the job full time at the end of the season.
But for now that doesn’t matter. What does matter is not simply that Manchester United are winning but they are winning well and playing in a style that their fans are accustomed to.
In the past few years those supporters who frequent the Daisy coffee shop in Onion Town have not really had (sh)alot to be happy about.
But for now at least, after Jose got the chop, Ole seems to be taking the team in the right direction. You could go as far as to say, he really knows his onions. — VNS