With City’s victory over United, is the tide turning in Manchester?

22 04 2011

Based on comments made in forums and chat rooms after Manchester City’s FA Cup semi final win over United, was the result as monumental for the fans as the press would have you believe?

With Edwin van der Sar’s poor clearance, Michael Carrick’s slack pass and Yaya Toure’s opportunistic finish Manchester City clinched a 1-0 victory over their fierce rivals United and marched onto their first FA Cup final in 30 years.

The facts will read thus: Roberto Mancini’s team will face Stoke City in the final of the FA Cup. It will be their best opportunity in recent years to end a trophy-less era stretching back 35 years since winning the League Cup of 1976. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side will have to wait another year to challenge for the famous domestic cup, which they last won in 2004 having been beaten in two final appearances since.

In the league the Citizens are competing with Tottenham Hotspur for the lucrative 4th place and Champions League qualification. In contrast the Red Devils now have their sights firmly set on a well-positioned assault on the Barclays Premier League and Champions League crown.

These are the facts, yes, but for the red and blue sides of Manchester the 16 April 2011 has had and will continue to have dramatic ramifications for years to come.

City – A watershed moment

The overwhelming reaction from City fans has been one of unbridled joy and optimism.

“Today the team got a monkey off their back. This will instil the confidence in the players that they can beat the best in the land on a regular basis. The celebrations at the end showed that. This result could be the turning point for the team.” Burtonblue on bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk

Several City fans see Saturday’s result as a momentous, watershed moment for the blue side of Manchester – with a playing squad and budget to match the top teams in England – marking the start of better things to come for Roberto Mancini’s team.

“We may lose the final to Stoke – we know that would be kind of typical City – but Saturday 16th April for me is now the start of Year 1.” The Blue Panther on bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk

United – Bitter pill to swallow

For United supporters, the enduring memory from the Wembley defeat was one of indignation. That, and disappointment that these City upstarts dare upstage the team in red and dash their prospects of repeating the treble triumph of 1999.

Unsurprisingly the United fans were also playing down the significance of the result, highlighting how much the team have yet to play for this season.

“If anybody said we had to lose out on one, of course it’d be FA Cup. Yes, to be 90 mins away from a final and not get there is disappointing, even more so when it’s against your city rivals, but I’m sure we’ll forget about this if we win the title or the CL.” MUFCgal on redcafe.net

Some were even feigning relief the treble was no longer on the cards, yet fellow members quickly quashed this suggestion. Clearly the fans are despondent an opportunity to relive the magic of ‘99 has been denied.

“Lets not win the treble because it’s special being a one-off? What a load of nonsense. Good thing our Manager doesn’t have that mentality.” BG on rednews.co.uk

Furthermore, this result has served as a wakeup call for United fans with member comments alluding to a realisation City are now more than mere noisy neighbours – and it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

“We all know Saturday’s loss will need a long time before it is erased from the memory. Now they have finally beaten us in a meaningful way they will want to use it to the max especially with all the moolah they have. No 19 [top flight league wins] would go some way to softening the blow but the taste it has left will be bitter for a good while.” daviephi on rednews.co.uk

Manchester thanks Sheikh Mansour

While the United fans were licking their wounds the City fans were quick to pay tribute to two individuals in particular: their owner Sheikh Mansour, who they feel has more than shown his commitment to the club, and their often-maligned manager Mancini.

“Just can’t believe what has happened to us so quickly and cant thank Sheikh Mansour enough! I look at our squad now and if we get Champions League…it blows my mind! We will be legends for years to come but will never forget our history!” richards30 on bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk

While the optimism is clear to see some are just thankful for the memories the result provided, presumably none more so than Mancini who looks to have finally endeared himself to the fans.

“I know if we were to finish 5th and lose the final my attitude will change again but I have been saying that even if we finish top 4 I would still like [Mancini] to be removed of his duties…now I am not so sure. Whatever the future holds thank you Roberto for that moment yesterday, something I will remember for a long time!” OriganiNinja on bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk

A Manchester in transition

So in the longer term, what does the result mean for each team’s future prospects? In brief: a brighter outlook for City, a bleaker outlook for United.

“Fergie has a huge job to do to get us over the line for 19, (I do not think we have the ammunition to win the CL) and an even huger task to recruit/rebuild and shed dead wood this summer. It’s not going to be easy. If the berties [slang for City fans] qualify for the CL, this guy at the Arse puts his hand in his pocket and Dogleash [sic] starts spending we will need to do some very astute wheeling and dealing, starting NOW!” Everred on rednews.co.uk

The red fans have been aware of a transition taking place in the northwest and are wary of the challenge City will bring to their recent dominance. The fraught second Manchester derby last season was billed as such – as this author wrote ahead of that lunchtime contest at Eastlands.

