Green and gold until Park is sold…
There are United players past and present for whom I have zero or close to zero affection. Some are obvious – I think of Neil Webb skulking off against Forest as the world caved in on us in April ’92. He’s one. But some are not so obvious – I confess to having watched the ’99 European Cup final on video and almost wanting Janker’s overhead kick to go in off the bar, leaving the soon-to-sign-for-city Peter Schmeichel stranded. Yes, I know, that’s extreme but he didn’t have to go there and he didn’t need to celebrate in front of us at the North Stand end of Maine Road, the bad, legacy-murdering knobhead.
It’s not necessarily about talent. There are United players who wouldn’t get in many people’s best eleven but who you know would jump in and start giving Anders Limpar and Nigel Winterburn (or their equivalents) a crack in the name of MUFC. Or just for the hell of it. The Brian McClairs and Nicky Butts of this world are alright by me, although keep your mouth shut about the Glazers though Nicky, yeah.
Unfortunately, all of the signings made by United since the Glazer family stole our football club from us in 2005 fit into the zero affection category. It’s not because I believe they should have gone elsewhere, refusing to help United achieve anything under such a blatantly destructive regime. It is, quite simply, that I don’t go and watch these players live so my only frame of reference is bitterly watching them in pubs or at home whilst surrounded by the kids that will probably never sit with me week in week out at Old Trafford as I’d envisaged when I was in my teens and twenties. I can’t get attached to players I only see on the telly.
I have affection for Ronaldo. I have affection for Veron. I even have affection for Beckham, not least of all because of that barmy day in May 1999 when it seemed as though we wouldn’t find an answer to Les Ferdinand’s Spurs goal and the league would go to Highbury and the Treble wouldn’t happen. But to me the players signed under Glazer are just blokes in crimson billboards advertising the names of “Official Partners of Manchester United”, a Manchester United desperate to have anyone’s name plastered on anything if it gets them through another round of debt payments. I feel nothing for them. They may score the odd goal or make the odd tackle to make me almost spill my brew or the pint I may be having in a pub only a couple of miles away from the football ground I feel I can no longer go to, but I just feel nothing.
Nani – nothing. Carrick – nothing. De Gea, those Brazilian twins <pauses and struggles like fuck to think of anyone else>, Wesley Sneijder… I feel nothing for any of them. However, one player more than any other symbolises my post-2005 disaffection from Manchester United. One player in particular makes me grind my teeth at the enormous fall from cultural grace that Manchester United have endured. The style of football – gone. The away support – eroded and infected. Old Trafford – Jesus, where do we start. I associate it all with Ji Sung Park. Ji Sung Park? Yes, I know you think that’s a bit harsh but let me explain.
The averagely talented, wouldn’t-swing-a-punch-for-United John O’Shea wasn’t hounded out of Old Trafford by angry fans for two reasons – that last minute winner in front of the Kop and his catchy theme tune, “when Johnny goes marchin’ down the wing”. The former needs no explanation. The latter engages that goony part of the brain that’s in all of us. You know, the bit that lets you have those moments you wouldn’t normally have in life but that are ok about two or three times a season during moments of heightened football pleasure. Whilst not in the throes of such pleasure, say it out loud now “when Johnny goes marchin’ down the wing, O’Shea, O’Shea”. It’s not right is it? It felt ok at the time though didn’t it? That’s why he stayed at Old Trafford for as long as he did. A catchy theme tuned does wonders for a player.
Park falls into the same category – not really that talented, not going to fill Graeme Le Saux in going down the tunnel at half time and never really going to do anything that causes you to twinge in the groin or the brain. “But what about the goal against Arsenal… in the European Cup semi final?”. Well, as I said earlier, the fiscal destruction of my football club was something I couldn’t support so I was at home instead of at the match, which is where I definitely would have been if certain people of immense power at United had called everyone out and given Malcolm Glazer the get-to-fuck message that would’ve made him look elsewhere in 2005. But that didn’t happen did it Sir and Malcolm Glazer did take over and I did withdraw my season-ticket support, the loyalty pot privileges that went with it and the ticket I would have had probably went to the sort of person who Ji Sung Park sadly reminds me of. I accept my point is not very clear up to now. Bear with me.
