Nostalgia? It’s Long Been A Thing Of The Past At Manchester United!

Posted: April 7, 2018 in Arsenal, Chelsea, Football, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Opinion, Premier League, Sir Alex Ferguson, Tottenham Hotspur
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When I first started to attend games at Old Trafford my father and I used to set off from our home in Ashley Lane, Moston, Manchester 9 at around 11:00 am on Saturday morning. In those days ALL games were played on a Saturday and nobody had yet had the audacity to suggest playing on a Sunday. That was the day reserved almost exclusively for the pub teams!

We would walk up the hill and wait for either the number 112 or 113 bus outside Langhorns, which was an ironmongers, amongst other things. Eventually the bus would arrive and we would be off on a 45 minutes journey, barring breakdowns, to the match.

On arriving we would walk down Warwick Road to the ground and make our way to the Stretford End. Bear in mind, this was back in the early sixties so, for me to actually see the game there was little point in standing in the Stretford End. No, we headed for the seated section where, even in that “civilised” area of the ground, fans would stand up as soon as the action on the pitch came anywhere near the goal at that end of the ground. Sometimes, even standing on my seat, I failed to see a goal or a near miss!

As I grew older and started to go to games with friends rather than with my father, we would stand in the Stretford End because that was where the real atmosphere was. It was like The Kop at Anfield or The Kippax Street at Maine Road except that, because it was United, it was better.

In those days the capacity at Old Trafford was around 63,000 and the ground was full on a regular basis. The biggest games were against City and Liverpool but we also used to look forward to the visits of Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur who had some great players between them and always provided a stern test to United.

Arsenal, back then, were seen as a boring team and this was long before George Graham made the tag stick.

The title-winning Manchester United team parade the trophy at Old Trafford in 1967

United parade the first division trophy in front of a packed Old Trafford which included yours truly. 1966/67 season

The European Cup was competed for less often because United weren’t serial title winners and again, in those days, qualification for what is now The Champion’s League was only achieved by becoming the champions of your country, a much more sensible but less profitable arrangement.

Fast forward to what the game has now become. I read recently some comments on Facebook from a seemingly old fashioned, English, United supporter where he bemoaned the number of Manchester United fans who have never set foot in England, never mind Old Trafford and accused them, quite politely in fairness, of being hangers-on rather than real fans. He also disliked the fact that many young fans have only known United as a winning team and therefore, the moment they start to lose a few games or fail to win a trophy, they are unhappy and want the manager sacked!

He is right in some respects and wrong in others. Yes, United do have a worldwide following and this is really evident when visiting the likes of Facebook or Twitter. There are supporters, seemingly, in every country in the world. This is what has made United into the team it is today. The club is the biggest in the world and can boast more support worldwide than probably any other club.

The question isn’t about who can and can’t support United, despite some having questionable motives. Anybody can support United or, probably more realistically, be a United fan. Being a United fan just means watching as many games as possible and wanting them to win them all!

The question is whether today’s Manchester United is worth supporting as much as they used to be. I had no choice in the matter. Manchester born and bred and a United fan since birth I didn’t get to choose which team I supported, (unless you call Manchester City a choice). I supported the only team available to me. There were never any thoughts of supporting a club from “out of town”. That just wasn’t an option. Why would anybody want to support someone else’s club?

Naturally, almost sixty years after my first visit to Old Trafford, I still support United. I would prefer a return to the old days when there was atmosphere and a visit to the ground was an enjoyable day out, when the main rivals were guess who? Yep, City and Liverpool. When the derby games were more eagerly anticipated than they are now because the two managers were British and the teams actually contained players from Manchester.

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Pat Crerand, Matt Busby and George Best with the European Cup in 1968

When the European Cup included clubs such as Honved and Gornik Zabrze and wasn’t just a mini-tournament between the usual suspects.

When pre-season tours went as far as Ireland and weren’t conducted under the pretext of “letting our distant fans have a chance to see the players”. Rubbish! Tours to the United States or Asia are made for one reason and one reason only – money!

Unfortunately, the Manchester United I grew up supporting has long gone to be replaced by a massive business organisation to whom, like many, cash is king. Millionaire players from around the globe have little, if anything, in common with the fans and will move from club to club like the mercenaries the bigger teams now attract.

I still watch United’s every game. I still get annoyed, frustrated and every other emotion known to man. They are still “my team” even though supporting them can have it’s depressing periods.

I suppose that will forever be the case. Once a red, always a red!

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