WORDS: LUKE SMALLEY
The culture of success planted by Sir Matt Busby and cultivated by Sir Alex Ferguson has set expectations high at Old Trafford, but the recent cries of “crisis” from certain sections of the club’s following have left this Manchester United fan wondering about that old “glory supporter” tag…
Image: Eirek Refsdal (via Flickr)
Remember that kid in school who was really popular, good at every sport – even the ones they seemingly had next to no experience playing – and always got good marks in every exam they sat? Remember them?
We had one in my school, and Christ I wanted that jumped up little bastard to fail. I wanted him to crash and burn in spectacular fashion. I wanted him to suddenly stop being able to run so fast, for him to fail his exams, and for his girlfriend (who was prettier than mine by the way) to dump him.
Schadenfreude is a killer because, if you let it, it turns into a full-time job.
I’ve always been much happier on the receiving end of it to be honest. I’ve always found it easier to have others watching with a possessed glint in their eye, demanding failure.
As a Manchester United fan, this is a feeling I am more than familiar with.
To begin with, nobody believes that my Dad was born in Lancashire and has supported the club his entire life. Nobody believes that I had no choice in who I was going to support and that they were thrust on me way before they won the first league title of the Premier League era, ending a barren spell of 26 years.
Nobody believes it.
It is not my fault that the team I was made to support went on to dominate English football for the best part of my entire life.
I wasn’t born in Manchester and I’m around 30, so I must be a glory supporter. I remember being asked if I was a glory supporter in school and, rather than sheepishly admit I didn’t know what that meant, I agreed that I was because I assumed he meant glory as in, “Glory, glory Man United!” He didn’t mean that, obviously, and it led to a seemingly never-ending verbal smorgasbord of mockery from all the boys in my year.
Basically, it you support United you have to constantly put up with other people’s dissatisfaction. That’s fine, though. I thrive on it and I can’t really complain because, as a football fan, I’ve had a spoilt life cocooned in success. But – and I am aware this may be hard to believe and/or stomach for non-United supporting fans – supporting Manchester United has its own unique problems.
The culture planted by Sir Matt Busby and cultivated by Sir Alex Ferguson means that any slip up along the way constitutes a crisis. More is expected of us.
Finished second in the league? You failed.
Runners-up in the Champions league? You failed.
Didn’t win any trophy at all? You failed.
And, by Cantona, won’t everyone you know or meet let you fucking know it with a shit-eating grin spread over their face!
As I write this we are apparently going through a crisis. We have lost to Liverpool, Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion in the league and some people have already sent up their distress flares. For some, we have hit the iceberg and we are waiting for the damage report. Others have written their own.
One person’s crisis is another one’s transition though.
When David Moyes took over as a manger, it was acknowledged that he would need time to make his mark on the team, to get his head around the monumental terrifying task of succeeding Sir Alex and getting to grips with the pressure of managing such a gargantuan club.
For some people this translated to, “We’ll give him a few weeks and see where we stand. If he has lost a few games we’ll call for his head”.
Like I said, United fans have become spoilt. There are fans out there who have never seen the club finish any lower than third in the Premier League and want everything now.
I suppose that’s why other fans dislike us so much.
Nobody likes to see the same team winning over and over again. I don’t like watching Sebastian Vettel winning race after race. It’s monotonous, boring and infuriating.
It’s also damn impressive.
It is knowing that everyone wants us to fail that keeps us going though. There was a time when Chelsea were dominating the league and spending the equivalent of a small country’s national budget on players where we were no longer the most hated club in England. Even a
Liverpool-supporting friend of mine wanted us to beat them. That never sat right with me.
Sir Alex’s “us against the world” mentality got to the fans as well. Nobody likes us, everybody hates us is the belief. When we win, we know that there will be neutral fans downhearted and, if I’m being honest, that broadens our smiles, straightens our backs and turns our walks into triumphant struts.
Regardless of what the future holds for my club, that feeling will never go away because people will always want us to fail. If we have a barren spell, people will remember our trophy laden years and smile that times have changed. None of that matters, though, because supporting United is always most fun when everyone is against us.