Manchester United and Mohun Bagan: Sailing in the same boat

Manchester United Mohun Bagan

Manchester United and Mohun Bagan – coincidentally similar or intentionally so?

Finding similarities between Manchester United and Mohun Bagan (often shortened as MU and MB) might seem quite a bold attempt to start with, isn’t it? Well if you discount the difference between football standards of the two nations and focus on the fan-following and facts, you’ll find it isn’t! Rather, if we look back into the respective history of the two great sporting institutions, one will surely find rationale behind this research of mine.

In fact, what intrigued me to attempt this apparent blasphemy (to the ones who think Indian football is worthless) is a common reaction seen among many of the football fans of this generation. Especially, the ones who support both the clubs in two contrasting scenarios. They say, Manchester United and Mohun Bagan very often share the same or identical score lines if they play on the same date.
The belief gained foothold when Mohun Bagan dominated Indian football at the beginning of the new century and was awarded the
“Diadora Club of Asia” by AFC for the best team performance for the month of January. At that time Manchester United was also having a great run and the Indian newspapers promptly coined Mohun Bagan to be the “Manchester United of India”.
Note: Just when I was writing this, the Red Devils had lost their match against Bayern Munich 3-1. Surprisingly, this was preceded by Mohun Bagan’s defeat to Bengaluru FC by an identical margin (2-0)
The fact that both the teams’ names start with the first letter “M” makes it more sweet for the fans. Let’s look where and how these clubs share the familiarity.
The Crests
Although the current Manchester United crest has more “rival”colors, the presence of the sea vessel perfectly matches the boat of the Mariners. In fact, Manchester United’s first crest had the green and red color in a tidy tandem. The ship within their crest recognises the city’s trading history via the Manchester ship canal. While Mohun Bagan’s logo, the boat, perhaps signifies their place of establishment; northern Kolkata, on the banks of the Ganges. In fact the city was the capital and prime trade center of British India and the main mode of transportation was through the waterways. Both the clubs have replaced their original crests in the course of time.
Manchester United crest

The evolution of the Manchester United crest over the years

Mohun Bagan crest

The evolution of the Mohun Bagan crest

The Early Years
Both the clubs were established in the late nineteenth century, barely a decade apart. Manchester United was born as Newton Heath LYR F.C in 1878 while Mohun Bagan began as Mohun Bagan Sporting Club in 1889. Both the clubs changed their names soon after. In 1911, Indian football created history through Mohun Bagan, when as the first native team, they lifted the prestigious IFA Shield. Interestingly, the year was a successful one for Manchester United as well, as the club won the First Division for the second time in their history.
The Fabulous Fifties and Super Sixties
According to football historians, the 1950-60s was one of the most successful phases that both the clubs enjoyed. Manchester United, under Matt Busby went on to win the European Championship besides lifting the FA Cup and English League titles. George Best was the true icon to emerge out of that indomitable team, and was one of the best in the world. Mohun Bagan in that era, was also immensely successful lifting all the major Indian trophies. The ruby of Indian football “Chuni Goswami” became the darling of the green and maroon crowd during this time.
The Sad Seventies
Again a striking resemblance of fate. With Busby’s resignation in 1969, Manchester United went through a prolonged bad patch, which even resulted in their relegation in 1974. Mohun Bagan on the other hand, was time and again frustrated in the derbies, and despite winning a few major trophies, remained mostly unsuccessful. The pain point came in 1975 when they lost to rivals East Bengal 5-0 in the IFA Shield final. This sad saga ended much later in 2009 when they redeemed the result by a 5-3 margin.
The Comeback
No end to the similarities as both the clubs came out of their bad times in the year 1977. Mohun Bagan especially, had a huge year lifting the “Trimukut” or the Treble for the first time. The King of Football – Pele visited Kolkata with his club Cosmos in that year to play an exhibition match against Mohun Bagan, one of the most happening occasions ever in the history of Indian football. Manchester United also came out from their slumber to beat Liverpool and lift the FA Cup. They also won the Community Shield in the same year.
The Change of Times
Both the clubs more or less fared equally good after the advent of new competitive setups. Manchester United has dominated the new FA Premier league since it began in 1992 while Mohun Bagan was the first team to win the new National League thrice, which was started in the later half of the 1990s. Manchester United fans had heroes like Eric Cantona and David Beckham while a magical Brazilian, Jose Ramirez Barreto became a legend for the Mariners.
Well, unknowingly continuing with the camaraderie, Manchester United and Mohun Bagan are having their worst times in recent years. Hopefully, both will make a turnaround as they have done throughout their history. The day will soon come when Manchester United fans will again sing “Glory Glory Man United and Mohun Bagan fans will sing “Ämader Surjo Maroon” and they will sail along.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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