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I come back here from time to time, I shelter here some days…

Submitted by on April 15, 2011 – 10:00 amOne Comment

Games like Saturday’s much hyped ‘biggest derby ever’ (the third such match to earn the title in the past year) bring mixed emotions to many United fans who no longer take an active part in supporting MUFC.

Those of us, and we are in danger of over-stating it, who gave up going to United in 2005, have had six years to deal with the loss and conflicting emotions, but some have reacted differently to others.

Personally, I am at ease with my decision after much heart-rendering. I wanted the Arsenal FA Cup Final to be the last United game I ever went to. A poetic end. But I couldn’t resist a free ticket for the derby at City soon after, courtesy of a mate who works for them. I’m glad I went as it reaffirmed everything I’d hoped it would – I was missing nothing.

Sat among the home support, I was shocked at the gentrification that is even afflicting the blues, who once prided themselves as a clichéd ‘salt of the earth’ crowd. Moneyed fools from Cheshire and beyond spent the entire match taking pictures on their mobile phones. In short it was like being in the United Road ‘North Stand’ at Old Trafford.

United virtually secured the title that day and City missed a penalty. I laughed heartily and no one challenged me. That’s not the way it should be. I deserved a slap for my outlandish chuckle but none was forthcoming and I’m hardly ten men.

I spoke to a mate afterwards, who had made the same 2005 decisions as me and was instrumental in the formation of FC United. He’d been in the United end and felt similarly to me – ‘It says nothing to me about my life’, he texted. And he was right.
I met another group of mates at The Ox later and we drank and sang and celebrated all things red. But only three of us out of 10 or so had actually been the game.

And this week as the hyperbole reaches fever pitch, there are twinges of regret and feelings of being outside something that once upon a time you’d have been central to. The derby semi-final would have taken over our every waking thought years ago. The scramble for tickets would be well and truly on and even if ultimately unsuccessful many would be making the journey south anyway.

Some mates who took the same decision as me are coming out of retirement for this one. And it makes me feel slightly uneasy. I love and respect them in equal measure and as time-served reds, it could be argued they have as much right to be there as anyone.

Some have kids who have never enjoyed the privilege we had of watching United in big games like this and they want to fulfil their children’s red birthright. I understand that. As someone without children, I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult and complex an issue football upbringing must be for red families in these strange times. I have complete sympathy with such parents.

I also understand a mate’s heartache in 2005 when his youngest lad came in crying because all his mates had the new United shirt, but he wasn’t allowed as it meant giving money to the Glazers. The lad, and his elder brother, have grown up fine reds, with wonderful principles and both are a credit to their father. They stand with us at FC United and it’s a lovely continuation of a red, mancunian blood line there for us all to relish.

I’d also like to think we’d left the modern day football bandwagon behind, with its tyres puncturing as we ride the toe train across non league grounds, free from the shackles we shed in 2005. By not putting money into the top flight, capitalist and greed-ridden game we are making our own stance against it while highlighting a better way for football.

Someone made the analogy of our situation, during that fateful spell in May 2005, to that of a marriage. He said United being invaded by the Glazers was like the wife you loved all your life cheating on you with your worst enemy. She was still there and willing to sleep with you for a cheap thrill or a throw-back to happier times, but you’d met a more principled and pure woman in the meantime and shouldn’t bring yourself to stray.

Therefore going back to United now and then was like nipping round to the house of woman who broke your heart and having a quick shag. It was wrong and felt better before the event as the excitement built, only for you to feel dirty and used afterwards.

I tend to agree with that way of thinking. Going to that game at city was a freebie and at the football ground my council tax had paid for so I didn’t feel as dirty as I could have done, but I still felt compromised and wrestled with it. I did it and I probably won’t do it again. You could say I got away with it. I am therefore at ease at the thought of not going to Wembley at the weekend.

It’s FC United and non-league football for me and I can’t ever see myself going back to Old Trafford or any other Premier League ground as long as the current status quo exists. I genuinely wish to figuratively destroy Glazer and Sky.

Others don’t have the same approach. A good mate even describes himself as a ‘hypocrite’ for delving back into MUFC from time to time. Others live by the ‘two Uniteds but the soul is one’ ethos, in a literal fashion.

Whatever our stance is regarding Saturday’s game, we must never forget why we find ourselves facing these tricky and heart-wrenching choices. The game and club we loved betrayed us. Those bastards draining the game of our hard-earned are the ones we should be aiming our ire at, not each other. Those bastards caused this pain and put us in the position we’re in. That should never be forgotten.

However or wherever you’re watching the match on Saturday, we’re all wanting the same result. Even if, for many of us, our inbuilt hatred of the backward gets in blue now negates our loyalty to those in red.

One Comment »

  • jstand says:

    The April & May Branch of the MUFC Supporters Club no longer has space in the car and is not accepting any more applications. Supporters without places in this car are urged not turn up at our house as they will not gain access to the vehicle.

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