That match was dramatically settled with a last gasp Paul Scholes header, which the United midfielder recently described as “one of the best things I have ever done”. Those memories are set in stark contrast with his actions in the teatime clash at Wembley where Scholes and his teammates cut forlorn figures desperately trying to cling onto a superiority that has been rapidly eroding over the past two seasons.

The Treble and the Auto Windscreens Shield

Despite the immediate implications of Saturday’s result and another reminder of the shift in momentum in Manchester, some fans offered a sense of nostalgic perspective.

“It’s hard to believe the position we are now in. I remember us getting beaten by Bury around 12 years ago and wondered if we would ever get back near to the top. We have and it is all down to one man…” kismet on bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk [on post headed “Manchester thanks Sheikh Mansour”]

These memories hark back to the 1998-99 season, when City were battling in the old Third Division (and United were building to a famous treble), chronicled in Mark Hodkinson’s Blue Moon:

“Sensibly, staff at Maine Road seldom mention Manchester’s other team these days,” wrote Hodkinson. “United are success, money, glamour and a 1-1 draw with Juventus in the semi-final of the Champions League, while City are failure, debt, calamity and a 2-1 home defeat to Mansfield Town in the Auto Windscreens Shield.”

It is a testament to how far City have come to be competing, once again, for the most coveted prize of English cup football yet highlights one of the greatest strengths this United can boast under Ferguson – that of a remarkable consistency and staying power at the top.

City have won four FA Cups in their history. In Sir Alex Ferguson’s 24-year tenure at United he has held the trophy aloft on five occasions, with the club amassing 11 wins in the competition overall.

“While they cared on the day, and I’m sure it still hurts a bit, it would have pained us a hell of a lot more. Celebrating is great and we deserve it after beating them but it brings us back around to this small club mentality. We should enjoy this now, enjoy the small victories, because we’ll have them singing non stop when they win the Premiership at the end of the season and God help us if they get to the CL final and Barca have an off day.” Rahart on bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk

Stoke and silverware is just the start

For now, objectives such as to knock United “off their perch” will have to wait but in the short-term City have all the weapons in their armoury, with gifted players an astute management team and an ambitious oil-rich backer, to challenge their cross-town rivals.

“Even if they don’t win it they’ll bang on about it for ages like the Leeds lot still do. 1-0 blah blah blah. It’s horrible. We better get used to it because they’ll be there or thereabouts as long as they have the money and with SAF set to retire one day it will be tough.” Claymore on redcafe.net

The Citizens won’t be happy until parity is unequivocally confirmed in the League and in the Champions League but ending 35 years of hurt – something that puts Arsenal’s current woes in perspective – will go a long way to restoring the balance of Manchester.

Then of course, if United secure the Barclays Premiership, the blue and red armies will be locking horns again at the home of English football in the curtain-raiser to the 2011-12 season for the FA Community Shield.

Whether United fans like it or not, it appears City have joined the top table of English football and the Red Devils will have a fight on their hands to hold onto the silverware.





Red devils decline, blue moon ascent. A Manchester in transition

16 04 2010

The most decisive Manchester derby since Dennis Law’s back-heel in 1974 will highlight where success and failure lies in a footballing city marked by a season of transition.

Forget the War of the Roses. Forget the north/south divide. Saturday’s clash between the red and blue armies of Manchester promises to be an epic, with meteoric implications for both clubs and both sets of supporters.

The Carling Cup contest was a classic cup tie with each side going for broke from the first kick. The early season 4-3 victory over City was special for its drama. The 2-1 humbling of United in 2008, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Munich disaster will not be forgotten quickly.

But with unrest and uncertainty in the air for the reds, contrasting with the optimism and financial clout wielded by the blues, this Premier League derby could prove as decisive and divisive a match as there has been at Old Trafford since former red, Denis Law’s back-heeled goal for City relegated United to the old second division in 1974.

Both sets of supporters have had fun with the renewed rivalry in Manchester Victory for United in the powder-keg atmosphere of Eastlands would reinvigorate their flagging aspirations for a fourth consecutive championship. While defeat or success for City would have dramatic implications for their assault on the top four, the immediate future for their manager and offer a fitting barometer to gauge the potential of this revamped, resurgent City of Manchester club.

