Sometimes I wonder why exactly it is that we hate Manchester United so much.
After all, they too represent the City of Manchester as a sporting institution (although not necessarily geographically) and I have to admit I have many friends who are United fans and the ones I know are really good guys.
Many United fans ARE good guys and are as equally realistic and critical of their team as we are.
It’s not about individual fans, it’s more about the collective and particularly how they view themselves in relation to ourselves.
With many United fans, it’s a little bit like those experiences we had in high school where a person behaved like a complete dick in a crowd of his/her own mates, but were actually quite nice people when one-to-one – when they were removed from the herd.
Most recently, it’s been Mourinho.
I have been following football for 3 decades now and when he came along, I was struck immediately by one thing that makes him such a good fit for that club. Before Mourinho arrived in England, I had never heard any Manager refer to HIMSELF, rather than the team, as ‘a Champion.’
Before then, it was always, ‘We won‘ or ‘We are Champions‘ but never ‘I am Champion of England.’
You never even heard that from Brian Clough when he won back-to-back European Cups (and he had a similar ego to The Special One).
You never heard it from Shankley or Paisley.
Even Ferguson, despite his many violations of power and influence had a sufficient modicum of self-awareness not to constantly heap all the credit for United’s success upon himself the way Mourinho does.
This level of personal self-regard added to United as an institution just goes together like traffic and weather.
Of course there’s also David Gill and his continual attempts to redraw European football rules to compensate for the fact that his team have won virtually nothing in years.
But it was not until I read two wonderful books by the author Steve Mingle that I realised how far back this enmity goes and I found another City supporter who was so accurately able to articulate for me just exactly what it is about them.
His first: “Lows, Highs and Balti Pies: Manchester City Ruined My Diet” followed by the second volume: “From Balti Pies to the Biggest Prize: The Rebirth of Manchester City.” are such ridiculously stunning reads that I have reviewed both for this site.
One of the highlights of this author’s work is his ability to really put his finger on why City fans hate United.
And guess what?
It is not because of their great successes under Alex Ferguson.
They deserve (mostly) genuine credit for that.
It’s all about smugness and self-entitlement and the way they have treated others together with a huge dollop of rank hypocrisy.
At this point. I’d like to hand over to Steve Mingle. He says it better than most of us could:
There has never in history been an individual or institution so willing to give it out and unable to take it as the collective that is Manchester United Football Club.
On Rooney and then Ferguson after we tanked them 6-1
Compare and contrast. After the meaningless Charity Shield game, Rooney wasted no time in tweeting his legions of mindless followers that they’d given us a football lesson. After the thrilling Carling Cup semi a couple of years ago, 180 minutes of gripping football decided by an injury time goal, Rooney again dismissed us as totally inferior, while the club, arrogant and loathsome to the core, put out their piss-taking victory song over the PA and locked us in to listen to it. Then Ferguson boasted that they’d absolutely battered us and should have had six or seven. Well, Baconface, here we actually did score six or seven – and it should have been ten – so put that in your graceless, arrogant, bitter, whingeing, whining, repulsive, poisonous gob and smoke on it.
Rooney’s classy sportsmanship in scoring against us:
Rooney’s shot is saved by Pantilimon but the rebound comes straight back to him, and he nods it home before kissing his badge provocatively in front of the City fans. I’ve always acknowledged Rooney as a fantastic footballer, but my God he’s a revolting piece of work.
And on United’s palpable lack of class on the day of the Munich Memorial Derby:
Outside the ground there’s a massive poster showing the Busby Babes lining up before their final match prior to the crash. It’s undeniably poignant. Except for the massive AIG logo in the bottom right hand corner. The Munich air disaster, sponsored by AIG. Denied from having their logo seen on United’s shirts, they had to make sure they got in on the act somewhere. Unbelievably crass. An outfit like that deserves to go bust …
United fans, the first to get a match abandoned by invading the pitch? The first to get their team banned from playing European matches at home? Who’ve openly mocked the deaths of Shankly, Revie, Mercer et al? Who’ve sung about Heysel and Hillsborough – ‘96 was not enough’? Who regaled Cardiff fans in the mid-1960s with charming ditties about Aberfan? Who constructed ‘Istanbul Reds’ banners to taunt Leeds fans about the death of two of their supporters? Give it a fucking rest, boys.
On Deciding to support City rather than United:
There was a sense of astonishment that a referee could be allowed to dismiss one of United’s star players – my first taste of the ‘divine right’ mentality endemic among those connected to United, such a factor in the widespread antipathy they so deservedly attract.
