Opinion: Why I’m No Longer Supporting Manchester United
Most sports fans base their sporting allegiance on proximity. Loyalty is born out of an inextricable link that one’s city or neighborhood has to a team. To support a team outside of one’s area is blasphemous and seen as a form of bloodless backstabbing.
However, when the club you support is 5,000 miles away, jumping ship and donning another club’s kit is more akin to breaking up with a long distance girlfriend who you’ve only ever video chatted with rather than ending it with your childhood sweetheart.
This breakup letter goes out to Manchester United.
Despite an entire ocean buffering our love affair I’ve been a lifelong United fan. Yet since Ferguson retired, the club has endured five uncharacteristically poor seasons. After having bagged 38 trophies during his 26 years at the helm, Manchester had Fergie’s prints all over it.
Ferguson left the club with money, a solid squad, and a style of play that was proven to yield results. Despite these gifts, the four subsequent managers that have warmed the gaffer’s chair have failed to replicate Sir Alex’s success.
Under Sir Alex, the club averaged a Premier League title every two seasons and since 1991/92 had never finished outside the top 3. Since his departure, the club’s Premier League finishes are as follows: 7th, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 2nd.
The latest result may indicate that United are on the rise, and as far as the rankings go they are, yet this isn’t the United that so many overseas fans have grown up watching.
To me, Jose Mourinho’s appointment was a cry for help. Handing the managerial responsibilities to Mourinho is the equivalent of a bottom-dwelling club looking to Sam Allardyce to save them from relegation.
After a couple of woeful seasons under LVG, United’s board wanted a bit of stability. Mourinho’s got a proven track record yet his style is anathema to United fans. Under Ferguson, we were spoiled by high-scoring affairs where we controlled the tempo and took the game to the opponent. Jose is the antithesis of high scoring.
His first season saw United play timid football, park the bus, and as a result scored only 54 goals - 4 more than 14th placed Crystal Palace. Ferguson’s last season ended with United at the top of the table having netted 86 goals. Clearly, times have changed.
Every Premier League fan has high hopes going into the season, yet it’s only a matter of time before those hopes give way to pessimism. For me, the idea that United was back to its old ways was dashed by the end of the first half against Leicester.
From the jump, the Red Devils played like an away team under the lights of the Theater of Dreams. When they didn’t have possession they’d sit back and allow Leicester to carry the ball up the field until they had 10 United players snugly pinned back in their own final third.
With their 47% possession, United looked vapid, rarely cutting the visiting team’s defense open. Throughout the game, Leicester’s new signing James Maddison bossed the midfield and created the game’s best chances. By the end of it, United had managed 7 shots while Leicester notched 13.
Despite Mourinho’s claims that United is never the recipient of luck, they were awarded a dubious penalty and scored a second goal that would never have been had Luke Shaw not miss-controlled the ball leading to a serendipitous game-winner.
Apart from these changes, United looked like they were afraid to attack a Leicester side that shouldn’t even be performing in the same theater as the great Manchester United.
My urge to find a new team to support came when my dissatisfaction for United’s play drifted towards affection for Leicester. As the East Midlands club pushed forward I was reminded of David v Goliath, except in this scenario Goliath was on his back voluntarily letting little David kick him with the studs of his boot.
Sure eventually Goliath woke up and won the match due to an ungraceful touch from a left-back, but who wants to cheer for a team that does the bare minimum when its equipped with such sumptuous weaponry?
The results haven’t persuaded me to jump on another team’s bandwagon, but the style has. The next team I embrace will surely be one that doesn’t employ a defensive back that dons that number 17.
Thanks for the memories United, but until you start flogging the minnows like City does (6-1 against Huddersfield) I’ll be showing affection to my newest long-distance lover elsewhere.