For both Lancashire outfits this season has been one etched with transition. United are just facing up to a potentially bleaker future of consolidation and austerity on the pitch and in the transfer market. City, by contrast, have been burgeoned by Sheikh Mansour’s billions generating a firm belief in this club that they can recapture the glory days gone by of the 1960s and 70s.

The prospects for this period of transition in Manchester will be clearer when the final whistle goes tomorrow lunchtime. In previous years United have been almost untouchable in the league, setting the standards of domestic football while City were establishing themselves in a relatively new stadium and trying to shrug off doubts over the legitimacy of their ownership by Thaksin Shinawatra.

Since Gary Neville held the Premier League trophy aloft in May the gap between the clubs seen in performances on the pitch and in the transfer market has narrowed considerably. Perhaps this fixture in the coming years could represent a title decider – the likes of which not seen since Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison led City to League Championship success in 1967/68, when United were beaten into second place – as the two clubs continue on this path toward a level playing field.

Uncertainty and unrest at United came with the emergence of the tremendous debt the club is facing Returning to the story of 1974, two years after Law’s goal against his former club, the blue side of Manchester was celebrating victory in the League Cup. It has been 34 years since that day and they have not picked up anymore silverware since – a fact the Old Trafford faithful propagate with increasing relish. The second-leg Carling Cup semi-final tie in January, regardless of what Ferguson would say about the importance of reaching finals, was ultimately about extending this barren spell, delaying Mancini’s men an outing at Wembley that their attacking displays this campaign have arguably deserved.

A befitting consolation for their passionate support would be a top four finish and an opportunity to represent what they believe to be the true team of Manchester on Europe’s centre stage – in the Champions League – confirming their ascent to club football’s elite that their billions of pounds would vindicate and their thousands of fans would demand.

Both times at Old Trafford a last-gasp goal has been the only thing maintaining United’s superiority this season. At the City of Manchester Stadium, the former United striker, Carlos Tevez was the difference for the Blues taking a 2-1 lead in the cup. It could well be, just like Dennis Law in ‘74, a former red devil that will have the final say on a season dominated by transition that will ultimately end in despair for one half of Manchester and celebration for the other.

Dennis Law’s back-heel that consigned his former club, United to relegation




‘Top four’ myth of the Premier League

22 03 2009

In response to the predictable grumbles that the Premier League has reverted to its boring tag, as the ‘top four’ dominate everything, I felt compelled to investigate and compare this predicament to overseas leagues.

This predominance of certain teams at the top of their tables affects all the best competitions in Europe, without fail. Nevertheless, Liverpool are an exception. They are invariably in or about the top of the league but have failed to finish first for verging on two decades now. So why does this trend of dominance occur? It may seem a little obvious, but success breeds success. And in this day and age, that means money, ensuring they remain at the top of the table.

Sky Sports' marketing campaign relies on the popularity of the clash between the 'big four'

As the leading domestic competitions of England, Spain and Italy illustrate, there are always dominant teams that compete for the trophy who excel more than the rest and move away from the chasing pack.

In England, despite the Red Devils’ dominance, the last eight years have seen the trophy been shared more evenly between Manchester United (four), Chelsea (two) and Arsenal (two). Although these three and Liverpool are regularly at the summit of the league, the latter’s singular success coming 18 years ago suggests that their status in the top four has not been decisive. Verdict: ‘Big Three’ unless Liverpool can overtake Manchester United in the remaining two months of the season.

image

In Spain, the two giants of the game, Real Madrid and Barcelona have traded blows and first places by a long distance from any other team with eight a piece in the last 20 years. Teams like Sevilla, Villarreal and Atletico Madrid, who are in and around the top of the table now, have struggled to turn this position into league winning campaigns. Valencia have been unable to rediscover the champion winning form of 2004 and find themselves in mid-table. Verdict: only really a ‘Big Two’.

In Italy, Milan, Juventus and Inter have shared the spoils fairly evenly for the last 20 years. Despite Juve being relegated in 2006 for match fixing, they have restored their status as one of the top teams in Italy this season, currently sitting a few points adrift of Inter in second, with Milan not far behind. Yet the past glories for Roma, Lazio, Napoli and Sampdoria appear to be merely fleeting moments of glory and they cannot make their presence felt at the top. Verdict: dominance of the ‘Big Three’ European heavy-weights.