Park, like O’Shea, has a catchy theme tune. For many Reds, a song to the tune of that 70’s and 80’s school assembly classic, Lord of the Dance, brings memories of Rotterdam – “We don’t give a shit and we don’t give a fuck, we’re going home with the Cup Winners’ Cup” and all that – so by extension the Ji Sung Park-dedicated version gets people off their seats and singing away, fully engaging that goony part of the brain that says “it’s ok, sing Johnny goes marchin’ down the wing”. Park’s song is a United favourite. One that everyone can sing because it contains no expletives. It’s a song those in South Stand can sing knowing they’re not going to offend any of the priests sat around them or the old dears that Busby’s young players lodged with.
But it’s not ok to me. It’s not even ok to that goony part of the brain that forced me from my seat two or three times a season to proclaim in no uncertain times how much I knew “Johnny” was “gonna score”. It’s symbolic of everything that it is wrong with United seven years down the line from waiting and seeing how loading the club with £700m worth of debt would work out. It hasn’t worked out, clearly, given that it’s absolutely fine in the minds of 70,000+ United fans to sneer at a Thatcher-ravaged city just 35 miles from our own Thatcher-ravaged city.
It goes like this, for those of you who might not know what I’m on about – “Park, Park wherever you may be. You eat dogs in your home country. But it could be worse, you could be Scouse, eating rats in your council house”. It’s shit isn’t it? I mean, it’s generally shit but it’s shit on a specifically shit level. It’s not the “you eat dogs” bit, which is bad enough but on balance just ignorant. It’s the “eating rats in your council house” part which upsets me and brings into focus the drastic change in United’s support.
It represents a class of United fan that has crept towards Old Trafford, using a number of arterial routes from Cheshire and the leafier parts of Greater Manchester and of course includes those from all over the country that day-trip to Old Trafford because they want a piece of the United brand. Oh and before you start to pen a reply as a disgruntled out-of-town Red, this is not about YOU, this about THEM. Those clueless “ha ha Scousers live in council houses” knobs, who have a United season-ticket as much for their own vanity as out of any love for MUFC and who think they have to tick certain boxes to validate their United-ness, like hating Liverpool without any knowledge or understanding of the historical significance of the two cities’ dislike of each other. And if you are a Bramhall, Macc, Bowden or Marple Red and you understand the Manchester and Liverpool rivalry and its proud working class origins then this sweeping generalisation of mine excludes you.
What gets me is that they are the sort of people who really don’t get the Manchester Liverpool rivalry. You might be from Essex or Carlisle or Hull or wherever but if you do get the Manchester Liverpool rivalry then you’ll know that it is a rivalry between two proud working class, Tory-fighting, London-bias opposing cities. It’s not a rivalry built on who may or may not rely on the oft-failing state for support versus those who can afford their own Barrett Home in the sticks or their BMW saloon which enables them to commute to and from their middle-management job.
I’d say it was a betrayal of their working class Mancunian roots to revel in the “eating rats in your council house” line of this shit song but the truth of the matter is that too much of United’s support (not all) neither have Mancunian or working class roots because too many of those who do have been pushed away from the club. Too many decent people have been forced out of their long-held seat at Old Trafford because the price or the experience of going to the match is better suited to the sorts of people whose first job of the any matchday is to roll out their official United scarf along the parcel shelf of their car so everyone else on their well-to-do street knows they’re off to the game at “The Theatre of Dreams”.
The people who stood or sat until the 90’s where you’re forced to sit at Old Trafford in 2012 would be ashamed of you. They’d most probably give you a posthumous slap for travelling in to our city from the suburban safety of your quiet, leafy street in your shared car with three other middle-management, been-into-footy-for-years-had-a-season-ticket-since-’06-let’s-laugh-at-people-who-live-in-council-houses knobheads and acting like a cunt. And you’d fucking deserve it an’ all.