I don’t think I’m on my own. The current generation of Red glory-hunters often accuse people like me of being an ABU (Anyone But United), as though it’s born of jealousy of their recent success. It’s nothing to do with that. It’s everything to do with their attitude, their arrogance, their ignorance and their delusions of superiority. My antipathy towards them peaked at a time when they were at their least successful, fuelled by the persistence of the media hype and the inability of their supporters or anyone connected to the club to accept their true status.
Before United’s Relegation to Denis Law’s Backheel:
The braindead arrogance of the United fans was once again evident in their pre-match chant of ‘We are the champions, champions of Europe!’ While the sort of thing that City fans might have sung in irony, these sad bastards still really believed it.
United, astonishingly (or maybe not) blamed the FA for the pitch invasions, saying that they should have taken stronger action following a similar disturbance in the Newcastle- Forest cup tie. Those only recently converted to the ‘Manchester United Is The Root Of All Evil’ way of thinking may be surprised to learn that Ferguson is not the originator of the ‘we’re bigger than you, above the law, can do no wrong and don’t dare to criticise us’ mentality; he’s inherited a very rich tradition. It is, however, fair to say he’s taken it to a whole new level of perversity. Writing this the day after their 2003 FA Cup defeat by Arsenal, I was genuinely astonished, even with my expectation levels, to hear him criticise Arsenal for ‘surrounding and pressuring the referee’. As the man whose team for so many years was characterised by its relentless intimidation of officials, the pot/kettle cliché doesn’t even come close to defining the barefaced, sour hypocrisy of Ferguson’s comment. What planet is this guy on? United fans often claim that Law’s goal didn’t really send them down; results elsewhere meant that they’d have gone down anyway. That’s one way of looking at it. In reality, the day had started with City having to beat United to relegate them irrespective of what happened elsewhere, and we duly did so. Get down, you scum!
Doyle had always been a big crowd favourite, largely for his consistency, will-to-win and driving spirit, but also because of his publicly expressed antipathy towards United. Like most City fans, he’d become aggravated by the media hype which had always surrounded them; unlike most City players, he’d come out and said so.
Ferguson on The Maine Road Massacre (Sound Familiar?)
Ferguson would go on to describe this day as the worst in his managerial career, and claimed it to be a ‘freak result’. And, in a sense, he was right, since pretty much everything we hit went in. The real difference, apart from United’s monumental cock-ups in defence, had been that our home-grown youngsters had wanted it so badly. All of them – Hinchcliffe, Redmond, Brightwell, Lake and White – were absolutely outstanding, as they created a result that, whatever else they might achieve, would make them part of City legend.
How many of us still have PIN number and burglar alarm codes of 2309 or numeric passwords of 230989? City fans must be easier prey than most to pickpockets, burglars and computer hackers.
Ferguson in 1992, when a 1-0 loss to West Ham set back their title aspirations:
The post-match press conference provided Alex Ferguson’s defining moment, telling the world everything about the way his mind works. Asked about West Ham’s surprisingly spirited performance, he spat out the words ‘their commitment was obscene’. Their commitment was obscene. That is, they’d tried their hardest to beat us. They’d showed some pride and tried to give their fans something to remember from an otherwise dismal season. They’d done right by Leeds by not rolling over, even though they’d nothing tangible to play for. In summary, they’d gone about their business with absolute professionalism. On Planet Ferguson, however, such behaviour was wholly unacceptable. As United closed in on their holy grail, West Ham’s role was clearly to help them on their way, by putting up minimal resistance. Basically, he expected them to let United win; after all, they had a divine right to the title, did they not? Ferguson had betrayed his true mentality to the world and, though he gradually became more circumspect in media interviews – after certain defeats, achieving this simply by not giving them – we now all knew what he was thinking. How dare anyone stand in our way? Who do they think they are? Don’t they understand that it’s our title?
Glorying in the failure of others may be distinctly unhealthy, but when it’s United it’s bloody enjoyable.
On United’s Title Win in 1994:
Much, much worse, however, was that the advent of the Premier League brought with it the Championship for United. How appropriate that a vehicle established to satisfy the greed of the wealthy few should see victory achieved by the greediest of them all. A period of nationwide mourning followed; even now, the grotesque image of Ferguson and Kidd leaping onto the pitch in celebrating their winning goal against Sheffield Wednesday in the twenty-second hour of injury time remains the most unedifying spectacle I’ve ever seen in football.