Pie charts better

The  global recognition of the game has gone into hyper-drive since the turn of the century, meaning that the dominant teams with the history of glorious eras have been exalted above all other teams who have not received such recognition. Therefore, financial investment from the high rollers with the biggest bank balances have come calling to Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and Anfield first. The top clubs on the continent have investment from the actual government or whole communities as if they were a religious institution. AC Milan are owned by the Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi no less, and Real Madrid’s huge debts were wiped by the city itself buying their training facilities from the club at astronomical expense and then leasing it back to the club. So clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona and AC Milan, whose histories are steeped in unwavering glory, have likewise, been elevated to higher plains than their competition can cope with.

Ultimately, the modern game showers financial success upon the clubs whose past glories draw in the biggest crowds, the most sought after talent and the most privileged economic investment available – thereby solidifying their status at the top of the table – with consistent seasons in the Champions League evident of such stature. As a marketing goldmine, these teams have been built up as a global enterprise, crossing the boundaries between sporting recreation and lucrative business brands. Thus, they have become recognised by the companies fighting for TV rights (Sky/Setanta), and the billionaires looking for global investment, finding them adorned with the corporate tag of being the ‘big’ boys of the league.

So stop complaining about this establishment of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal as the top teams in the league. They are there because they are the top team in the league. If they were not there it would mean that the best teams were not playing the brilliant football they are capable of. Realise that Liverpool are yet to be truly deserving of this title during the Premier League’s lifespan and be grateful that there are at least three teams capable of taking the top spot.

So, as Fulham and Tottenham have shown recently, the other teams in the league must seize on any off day for the teams at the top. The onus is on these teams to step up to the plate. Take note Villa!





Famous last words Rafa?

13 01 2009

Are we witnessing the last few unceremonious days of Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool managerial career?

Over the past few days I have been patiently watching the fall-out from Rafa Benitez’s Friday press conference unfold. And after seeing Liverpool drop points yet again and seeing Manchester United demolish Chelsea in picking up maximum points over the weekend, I can’t help but think that we are witnessing the unraveling of his career as Liverpool manager and the famous last words of the Spaniard’s reign in the Premiership.

The press who were probing the questions at the conference started off proceedings by bringing up the mysterious issue of the Liverpool hierarchy’s stalling on offering the manager a new contract. If his response to these questions was designed to reaffirm his control over the team and silence any doubters of his ability to guide a team at the top of the table to victory then he unequivocally failed.

Contract fears

“My agent has not yet received any documents, and he is a little disappointed,” started Benitez on Friday. “But Ok, we will see what happens. But I do not want to say too much at the moment.”

Instead he turned his attention to a harmless looking piece of A4 paper in front of him which served as his documented ammunition in a barrage of “facts” not opinions, aimed unerringly in the direction of Sir Alex Ferguson. His reaction and subsequent remarks suggest he is feeling the strain and pressure of the Liverpool board, fans and rivals efforts to overhaul their position in the league more than anyone could have predicted.

To reveal this to the television cameras and reporters at what is still such an early point in the season will surely spell the beginning of the end of his career and what is most bizarre of all is that he has undermined his ability completely by his own doing without so much as a mutter of Sir Alex Ferguson’s ‘mind games’.

Call it what you may, a “rant,” “tirade” or just speaking of the truth, but much has been made of his comments and their implications for the 2008/09 Premiership season after Manchester United won and Liverpool drew.

The BBC’s Phil McNulty suggested that Fergie has won the first round of battles with Rafa and simultaneously dented the aspirations of Chelsea and European rivals Inter Milan with the same blow.

Perfect team talk

Chris Kamara felt that Rafa’s comments would have worked for Liverpool had the “rant” been performed “tongue-in-cheek” but instead it provided the perfect team talk for the United players to go out and lay down a marker for their title aspirations this season.

Even if another year has rolled around for Sir Alex at the age of 67, any signs of weariness or reluctance to go on the attack were vanquished in this post-match dissection of Benitez’s words. Ferguson issued the perfect tongue-in-cheek demonstration after the game to every interviewer that crossed his path.

“I think he was an angry man and I think he was disturbed for some reason, that’s all I’ve got to say about it.”

Since then Benitez has persisted in attacking Manchester United by questioning the United Chief-Executive David Gill’s position on the Football Association’s board. So what does Rafa’s rant say about the Liverpool manager? Is he losing the plot, or was he making a calculated probe at the ever-eager Ferguson to get the jump on his New Year lobbies of ‘mind games’ which usually accompany Manchester United’s surge to the summit of the table?

