The great Sir Matt Busby once said: “At United we strive for perfection, if we fail we might just have to settle for excellence”. As I stood in the freezing cold at White Hart Lane yesterday, on the 19th anniversary of Sir Matt’s death, those words sounded ironic to say the least, considering the current state of some sections of United fans.
Despite the disappointment for dropping two points with the last kick of the game, on my way home on the Tube ( a short trip to away games in London is one of the few positives that came with relocating south some three years ago) I was still relatively pleased with the performance, considering we had come a few seconds away from snatching a hard-fought win against a very good side, one that has established itself as one of the league’s top four teams over the last few years and that contains several quality players.
A draw at Spurs is a very decent result, and based on what we saw yesterday it was probably the right outcome too, particularly as it means that United have now played all the top four sides away from home and collected 10 points out of a possible 12, very good going indeed considering that, out of the remaining fixtures away from home, Arsenal is arguably the toughest test awaiting United.
By the time I got home, however, one could have been forgiven for thinking that United had just been hammered 5-0 at home by a team lying at the bottom of the table and had now slipped outside the top 10. The social media, Twitter in particular, were awash with comments from people pointing fingers and blaming the players they’re supposed to support for drawing away against a top team. How dare they, the players that is, spoil some of this fans’lives with such inept performances?
The tweets, hilarious in their inability to place the situation into the right context, are a sad example of what United’s fanbase has become in recent times. Fellow Reds that utilise social media will know what I’m talking about, such is the outrage that takes Twitter by storm every time a player wearing a United shirt kicks a ball.
Now, I’m not naive enough to consider the social media network a reliable spectrum of our support, or of society for that matters, but it does offer some valuable insights in the minds of some so-called “fans”. At United, it seems, we are faced with a two-fronts situation in which neither of the parties seems likely to budge, a stalemate that resembles the political landscape of some European countries.
On one side we have the party that professes Fergie’s gospel to the four corners of the Earth. “Thou shall not criticise for the wrath of the Almighty (Fergie himself, presumably) will descend on the unfaithful who dares to so,” is their manifesto. In the eyes of this people, Sir Alex can not only do no wrong, he also can not be questioned, however sensible and reasonable the argument might be. Disciples dismiss anybody that dares to offer an opinion, pointing at the fact that a “winning team doesn’t need to be improved”, conveniently ignoring that Fergie himself is the first that has constantly stressed the need for constant improvement.
Personally, I love Sir Alex and I consider him the greatest manager that has ever lived but I have sometimes found myself wondering about the reasons behind some of his decisions. Obviously I dread the moment when he’ll leave the club, though I strongly believe that he’ll be the first who will want the club to move on without shedding too many tears.
On the other end of the scale, we have the doom merchants, people who demand success at all times regardless of the routes that have to be explored to achieve the results they crave for. Ironically, this particular party are so self-centred that they’d happily swap success with United failing miserably in every competition just to prove their point.
Although they sound like Liverpool or City fans in disguise, doom merchants considered themselves the carriers of the flame – something they share with the “Fergie’s always right” brigade – the only Reds brave enough to speak out against the mediocrity that has engulfed their beloved club in recent years.
While I don’t believe for a second that this United side could stand a comparison with the 1995-96, 1998-99 and 2007-08 teams, the fact that we’re top of the table and on track for recording the highest point tally in the league seems somehow conveniently overlooked. After last season’s capitulation five points are far from a decisive margin, but with Van Persie and Carrick in superb form, Kagawa seemingly finding his feet and a back four getting back to relative solidity, there are plenty of factors to draw positives from.
Unfortunately, judging by the 140-characters barricades erected on Twitter last night, the current United team is awful. Carrick and Cleverley will never be another Scholes and Keane, De Gea is a younger version of Bosnich and everything, from Dempsey’s goal to the credit crunch, is his fault while Welbeck will never become a footballer of United quality.
Last time I checked, United didn’t have a God-given right to win every single game. Some of the fans that mock Chelsea and City for their lack of faith in young players are the same that slate De Gea and Welbeck for their inexperience. Obviously neither of them is the finished product, but neither were Beckham, Scholes and Butt at Villa Park in 1995 or Cristiano Ronaldo against Bolton in 2003.
There can only be two plausible explanations as to why so many people seem to ignore the parallel between today’s youngsters and yesteryear’s – either they suffer from memory loss or, and that’s by far more likely, they ignore the history of the club they claim to support, which is also what plagues Fergie’s yes men and which produces an awful atmosphere at Old Trafford, where customers (a word not used loosely here) pay to experience something that no longer exists for it was created by the people that have now been priced out of watching their club.
If that’s the case, close the door on the way out and feel free to support Chelsea, City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG or all of the above. United fans can do without you.