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Opinion Piece

Is the modern day United fan an embarrassment?

2The 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.

1On 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.


Dan (@MUFC_dan87)



  1. Stephen

    January 21, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Definitely some are.. I think the older fans kinda remember how bad we were in the 70/80s, so much so that it was funny. They appreciate the success a great deal more as a result. They know how to win and lose gracefully, unlike a lot of the younger ones.

    • swede

      January 21, 2013 at 2:32 pm


      Spot on!

  2. Moscow

    January 21, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    If the fans complain, it’s because they care. This will continue until we mathematically guarantee the title. Striving for perfection is United’s DNA.

    • Dan

      January 21, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      @Moscow: Striving for perfection is in United’s DNA. I am hugely critical of the club myself but, like many other fans, I try to offer constructive criticism rather than simply slating players for the sake of it. However, many others choose the easy way out.

  3. Gaz

    January 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Agree, the average fan is a disgraceful glory hunter who doesn’t know his Olsen from his Edwards. They sit and think we should win every match and complain about players like Carrick who have won 4 titles in 6 years. 😈

  4. Shyam

    January 21, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    I for one was really thinking hard about writing such an article. Every time we lose some fans find time to loathe some of the United team rather than giving credit to the opponents. Yesterday was such a day. In the bitter snowy weather conditions, i think both team played well giving good moments of football. Yet some fans find the draw away at Spurs (who is the team that beat us at home) as a hugely disappointing result. They blame De Gea, they blame Valencia, they blame Welbeck..I dont know who all else make up the whole list.

    Its disappointing that we lost the lead with 1 minute to go. But it was a fair result from a closely fought proper football match.

  5. arthurvcat

    January 21, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    i agree with the vast majority of your points…however i have to raise the issue of wellbeck as im starting to lose my mind regarding him….you cannot compare wellbeck to ronaldo regarding the player ronnie was when inexperienced…anyone could see he had huge natural talent…he just needed polishing up…and he was…wellbeck has no talent…he cannot pass…he cannot control the ball….all he has is effort….his role in the team is seemingly just to chase down defenders…he doesnt have to score or contribute anything going forward and rarely does he…wellbeck is symptomatic of why england as a nation fails on the world stage….where all fans seem interested in is effort and “getting stuck in”…berbatov was hounded out of united for not running around like an headless chicken…i have even been sat aside people at old trafford screaming at ronaldo for not tracking back…i think football fans would be happy to see 10 mo farrahs on the pitch running around constantly irrespective of any form of ability….however i do rate de gea and clev and carrick…and i think united have played much better than we have been credited with this year…de gea will be a great keeper given time…and clevs getting better every game…and carricks benefitting from have younger legs alongside him……i also think yesterday was a cracking result as we have some very winnable fixtures coming up…and no team has a divine right to win at spurs who are a very tidy team…and im sick of the comparisons to keane and scholes in their prime…players like that dont grow on trees for goodness sake..our fans need to realise we were as blessed and as lucky in that era as the barca fans are right now…and yes fergie does get it wrong..POGBA…..we should be enjoying a midfield 3 of clev carrick and pogba this year which would be awesome..however if ur 19 and seeing 38 and 39 year olds start in front of you little wonder you would leave..

  6. Roly

    January 21, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Younger fans cannot remember when United were an average team the 26 years without a league title, an FA cup final was the zenith of the season.
    Why not just support the team and enjoy the successes while they last

  7. VP

    January 21, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    I remember when during the ‘dry’ Mourinho years, we used to explain such behavior saying they were post-99 fans. Now it appears, most of them are post-2008 fans 🙁

  8. Mark M

    January 21, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Too many United fans either were not fans of the club pre-Fergie, were not born pre-Fergie or conveniently forget the 70`s and 80`s. Back then we were delighted with the odd FA Cup whilst Liverpool cleaned up.
    All the silverware since 1990 has been amamzing but I would NEVER feel like we are `entitled` to win any match or competition we enter. Too many `fans` have been spoiled by our success. To say “winning is in our DNA” or “it`s because we care” is fine and well but be sporting about it – THAT`S the United way.

  9. Steven A

    January 21, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    “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.”

    Master stroke here. 😉

    I can’t stand these so called United fans that rip other clubs constantly, yet have zero faith in our own youth. Smh.

    I don’t care how large a club United are, players are still people whose experience only comes with time. Those United fans in the know, understand this concept full well and have accepted this. Mind you, we would’ve lost that match yesterday 3-1 had it not been for the excerpts of one David De Gea, but I digress.

    Point is, it takes time for these players to build and grow into a position, regardless of the microscope placed on them. Anyone who thinks otherwise can jump ship.

    Great article.

    • Ian

      January 21, 2013 at 6:04 pm

      @Steven A: Does it take a mature, experienced GK the same time to build and grow into the job when he arrives at United as it does for a young, inexperienced one?

      • Steven A

        January 21, 2013 at 8:28 pm

        @Ian: If you fancy buying off the top shelf, not at all.

        • Redrich

          January 22, 2013 at 2:44 am

          @Steven A: At £17m I think the top shelf was was called on.
          Dumb move to buy an expensive, inexperienced GK from outside the UK.

  10. despicable

    January 21, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Absolutely, It will as long as its a trend, when following United is considered a status symbol in countries like mine, you might find fans who can’t even tell 10 players names. 🙄 🙄

    • Ian

      January 21, 2013 at 6:30 pm

      @despicable: The season ticket is now a status symbol too yet there isn’t a waiting list in the 1,000’s like there used to be. Says a lot itself imo.

  11. Ian

    January 21, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    United are in a totally different position now than where they were 25+ yrs ago. They’re now (thanks to Sir Alex) in a position where finishing with just the odd FA Cup in a decade isn’t enough. The entire running of the club is based on success on the pitch, qualification for Champs league an absolute minimum and even a sustained period of that alone would be a disaster financially for the club.

    Unfortunately, that position means having great great teams like 84-86 winning just one FA Cup isn’t an option, the club have created the monsters you’re talking about Dan by creating an establishment that HAS to win at all costs.

    Why do we all think 4 top strikers and a squad the size of Andorra is necessary nowadays? It’s because, if one player aint doing it another one will…..because they have to, somebody HAS to or the alternative is unthinkable. No more backing Gary Birtles in the hope he’ll turn it around. No more sticking with Peter Davenport because he was the only option in the squad. No more accepting a bad season and looking forward to the next, those days have gone unfortunately. All angles are now covered, because they have to be. Don’t blame the fans for that.

    We’re in a different era. The clientèle has changed, players have changed, fans have changed, even the game’s changed to a certain extent. The same fans you’re calling, are the same fans the club relish.

    • Redrich

      January 22, 2013 at 2:34 am

      @Ian: Amen to that.
      The fan is not the same as he/she used to be. Nor are the stadiums, the players, the cost of being one, the information available – it’s a whole new world.
      Better, but nor purer!!

  12. The_Philosopher

    January 22, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Great point. We don’t appreciate what we have in Sir Alex and Manchester United.

    Its interesting times for our club right now. We’re coming to the latter years of Sir Alex’s reign. Where would we be without him?

    What does the future hold for us? Will we be eclipsed by Man City in years to come?

    Will we find a manager worthy of leading this club to the great heights Sir Alex has led us to?

    There are a lot of questions. Empires come and go. Ask the Romans (or Liverpool) . Will the departure of Sir Alex mark the end of an era or will we march on triumphantly?

    We are in uncertain times for sure. Long live Sir Alex Ferguson!

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