Beyond The Game: Saint-Étienne

We sent two Manchester United F.C. fans on a UEFA Europa League VIP experience in Saint-Étienne to watch their team play. Find out how Lucas and Sam went #BEYONDTHEGAME with Sam's diary of their adrenaline-fuelled two days in the city.

My best mate Lucas and I grew up talking about Manchester United F.C, watching Manchester United F.C. and attempting to play like Manchester United F.C. Even these days, most of our weekends involve a game of five-a-side with the boys and a post-match debrief down the local pub. Cheering the Red Devils on through a screen is about as close as we usually get, so we were absolutely blown away when Enterprise Rent-A-Car organised a VIP experience to Manchester United F.C.’s 2nd leg, round of 32 match against AS Saint-Étienne. Plus a sweet car. Oh, and an action-packed two days of dining, art, culture and exploration of Saint-Étienne and beyond. Would have been rude not to, really.

When we arrived in the city I headed out to pick up our shiny new car. I couldn’t resist sending a selfie, with the friendly Enterprise rep, to Lucas. The streets were humming with excitement; the fans who’d descended upon Saint-Étienne were creating an incredible buzz. We had to show our allegiance in the sea of red and green shirts by flying my Manchester United F.C. scarf from our car. Of course, Lucas was immediately snapping the action on his phone for his adoring Instagram fans (well, our footie-mad mates at home) and even got a shot of a pair hanging out in opposing Pogba shirts.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car had a surprise in store for us before the game – a private tour of the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium. Getting so close to the turf of the 'Cauldron', as it's known, made my skin tingle. From the pitch, the stadium is enormous - and we got to march about like we owned the place. Lucas couldn't resist messing about and was immediately down in the manager's dug out, putting on his best José Mourinho 'I am the special one' face and pretending to give his imaginary players a talking to. I put his terrible impressions straight on Instagram, then gazed out onto the same grass where some of the world’s finest footballers were about to go head to head. To top it all off we even received a special message from Scholesy himself. Amazing.

 

As match time approached we headed for our seats. Last time we watched a live game we were way up in the stands, but the Enterprise Rent-A-Car guys had us sitting front and centre. It wasn’t long before the moment we - and the thousands of other fans filling up the stadium - had been waiting for. As our boys walked out onto the pitch the roar from the stands reverberated in the air. And finally we got our real-life (Paul) Pogba vs (Florentin) Pogba moment.

When the final whistle blew we were whisked into the post-match conference. Watching the football kings break down the action is NOTHING like on TV. Lucas and I were totally hooked as José Mourinho and Christophe Galtier briefed Europe’s top football reporters (and us) and then shared a bit of banter about the match. I could get used to this.

The game was over, but our trip was just beginning, and we were itching to get out and explore. The next day we let our car be our guide, popping the GPS on and cruising round the streets of the city, fuelling up with coffee stops along the way. Design is the beating heart of Saint-Étienne, from the hip museums downtown to the graffiti-plastered alleyways we cruised around.

All the action of the last couple of days had us pumped to get outdoors ourselves. Lucas and I have always loved exploring new places, so we decided to drive out of the city and see what the French trails had to offer us. You couldn't get a bigger contrast to the hustle of Saint-Étienne than the peace of the Pilat National Park. We hit the tracks on rented bikes and spotted hikers, climbers and even white water rafters out on the river. Our Enterprise Rent-A-Car got us and our bikes back from the hills in no time, too!

Despite being pretty tired (and bruised) from our downhill races we headed out to immerse ourselves in Saint-Étienne’s nightlife ending up in a fun, authentic bar filled with locals laughing and chatting. 

And for us, no trip to a new city would be complete without picking up some souvenirs. We spent the afternoon getting lost in Saint-Étienne's narrow streets, where Lucas found some quirky independent shops selling clothes he loved. Not sure his new hat makes him look as much like the locals as he thinks though…

We were gutted to eventually give our wheels back and head for home. Not only did we have an amazing football experience, but we were also totally immersed in the culture of Saint-Étienne and beyond. Enterprise Rent-A-Car faultlessly arranged a trip we’ll truly never forget.

To find out more about Enterprise’s partnership as Official Rent-A-Car of the UEFA Europa League, visit the sponsorship page here.

Style and football: a winning combination.

Drive with us beyond the game, through Saint-Etienne and the surrounding area.

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