With all the recent debate over accepting/loathing ManU and their fans, I thought that I’d give my contribution to the debate (particularly with Jeremy’s recent comments on Bristol rivalry). Basically, I’m confused. I’ve been brought up to hate ManU, even since before birth I was a Blue (I was born approximately 9 months after a ‘romantic’ trip to Vienna some 30 years ago, but that’s another story). My dad ensured that my faith never wavered, whilst my mum was blissfully unaware. One day when my mum arrived home with red and black tracksuits for me and my sister (an apparent bargain from the back of a lorry), she said that she could sew a City badge over the offending Rag one, but my dad was having none of it. Mine was returned, whilst my sister has never got over her embarrassment. This, together with pressure from friends and the rest of the family rubbed off.
Growing up in Rochdale, there were a few Reds in school, but I don’t remember being friends with any of them. I had mates who were Liverpool, Everton, Leeds, even Rochdale fans, but never a Red. It was never a conscious decision, but I suppose that I was an inadvertent ABU. On my occasional visits to Maine Road, when I could make it, I used to join in the Runway/Munich songs, not really thinking about what I was saying, more just trying to get across my antipathy towards the Rags, and basically, joining in with the rest of the crowd around me.
When I was 18, I went away to study in Bristol and seemed to spend half my time telling people that there was only one united and that’s a chocolate biscuit. My support for City was matched only by my loathing for all things Red, in fact I think that at times my ability to loathe Rags outweighed my support for City (I now realise how stupid this sounds now).
My flatmate a few years ago was an ardent Bristol City fan, and had just bought a season ticket. She persuaded me that I should go along and at least be able to shout ‘City’ at the top of my voice. So I was taken/dragged to Ashton Gate to watch the Bristol derby (one of Goater’s last games for Bristol City). Things were fine, shouts of ‘come on City’ felt natural and it was good to see a live game again, but (I’m sorry Jeremy) as soon as the chants of ‘come on you Reds’ started, it was over. I couldn’t cheer a team in red. I wanted (needed) Rovers to win, they were after all in Blue.
Then, two years ago I moved to Germany and spent all of my time explaining that there is more than one team from Manchester, the conversation generally going along the lines of:
‘…I come from Manchester’
‘Ah, Manchester United’
‘No, there are two teams in Manchester, like in Munich’ (1860 Munich also playing in blue and being overshadowed by their cross town rivals).
It was quite ironic (in an Alanis Morrissette kind if way, i.e. not at all), that I should choose comparisons with Munich, as it was around this time that ManU’s second fateful encounter with this city should occur. My friends here found it unbelievable that I should be supporting Bayern in the Champions’ League final, and then certainly couldn’t believe the words coming from my mouth when the Rags’ second goal was scored. How could I hate a team so much when they were from my own country? Deep down however, I think it was a vocal reaction to try to suppress what I was feeling. Try as I may, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the quality of their play. It still pains me to say it, but at the moment, ManU are the best team in England.
This is why I’m confused. I admire ManU for the quality of their players, and the fact that many of them are homegrown, but I still detest the club. There is an arrogance about the club which is loathsome. The attitude of Taggart, Edwards & Co. is despicable, their belief that they have a God given right to ride roughshod over everyone else, be it the quality of referees, participation in competitions, releasing players for international games, etc., but especially their contempt for their fans. They are no longer a football club, but a money-making machine. I know that this is the way that football is these days, but I personally don’t like it, and I believe that this is the reason why ManU are both worshipped and loathed, depending on your point of view. There will always be people who jump on the bandwagon and be sucked in by the corporate machine. But there are also those who aren’t lured by success, who want more than the automatic right to a trophy at the end of the season, who want to feel part of their club, who can identify with one another. Don’t hate fans just because they don’t think the same as you, but hate the image makers who have made the situation like it is. Incidentally, my cousin is from Leeds and spent all of his youth being a Rag. The last time I saw him at Christmas he tried telling me how he’d always been a Leeds Utd fan, so it seems to work both ways.
In short, I realise now that support of a club is just that, it isn’t about hating others, but wanting your team to do well. You can pity others and try to educate them, if you will, but at the end of the day they are human too. Also, like has been said already, Munich has two meaning to Rags now, one bringing back happy memories from a couple of years ago, and another, which I now realise, is no subject for humour.
Sorry to have gone on for a while, but it’s Friday afternoon, and I’m stuck in the office, bored, with nothing better to do.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #622 on