Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Perils of Supporting Manchester United

Wannabes. Glory hunters. Idiots.

And these are some of the nice terms that Utd fans are often greeted with. I cannot imagine the plight of Utd supporter in England, especially during these trying times, but that of one on the subcontinent isn't a walk in the park either, and the derision we face in India shows no sign of abating.

Ah, but fuck that. Glory glory Man Utd. What a team! What a club! What a history, what a legacy. It's all there... pride, trophies, flair, and yes the inevitable arrogance. Oh, I'm sorry, that's the wrong word.

It is only natural to hate a rival club, and Utd has plenty (of rivals). It is also only natural to hate the champions when your team are not they. However, this makes for a unique situation in India. What right do we have to declare love and devotion to an English football team? We have no local nor familial (inherited support, like our children will have) obligation to support the club. We are thousands of miles away, far removed from the cold and the rain and the chants of rival supporters. Add to that the fact that in India, the first match that most people have seen is that fateful '99 Champions League final, which Utd clinched in the dying minutes, immediately creating a huge fanbase here. That's how a lot of people started watching and supporting Utd. Those were David Beckham's greatest days for the club. One of the first "rock star" footballers of the new millenium, he became a brand ambassador for Utd, with many people learning about him before they learned about the club. And thus began the propogation of Utd fandom across Asia and India in particular.

That got the ball rolling. Which is why Utd supporters are broadly classified into two categories: 1. The fans who began supporting thanks to that match, who didn't know anything about football. 2. The glory-hunters and the wannabes who support Man Utd because everyone else does. Because it's "cool" to support Utd.

In my time in Mysore, I was hanging around the basketball court when I overheard two people in conversation. One seemed a level-headed chap, the other seemed a twat. Guess if you can guess which was which. The conversation went something like this:
A: (in a heavily accented and annoying voice) "I just hate ManU, you know. I will take bets against them, I will lose money, I don't care, but I just hate them."
B: "Yeah. Actually they have a lot of fans."
A: "Yaaaa, and you know that's the reason I hate them so much..."

Hmm. Thanks a lot, asshole. You broadly sum up most Utd-haters. And your willingness to lose money just to make a point- highly admirable! I wish you'd've taken some bets with me. Cocksucker.

The ABUs (Anyone But United), united only in their common hatred for Utd. Which is understandable.

The persecution from these creatures starts at the basest level. Why do we support Utd? They see us as bandwagon-hopping glory hunters, and nothing more. It's a vicious cycle for them: Utd has many supporters, that's why so many people support Utd, which adds to their fanbase, and so on. It's as if supporting any other team would qualify us to a certain basic respect that doesn't come with supporting Utd. It hardly crosses their mind that maybe we, like many people, started supporting a team for arbitrary reasons in the beginning, but came to understand and appreciate them. But no one takes us seriously. Not a Utd supporter.

Second most important, they hate our history. They hate when we bring it up. They accuse us, after every loss or hiccup in form, of hiding behind our history. Okay. It's not our fault that our club has such a marvelous history. Such jealousy boils within our rivals that they jump as if scalded every time they even hear the number "19." How dare we ever bring that up? Liverpool used to be the team with history. What gets them is that that's all they have now. They once told us to come back when we have 18 (Premier League titles). We now have one more. So they take pride in reminding us that they have 5 European Cups, while we only have 3. So much for not hiding behind history. Got knocked off your fuckin' perch, didn't you scousers? And then there are clubs like Chelsea, who have even less of a history than Liverpool, and very little of a present to speak of, whose fans claim not to care about history. That's a very pretty and convenient excuse. But you will be so kind as to forgive us for being proud of our history. And just to keep it recent for your sake, in the last 5 years we still have more trophies than you've had managers- and that's saying something.

Speaking of which, another reason for their hate is another reason for our pride: yes, Manchester United is a one man team, but that man is Sir Alex Ferguson. And they HATE Sir Alex, more than they hate our history and all our trophies combined. He's an arrogant, pompous son of a bitch. He bans media reporters, he only answers soft-ball questions, he influences refs, he tells the England manager that he doesn't want his boys to play, he get's extra time at Old Trafford when he needs it, and he seems to dictate dubious decisions. He is a force of evil. How else could he have remained manager of a single team for a quarter of a century, a feat unheard of in these tough times? How else could he have won 12 Premier League titles, more than some clubs? He must be strong with the Dark Side of the Force. But I'm glad that he's on our side.

Tick tock, ref, tick tock...
Player scuffles happen, because millionaire egos clash in the dressing room. Some of these players are kids. But the Gaffer always maintains that the Club is bigger than any player, as it should be. Then came Rooneygate, in October of 2010, where he claimed the "club had no ambition." This was a shocker, especially given the friendly relationship between Rooney and Sir Alex. It was, perhaps, and agent induced kerfuffle. Rooney agreed to stay and was given a pay raise, something rival fans are quick to keep us from forgetting. So which was it? Did Sir Alex swallow his pride and concede to Wayne's demands, or was Wayne confused because some caustic components were whispering poison in his ears? The fact is, we can only speculate. For me, whatever the case may be, his drastic improvement in pitch performance and utter devotion to the team has earned my forgiveness, sealed with that emphatic bicycle kick at Old Trafford against Manchester City in the same season. So when he kisses the badge, I believe it. Haters do not.