His words were reminiscent of Kevin Keegen’s concession of his Newcastle team’s title credentials live on Sky Sports in 1996. “I will luv it if we beat them…luv it!” Shortly after Ferguson got under Keegen’s skin at the back end of the 1995/96 season the Magpies form went to tatters and with it went the last truly dignified moments of the Geordie’s managerial era with that infamous outburst.

Are you watching Jose?

If anything, Rafa’s comments on Friday were influential in adding even more publicity to one of the most eagerly observed fixtures of the season by fans and more importantly rivals across the globe. I wonder if half the big name managers that took their seats in the stand prior to kick-off had made such a plan to be there for the game had it not been for the Liverpool manager stoking the fire and amplifying the spotlight on United’s season that had been faltering to a certain extent up to that point.

As soon as news of his conference went to the press, private planes and chauffeur’s driven escorts across the country and continent would have suddenly been called into high demand to cater for the arrival of the football scenes biggest names. Fabio Capello, Jose Mourinho and Diego Maradona, to name but a few who attracted the majority of the camera coverage. Sky Sports practically had a camera focused on the Special One for the duration of the 90 minutes and probably had spies camped all around the ground noting his every move from the Chelsea dressing room after the match to the South stand concourse for his half-time pie (I wouldn’t be surprised – he misses the English Premiership that much).

As football correspondent, Oliver Kay of The Times noted in The Game, the victory for the Premiership champions marked a double edged blow to Mourinho. As he says “United strike chord of fear” in underlining the disparity between Manchester United and his beloved Chelsea since his departure in 2007 and underlining the challenge his new team Inter Milan will have when they take on the European champions in the Champions League this February.

He recently commented that he would have guided Chelsea to take the European prize last season had it been him on the touchline and not the beleaguered Avram Grant. Yet, now that he has the chance to prove his managerial abilities in Europe with the Italian league champions, after this illustration of attacking and defensive force, even the ever enigmatic and confidence oozing Mourinho may be having serious doubts and sleepless nights.

Questions answered

So, as for now at least, Fergie won’t rise to Rafa’s challenge for mind games, I will attempt to respond to the “facts” that the Spaniard attributed to the Scotsman and his team:

Would United rather have 4 games at home in the second half of the season – I don’t think so. Ask any team at the foot of the table, being in pole position whether facing a relegation or championship battle at Christmas can be an enormous psychological advantage if utilised effectively. If it were not for Liverpool and Chelsea’s faltering Christmas period of drawing the majority of their very winnable games, they would have stretched at least 10 points clear of United before they had a chance to catch up on their games in hand. Liverpool could have used their lead so much more effectively were they not to be so obviously glancing over their shoulders in the press at every turn.

United had an advantage playing on the 29th rather than the 28th when all the other Premiership teams did in December. This was only to cater for the mammoth travelling effort and draining effects of their trip to Yokohama for the FIFA World Club Cup in Japan for games on the 18th and 21st followed by an away game at Stoke on the 26th. Yet despite the added challenge this tournament presented for the Manchester team and their Premiership program, you don’t hear Fergie complaining 24/7. Perhaps he has learned past lessons as in 2000 when he withdrew United from the FA cup to ease the strain on his team competing in the equivalent global tournament but when you are successful Rafa, you will know the pressures that come hand in hand.

And then there is the response to perceived swipes made at Rafa’s title credentials this season made by Ferguson by suggesting that Liverpool don’t have the experience that is vital to maintain the number one position at the top of the table for the duration of the season. Well Rafa, your performance in the press room last week spoke volumes. It appears that not only are you unable to personally maintain a level of composure and assurance under the stresses that the city of Liverpool is mounting on you to bring them a Premiership trophy; but the pressure has filtered down to the players with their recent stumbling at Stoke another portent example. And finally, with United playing one of their games in hand on Wednesday and playing again on Saturday ahead of Liverpool’s Merseyside derby with Everton on Monday, Liverpool may find themselves having handed over the lead and the initiative to Ferguson’s charges without even kicking a ball.

I would love it!

But don’t expect these responses to emanate from Sir Alex’s quarters anytime soon. He will let his team and their performance against Liverpool at Old Trafford on March 14th do the talking. But personally, I would love it if we beat them…love it!!





An away day at Pride-less Park

9 01 2009

Is it harmless banter or malicious intent that fuels the football fans chanting and taunting from the terraces?

