Manchester United gave it a go at the start of the second half against Liverpool on Monday, hours after Paris Saint-Germain perfected the in-vogue kick-off routine that is sweeping European football. Kylian Mbappé scored inside nine seconds against Lille after applying the finishing touch at the end of the slick four-pass move seemingly first trialled by Bournemouth last year and since copied by Real Madrid, Rayo Vallecano and Sparta Rotterdam with mixed success. Or maybe Mbappé was inspired by Cliftonville of Northern Ireland’s top division, who mastered the same sequence when Ronan Hale opened the scoring 7.92 seconds into their victory over Carrick last Saturday.
Cliftonville did not devote days on the training ground; rather, an hour before the game their analyst, Damian McAuley, showed the squad a TikTok video that has gone viral since being shared by Bournemouth, comprising a compilation of efforts, starting with Dominic Solanke’s trendsetting strike seven seconds into the second half at Craven Cottage last December. “Dee [McAuley] had his iPad and just said: ‘Have you seen this? It’s all over TikTok, it’s been blowing up recently.’ We all watched it while we were sitting in the changing room and we thought: ‘Why not give it a try, something a bit different?’ And thankfully it worked right away.”
Cliftonville’s opponents, Carrick Rangers, were not quite so ecstatic. “I heard one of them saying to one of my teammates as they were walking off: ‘Did you get that off TikTok?’” Hale says. “I think they were so shocked that it happened. Their defenders are probably thinking: ‘The ball is just going to come up and we’ll defend it.’ But if they step up a bit and see a pass going back and the next pass going over them, they’re in a sticky spot and that is what happened on Saturday.”