Rooney is a Red, at lest for now. So be afraid.
And now we come to the competition. The Blue Moon rising. Where to start. For years they have been the underachieving little brother. From across town. Suddenly Manchester City FC finds itself rolling in a sheikh's oil money and chock full of big stars with a successful Italian coach at their head. And now they are winning. Why wouldn't they, with stellar talent in the form of players like Sergio Aguero, son-in-law of the legendary Diego Maradonna; David Silva, one of the best midfielders in the league; Mario Ballotelli, a black Italian with behavioral issues and a mean streak.
The man behind the Blue Wave, Roberto Mancini.
Stellar talent, no doubt. Aguero, Balotelli, and Silva. Any team would be envious.
They are a force to reckon with. This season they have already beat us at Old Trafford by the embarassing scoreline of 1-6, and currently lead the table on points. And this is a fact that we are constantly reminded about. What gives them more glee is that it is the once upon a time retarded little brother that now seems to be calling shots in Manchester. And suddenly the City fans have come out of the woodwork. It's a bit sad the way they love a Utd loss more than a victory for their own side, whoever it may be.

Liverpool beat us 2-1 in the FA Cup this season. To lose to rivals is a horrible thing. Because we then face all kinds of dubious insinuations. And the ribbing is caustic and non-stop. It's a very special thing, and rival fans use it with the utmost glee. I suppose I can't blame them: defeating Utd IS a special thing.

Just recently we drew Chelsea at Stamford Bridge 3-3, coming back from 3-0 down. We had the help of two penalty calls, by none other than our savior, Howard Webb, top English referee. The accusations are rife and endless: Howard Webb is a Manchester United man. He always gives decisions in favor of Utd. He always helps Utd win. He always gives Utd more injury time so they can score a winner or an equalizer at OT. Sir Alex himself is supposed to have a magical control over all referees (except maybe Martin Atkinson). This notion, is of course rubbish. Rarely will they remember decisions that went against Utd. The penalties in question, however soft, were indeed penalties. The overall quality of refereeing these days is shown in a bad light altogether, with the media hyping every single bad or dubious call, but this constant whining and complaining about how certain referees support and protect Utd (or any other club, for that matter) is annoying and childish. I personally hate it when decisions go against my team (like Atkinson's refereeing in the reverse fixture of last season), but I also hate it when we win dubious challenges. Such sanity is never extended when dealing with a Devil, I'm afraid. The mob comes with pitchforks and torches to burn us at the stake.

Hold your cliched accusations till the end.
So their you have it. Utd fans are subject to a variety of disproportionate hate crimes, from ill-humored ribbing to blatant and arbitrary labelling as wannabes and worse.

Oh, but what to do. We support Man Utd. Manchester fucking United. The Red Devils. Oh baby, what a team. From the Busby Babes to the Fergie Fledglings, inspiration and triumph is everywhere you look. They are relentless. Your players may make money; ours make history. We are not arrogant, just better. Utd has given me so much, but one of the most important things is the power to B.E.L.I.E.V.E.

And that is a wonderful gift. No matter at what stage of the match it is, I NEVER LOSE FAITH. Last season we were down 2-0 to Aston Villa. When Macheda came on and bolted a strike in to make it 2-1, I was waiting for 2-3, not 2-2. Just recently against Chelsea, when we were down 3-0, I didn't give up. I sat up and waited for us to get equal, and the goals came one by one. Even on Black Sunday, when City had us pegged 1-3 at OT down and we lost Johnny Evans to a red card, I did not waver. The first two matches did indeed end up a draw, and we all know what happened with the last one. But this ability to BELIEVE in the face of sheer defeat is a gift Utd has given me, and something I am able to carry beyond football. What a magnificent thing.

And then there is just the pure joy of watching Manchester United play. What a beautiful high, to see that lovely attacking football. I love every one of those boys playing in that shirt. Yes, this thing with Utd has turned into a real love affair over the years. It is a privilege and a treat to watch them play. That never-say-die attitude which has become synonymous with brand Utd is massive. How do I thank them for this? For that unbeatable high and joy of watching Manchester United play football?

The haters will hate. That's what they do. They will pick and prod and point and grab at anything to pull you down, but that spirit is unshakable. Jealousy blinds and hatred stupefies, they will insinuate and accuse but they may never know that feeling, and for that they must be excused. Perhaps even pitied. And we LOVE your hate. It makes us stronger. It makes Manchester United who they are. Fuck yeah, it's the world against us. Give us hell.

So go on, label me. Insult me. Hate me.

We are The Red Devils, and we will march on.


  1. Nicely written man! Enjoyed reading it :D
    I'm surprised there's no mention of Arsenal anywhere :P