You’d deserve it for going along with the Manchester Liverpool rivalry because you think that that’s what you have to behave like in order to be recognised as a proper United fan. You think you’re better than Scousers. You know a few verses to the “Massive Club” song but hate Arsenal and Chelsea more that City because no one talked about City in the office when you started getting really into footy, which coincided with United season tickets being more readily available after Glazer took over. You have a pint in the Bishops Blaize and Tweet that you’ve just had your photo taken with Jimmy Nesbitt.
You get in the ground and moan like fuck because you’re not being entertained by a 4-0 win against a team who’s ground you’ll never actually go to because it’s not one of the ones that will feature on “Top Four Sunday” or whatever Sky call it. You applaud Sir as he walks back to his seat in the second half. You get excited by the anti-Scousers songs and laugh at those scumbags who rely on the state for support. When you’ve done all that you’ll get back in your shared car (hopefully Jeremy would’ve drove and you could have had a couple of bottles of Bud) and you’ll talk about the Grand Prix. You’ll hit a bit of Traffic getting from the cricket club into Stretford – god, doesn’t it look rough round there? – but you’re on the motorway before you know it and back in the suburbs.
You could only have come up with or enjoy that Park song if you have no clue about Manchester and our proud rivalry with Liverpool. You probably have as much knowledge and experience of seeking help from the state as you do getting from the Arkles to Lime Street on foot after a night game and your lack of both means you have no fucking right to sully the name of our football club with your shit, historically ill-informed, Tory-assault-on-working-people supporting song.
So, I’m sorry Ji Sung Park, you remind me of a United that has forgotten its roots. You remind me of a United that dull people need on their social CV because their boring, materially driven, passionless lives contain little else of any interest or note. You remind me of a United where effort goes into making some really shit banners but where virtually no one seems to be arsed about forming any genuine opposition to a regime which is killing our football club. You remind me of a United where less and less know what that walk to Lime Street is like. But more than that you remind me of a United where less and less know what it would be like to walk from Old Trafford to Collyhurst or Monsall or Miles Platting or Moston or Moss Side or Longsight and all those many other places in inner city Manchester where people do live in houses provided by the council. I’d like to see you stand in the Spanking Roger and laugh at people who live in council houses, you dick.
They’re the places where people used to be able to go to the match as a release from the day to day struggle to look after their families. Those “sink estate” places where people understand the Manchester Liverpool rivalry because, before Margaret Thatcher started dismantling their industries and their lives, their families probably played a part in building our proud city so, by extension, recognise the struggles faced by ordinary working class people in Liverpool and understand what it means to rely on support from the council, not sneer at them for needing it.
Park will play his football at QPR now, a club in a city where perhaps his “eating rats in your council house” song has a more fitting home. You know, with all that wealth down there and all those pre-existing didn’t-we-do-well-under-Thatcher states of mind, where it’s ok to kick people when they’re down because your sole objective in life is to get as far up the ladder of life as you can, putting your boot in the face of those below you.
What will the Korean leave behind? A club on the road to ruin. A club that will, by virtue of City and Chelsea’s wealth and its own legally mismanaged finances, endure a period of relative failure, the likes of which ninety percent of current season ticket holders have never known and may not hang around to see. A club where opposition to the owners exists in the form of a futile campaign of scarf wearing, which benefitted a few swag sellers but certainly not Manchester United Football Club. A club about to be floated on the New York stock exchange in another effort to entirely de-risk the Glazer family’s investment. A club wide open to more asset stripping if that doesn’t work out. A club which may ultimately rely on but not get the support of people who turned their backs a long time ago after United turned its back on them.
Anyway, you keep laughing at Scousers. And their eating of rats. In houses provided by the council.
PS, for those of you who think nothing good can come of people from council estates:
Oh, and this;