When I was thinking about starting a blog, one of the first things I promised myself was that I wasn’t going to write about Manchester United. My original thought came from, amongst other things, a frustration with going to the magazine shelf at the book shop, looking for something to read about the game I love, and coming away frustrated with everything I found there being about one English team I have no connection with. It’s not the fault of the publications themselves, they need to sell in large volume to make any sort of money, and if you want to keep the masses happy and your magazine economic it makes sense to feature the most popular football club in the world to, and beyond, the point of ad nauseum. A football blog on the other hand, is a place where you can create your own personalised magazine. One that you edit as if you are the only person who ever reads it and tailor to your individual, contrary taste. It only ever has to sell one copy and it achieves this target every time.
That’s why, in my little corner of utopia I’ve got going here, Manchester United doesn’t exist. It’s not that I particularly hate the club itself, 7-1 thrashings at Old Trafford aside, it’s more the fact that I’m simply sick of the sight of them. Nothing personal towards the players or management.
When it comes to their fans however, it tends to be a vastly different story altogether.
When they are successful, there is nothing worse than a Manchester United fan. They are the most terrible winners you can ever hope to avoid. Gloating and obnoxious, they have no qualms about rubbing their satisfaction with their lot in life in your face with all the class and subtlety of a wallpaper steamer.
The most glaring example that springs to mind from my personal experience happened when I was in Rome for the 2009 Champions League Final. While I was standing on the Metro platform in Testaccio on the day of the game, wearing a Roma shirt, a large group of fine upstanding (NOT!) Mancunian gentlemen came thundering down the stairs. They took one look at me and started gleefully singing “PAOLOOOOOOO DI CANIOOOOOOOO” at the top of their sad little lungs. My response was to stare really hard at the ground, determined not to make any eye contact that might give them even the slightest amount of satisfaction. This clearly wasn’t what they were expecting so they switched songs, opting this time for a charming little ditty by an unknown composer entitled ‘You Fat Fucking Bastard’. This continued, their tone getting angrier and scarier the longer it went on, and it seemed like an eternity, until the train pulled up and we all got on. Thankfully for me, and I will remain grateful for this for the rest of my life, our carriage was full of Barcelona fans. When they saw what was going on they surrounded me and started singing a composition of their own by the name of ‘Fuck You Manchester’, and then followed that up with a stirring, if halting, rendition of Roma’s club anthem, ‘Roma, Roma Roma’! From that day onwards, Barcelona will always be my team in Spain.
The funny thing is though, most of us who are younger than 40 have only ever experienced Manchester United as winners. Now a curious phenomenon is sweeping the globe. We are finding out what they are like as losers as well, and to our utter amazement, they are even worse than before! What a bunch of cry-babies! The temptation to slap each and every one of them around the face and say “welcome to the human race, it’s normal to be crap sometimes, get used to it” is nigh on irresistible… But here’s the real contradiction for me: I don’t really want to do that. Because the truth is, I actually feel a strange kind of maternal instinct… They are like a little kid who can dish it out but can’t take it, and if I’m honest, it’s a little bit cute… They are coming to grips the hard way with a setback in life that all infants must grapple with at some point – a little thing called learning consequences. Rather than be too harsh on them, my overwhelming impulse is to give them an ice cream and a hug.
I’m also struggling with my deep respect for David Moyes. I don’t really have a team in the English Premier League, but if I did it would probably be Everton. That is partly due to a close friend who supports them and wanting him to be happy, but also as a direct result of being impressed with Moyes’ thrifty, no-nonsense success in building an interesting squad on the blue half of Merseyside capable of challenging for Europe. I want him to be successful and I refuse to believe that he’s a bad coach. Nobody will ever convince me that he is.
Moyes needs time to grow into the role, and he needs players who want to give their all for him. Stepping into Sir Alex Fergusson’s shoes was always going to be incredibly difficult for anyone, but even more so for a coach who, in the minds of a bunch of prima donnas unaccustomed to overcoming any sort of adversity, hasn’t “won trophies”. But qualifying Everton for the Champions League is as big an achievement as any coach with a budget akin to the GDP of Switzerland can ever possibly hope to accomplish. I hope he’s given the time and resources to bring in personnel who will do the job for him. If he is, they will come right.
I can’t believe I am saying this… But I really *cough* hope *cough* they*cough* manage to *cough* bounce back… For Moyes’ sake, you understand. And also so I can stop feeling sorry for them sometime soon. It’s grossing the hell out of me.
Categories: English/UK Football
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.