As I set off East Midlands-bound for Manchester United’s Carling Cup semi-final encounter with Derby County at their Pride Park stadium on Wednesday I reluctantly anticipated a footballing upset. Sure enough the upset materialised, but in later reflecting on the events of that night what I found most distressing was in fact the behaviour of the football fans, in what was a thoroughly pride-less display.

In the bars and pubs around Derby – I can only account for those that allowed themselves to be overrun by the travelling United fans – the singing and chanting rang out loud and clear from our vocal support. Anyone who ventured near, including the local police who bravely entered a number of times, would have certainly been impressed by the bold, brash and unwavering chants that reverberated about the streets. Yet despite this merriness, the closer it got to kick off, the more malevolent and ominous the chanting became as the atmosphere began to take on an uncomfortable air as if some were preparing for conflict.

One chant in particular struck a nerve and set my mind in motion for this post you have before you. This song I speak of put lyrics and verse to the tragic event of two Leeds United fans that were stabbed to death in violent clashes with Galatasaray fans in Turkey on an away European night in 2000.

As kick-off approached and the songs followed the throng of fans out the pubs we made our way to the stadium which was already resounding with rumbling noise as it was filling up. As we queued at the ticket collection point my friend let out a show of frustration for the delay in his ticket arriving only to hear vulgar racist insults spurted out in his direction by a fellow United fan.

For the full 90 minutes the volleys of chanting rebounded between both sets of fans. The United faithful were only to be silenced momentarily by the jubilation erupting from three sides of the ground when Kris Commons’ thunderbolt crashed into the back of the net, yet the fans exuberance could not be transmitted to the players and the Premiership champions floundered to a 1-0 defeat. As the final whistle went it appeared that the vociferous chanting from the away end had to take on a more physical form and so, just on cue, kids as young as 12 proceeded to kick in the Derby stadium seats in vain attempts at salvaging the last laugh while being chased away by fluorescently attired stewards.

“Best fans in the world,” quoted Wayne Rooney recently. I find it hard to believe that this behaviour represents the pinnacle that is on show in this institution’s supporters. The pride I exclusively hold for my team was quickly wearing thin for this contingent of my fellow travelling fans.

Heysel Stadium Disaster

As we trudged back toward the station surrounded by several equally disgruntled United fans sounding out excuses for the defeat, my friend recounted a particularly terrifying confrontation with opposition fans outside Liverpool’s Anfield stadium barely a year ago after a United injury-time victory. In recognising his thick Manchester accent a group, shrouded by hoodies and scarves over their faces, caught up with him and his two friends and proceeded to kick seven shades of sh- out of them in broad daylight. The current threat of clashes between football firms that undeniably persists from its most savage days of the 80s is clearly still alive and evidently kicking.

There is no love lost between Manchester United and Liverpool FC on the pitch no less than between the two cities inhabitants. The history of skirmishes between the two fierce rivals is well documented by the teams’ supporters eager to get the terraces going in reminding the opposition of the tragedies of their past.

Most recently, the Michael Shields incident occurring in Istanbul and the possible incarceration of an innocent man has encouraged ridicule from the Stretford End of Old Trafford. These chants would undoubtedly be sparked off or responded to by references to the Munich air disaster of 1958 and insufferable imitations of plane engines which constantly pierced my eardrums when travelling to Old Trafford on the Manchester Metro last season. Then again, this would only encourage the retaliation of the chant “Murderers…murderers…” by the United culprits in reminding of the tragic Heysel and Hillsborough Disasters of the 80s resulting in the deaths of 39 and 96 fans crushed and trampled to death in the melee and mayhem of matches both involving Liverpool fans. 

In witnessing the infectious animalistic chanting that pours down from the football terraces across the country, I question whether this method of supporting the team closest to your heart has lost all sporting meaning and given way to a malicious mob like mentality.

So what is it that churns up these primitive emotions at Pride Park and every other football stadium on Saturday afternoons? What is it that keeps people coming back for more generation after generation? Can this behaviour be accepted or must it be excused as part and parcel, just a bit of fun, all part of the game?

Just as with Wazza (Mr. Rooney) take away the fury that burns the fire in his belly and you’ll lose the spirit and enthusiasm of his performance – rid the game of these away-day duels and terrace taunts and you’ll lose the passion at the core of Britain’s football tradition.

But for me, the more sung about the history of the club and the players, and the less said about these supporter feuds and past conflicts the better; to ensure these future away-days remind football fans to protect the pride of the tradition and lose the prejudice of the game.

What their team means to a United fan