What Is “The United Way” And What Constitutes A “United Player”?

Posted: July 31, 2017 in European Football, Football, Manchester United, Opinion, Premier League
Tags: , , , , , ,


Many times supporters of various clubs will say things like, “he’s not a United player“, or “that’s not the West Ham way of playing“, or other such utterances about the team or player in question.

Although commonly heard around football stadia in the UK, there is some confusion as to what is actually meant by the comments.

So what exactly IS a “United player” and what IS the “West Ham way of playing“, or any other club for that matter?

Sam Allardyce put it quite succinctly when he was the manager of West Ham United. He had just stated that, in order to keep the club in the Premier League, he would have them playing the football necessary to do so.

When asked if he was about to ditch the “West Ham way” he queried what that might be as, for the previous few years they had either been fighting against relegation or had actually been relegated. So the “West Ham way” had been to consistently lose games and frequently jeopardise their Premier League survival, but in an attractive way!

Similar questions are asked about Manchester United.

Back in the sixties when WSA was just wsa the “United way” was entertaining. Sat in the Stretford End every other week, we watched as goals flowed regularly from the likes of Herd, Law, Best and Charlton. It wasn’t particularly unusual in those days for United to go a whole season unbeaten at Old Trafford yet they didn’t win much in the way of trophies, so the football could not be described as being very successful.

Prior to this team of course, was the Busby Babes, who were also renowned for their style of football and would, many experts agree, have gone on to be one of the best teams in Europe, if not the best, had they survived.

So the “United way” was to play attractive, attacking football without actually winning very much.

United players were associated with this fast, attacking football and anybody who wasn’t able to participate in this style was deemed to be “not a United player“, hence the likes of a lumbering Marouane Fellaini finding it very difficult to be accepted by the supporters.

It also happened in the past with the likes of Johnny Aston who, despite being the man-of-the-match in the 1968 European Cup final, endured persistent abuse from United fans throughout his career. He was one of many players over the years deemed by the fans not to be good enough to play for United, another reason for the saying, “not a United player“.

Fast forward to Sir Alex Ferguson and the “United way” was not only attractive but also remarkably successful.

Unfortunately, this has now become the stick with which to beat any manager following Ferguson. The four trophyless years at the start of Fergie’s reign have been largely forgotten and a new manager is lucky to get one year without a cup, never mind four.

David Moyes was sacked because the job was far too big for him and his inexperience radiated embarrassingly from day one. He was not sacked for being unable to have his team play the “United way.

That was the problem of Louis van Gaal. Yes, he won an FA Cup and he also finished fourth in the Premier League, meaning a chance to qualify for the next season’s Champion’s League. The problem was that he played football the “van Gaal way“, not the “United way” and fans fell asleep in their thousands. He could never win because those “achievements” are now not enough for United and their younger fans.

Unlike WSA who was brought up on attractive football and very few trophies, today’s fans have been spoilt by the success of the Ferguson era and won’t accept anything less. They expect United, quite unreasonably, to win every competition in which they are involved whilst playing a scintillating attacking style of football and scoring at least three goals per game.

It won’t happen. Other teams are as big, have as much money and can attract the best players. Gone are the days when United was THE club to which every player aspired.

They can still try to play attractive football, they can still try to win trophies. They should still be a very successful club and, no doubt, will be. José Mourinho seems to appreciate that United fans want entertaining. A fact he has to juggle with when trying to win games and keep his job!

At clubs like West Ham, the fans don’t expect to win a trophy every season. They also don’t expect to be fighting against relegation every season. Given that their hopes and aspirations are somewhat lower than those of the Manchester United fans, then it is not too much to expect their team to entertain them after they have handed over their hard-earned money and it should not be too much trouble for the team to reciprocate.

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