A tribute to the Manchester United faithful
A tribute to the Manchester United fans.
Manchester United might have struggled through the 2013-14 season, but their fans never get the credit that they are due. Here are a few instances through which the fans have shown their unflinching support.
It all started against West : Remember the West Brom game at Old Trafford, way back at the beginning of the season in 2013. When United conceded the first goal, it was nothing new. What the fans were expecting was a swift response, much in the United way. What they were served was raw capitulation and a lack of fight. Mind you, injuries have plagued every season of United. But capitulation was something new for the Old Trafford faithful. The Old Scot would have been raging inside, albeit from the directors’ box.
Monday Blues: While United were romping and chomping on the road, they were unusually nervous at home. The expectations at home suddenly seemed to create more acid inside the players’ nerves rather than thrust, composure and tenacity. Defeat after defeat at home left the fans seething with frustration.
With a heavy heart, they would stand by their new manager fulfilling the promise they had made to Sir Alex during his farewell speech. The beginning of most weeks was one to forget, especially on the back of defeats to West Brom, Sunderland, Newcastle etc. Well, the fans always recognize that United will not win all their games. However, the manner of the defeats left a question mark on their expectations from the next games.
Dealing with ‘new Manchester City’ fans: While the red half of Manchester bled rigorously, the blue half found their voice through Yaya Toure, Aguero, Silva, Fernandinho and most importantly, their new messiah – Pellegrini! Every year, there’s a considerable shift in the club loyalties. There’s this travelling band of fans who switch from champions to champions. Seeing the blue half of Manchester deliver exhilarating performances at home, the red half fans have had to keep calm and wait it out through the tough times.
The conundrum of supporting the ‘new manager’: The question was – “how long do we support”? Patience was draining game after game, capitulation after capitulation. The manner of defeats was very discouraging. Black clouds seemed to have gathered over United with no sunshine in sight. Moyes reasoned out all defeats with defiance and courage, but deep down inside – one could see that he was preparing fans to expect worse times.
Which manager would do that? To admit playing badly is one thing, but preparing fans for the worst is another. This does not happen at a champions club. Perhaps he could have taken a leaf out of Gus Poyet’s book, who held on courageously and backed his players right till the end.
Another ‘Wayne Rooney Saga’: If 2010 was jittery for United fans in the wake of Rooney’s intent to leave, the summer of 2013-14 season was a nightmare. With fans desperately hoping, tweeting, posting and literally pleading for him to stay; this was hardly the start they would have expected in the post-Ferguson era. A poor transfer window and extra focus on Wayne’s happiness left a United fan confused about whether the club was heading in the right direction. Without taking anything away from Wayne’s commitment and performances, perhaps Moyes did give in to player power – which is definitely not the way United functions.
The Champions League horror: After a successful run in the group stages, Olympiakos away drew another bland performance from United. By then, the writing was already on the wall, with few fans having faith and confidence in Moyes and the team. In spite of this, they continued to support and cheer the team and were duly rewarded with the Robin Van Persie show at Old Trafford. Come Bayern Munich – we saw a defensive United all the way till Munich. They did manage to open a door to progress, only to be shut out by Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben.
The United fans’ hearts just got bigger: After the monumental debacles in the League and the Champions League and other cups, Moyes departed from Old Trafford and the stock markets roared, though the United faithful were left even more confused. With no Champions League and a possible 7 th place finish, the season is all but over with question marks over the futures of Ashley Young, Valencia, Fellaini, Nani, Cleverley, Kagawa, Ferdinand and Evra.
There are question marks over how to retain the United Way? Is Louis Van Gaal the answer to the problems at Old Trafford? How to wrestle back the title that is going City’s way? Is another 100 million pounds the solution? Or quite simply, is it just about making the players believe in themselves. After all, these same lads were the champions of England in 2013.
Whatever happens at United, it will continue to be the most romantic club in English football. Not because the wily Scot said so. But quite simply put, because their fans are different as witnessed by Mourinho during the Rooney saga and by Guardiola when Bayern were made to sweat at OT. It is in United’s DNA. They need to get their infrastructure back in place – the backroom team, players’ belief and a manager who knows how to handle big egos and get them playing together.
Never mind the OT faithful – they will continue to come and cheer, not just in Manchester, but worldwide too. It is true that Liverpool had a great low period of their own and the opposition fans would love something like that to happen to United. But quite simply put, United is a club based on different foundations. The titles won by them were down to players who expressed themselves on the pitch. This season has not been quite like that, and it may take a while before the players are back to the ‘United way’ of playing; but faith, belief and romance is here to stay with the Red Devils fans.