On Uwe Rosler’s Grandad:
Rosler’s spirited and skilful performances, together with his absurd but endearing goal celebrations, had turned him into a cult figure, and t-shirts bearing the legend ‘Rosler’s grandad bombed Old Trafford’ would soon be de rigueur for the well-dressed Blue about town. And for me as well; I liked them so much I bought two. One of them might now be worth a few bob, signed as it is by the likes of Zidane, Henry, Petit, Vieira, Trezeguet and Barthez. The thought of United’s former ’keeper condoning the destruction of their stadium has tremendous appeal, though I have to confess that he, like all the others, signed a carefully folded shirt with the legend obscured.
On United’s Champions League win v Bayern Munich in 1999:
Solskjaer’s immediate winner was almost a relief, sparing us from another half-hour of bigoted triumphalist commentary. It was the greatest travesty of justice ever seen on a football field, and I immediately departed to drive home in silence. That night, and for several to come, every time I closed my eyes to go to sleep, the hideous vision of Giggs’ fluky, misdirected shot turning into a perfect pass flashed through my brain. Sleep was as difficult as I’ve ever found it. It felt like the worst night of my life.
On City’s Final Derby at Maine Road in 2002:
Even when City were the dominant local force, these were matches I dreaded. The fear of failure, and being subjected to the sickening torrent of gloating from the masters of arrogance, all of whom ‘weren’t able to get a ticket’, was always the most dominant emotion. I daren’t, and couldn’t, think about how it would feel to beat them.
The frenzied press build-up to the game was deflected slightly, but inevitably, towards everyone’s favourite couple, even though neither of them would be playing at Maine Road. Apparently, a group of Albanians had been arrested for plotting to kidnap Victoria Beckham. I struggled to get my head round how you could possibly justify arresting people purely for attempting to carry out a public service.
United fans in the North Stand displayed their home-made cricket-style scoreboard, reading ‘026’, and representing the number of years since City last won a major trophy.
I cast my eye over the United players: some big names missing but, on the pitch, one stands out – Rio Ferdinand. Signed for an absurd £30m, he struts around the turf in his pristine white boots, preening himself like a show pony.
When Gary Neville gets the ball, a cacophony of jeering greets him. The same thing happens when he gets it again. He’s in for a long afternoon. A dyed-in-the-wool Red, he’s been telling the press how he’s never been in a team that’s lost to City and that he never intends to be. It would be humiliating to lose to us, he says. No doubt the constantly scowling and sour-faced Neville is well used to crowd abuse; indeed the siege mentality developed by Ferguson means that he’ll probably thrive on it.
As Anelka shapes to strike the ball, Ferdinand slides desperately across in a bid to block the shot. Make sure you get it off the ground, Nic! He does, and we’re 1-0 up. Absolute bedlam. The hope that it’s going to be our day turns to belief. A belief which lasts for 120 seconds. Giggs hooks a ball into the area, Mettomo dozily allows it to pass behind him and Solskjaer prods it past Schmeichel. The nauseating sight and sound of normal service being resumed emerges to our right. How I despise these gloating bastards.
‘CAN YOU HEAR ME? BOBBY CHARLTON… DUNCAN EDWARDS… BRYAN ROBSON… ERIC ‘KUNG FU’ CANTONA… PADDY ROCHE… GARRY BIRTLES… JUAN SEBASTIAN ‘WASTE OF MONEY’ VERON… RIO ‘EVEN BIGGER WASTE OF MONEY’ FERDINAND… FABIEN ‘TOTAL WASTE OF SPACE’ BARTHEZ… RUUD VAN NISTELHORSE… LOU ‘POISON DWARF’ MACARI… ‘COW’ PAT CRERAND… SURLY ALEX FERGUSON… SIR MATT BUSBY… YOUR BOYS TOOK ONE HELL OF A BEATING!’
The final whistle blows, and City justifiably receive a standing ovation. The elation is all-encompassing. We’ve won the final Maine Road derby; they can never come back and get revenge. Whatever they do to us at Old Trafford won’t compensate – it’ll just be one of a sequence of games. This was a one-off event, marking the end of an era. No-one will ever forget what happened.
View From The Blue:
Guys, if you’ve made it this far, two things should be abundantly clear. One: City’s hatred for all things red goes back a very long way. Two: You really need to get these two books by Steve Mingle, available on Amazon for just a couple of quid. As you can see, Steve has a certain way with words. Go get’em!
RTs & Follows @boltfromablue are much appreciated!