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Canada takes centre stage at Theatre of Dreams

Canadian fans outside Old Trafford in Manchester, England.

Jeff Blair/The Globe and Mail

Old Trafford. The only time I've walked into a sports venue and had the same feeling was the first time I walked into Yankee Stadium for a World Series game. You cheer for a club like Charlton Athletic and you need a Premier League fallback, and for me it's always been the Red Devils. George Best and Eric Cantona were the first reasons for that, soon followed by Roy Keane and Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs. It is where Canada and the U.S. women's team will play their semi-final game Monday and, in the words of Christine Sinclair, that is "outrageous."

Most of the women on Canada's team follow the Premiership, so for them playing in venues such as St. James' Park and now Old Trafford has made it a little easier to be away from London. In some ways, I wonder if this hasn't explained the team's sudden change of face: whether this has brought them close to the game they loved as children.

I visited all the touchstones at Old Trafford – the statue of George Best, Dennis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton. Got my picture taken under the Sir Matt Busby Way sign and stopped at the plaque near the Munich Tunnel, so named in honour of the members of the Busby Babes who perished in a place crash on Feb. 6, 1958 in Munich.

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Never doubt the power of the IOC: Old Trafford's club shop was shuttered, as was the case with club shops at Newcastle United and Coventry, so that the IOC could enforce their precious sponsorships. Spectators have had to scratch around for souvenirs: there are tents selling Man U nick-nacks but only a wee official merchandise trailer that was only selling Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kajawa jerseys. Nary a Ryan Giggs or Chicharito in sight.

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