What it’s like to be a Red: the View from 11 April 2016


A random thought crossed my mind this afternoon: is there actually an upside to Jose Mourinho taking over as Manchester United manager? For me, I mean, personally: I stick by my belief that he would be a disaster for the club and would leaves things even worse after a very short-term period of possible success. I have sworn that, if United do take Mourinho on, I will turn my back and walk away for as long as he is there. There isn’t room for both of us, and it’s not like I have any scintilla of power to influence the situation, positively or negatively.

I watched yesterday’s game against Tottenham Hotspur, though I switched it off the moment the final whistle went, and I was close to doing so as soon as the amount of additional time was announced, since that seemed a cruel and unfair punishment to undergo after ninety minutes.

United had coped, defensively, with Spurs, for seventy minutes. Young Timothy Fosu-Mensah had been a beast in defence, locking up everything. He gets injured, United concede three in six minutes from that side of the field. Three was unnecessary: thre latter two were soup and nuts, one was all that was needed. United weren’t going to score if the game had gone on all night and spurs had gone home to sleep and left eleven dustbins on the pitch in a 4-1-4-1 formation.

To be honest, it didn’t even hurt. I was looking to keep Spurs out, do Leicester a two-point favour, maybe, by some fluke late on, nick an undeserved goal and three points. But once the first goal went in, it was over and I knew it.

I lost faith in van Gaal a long time ago (link) and though I’ve welcomed and enjoyed some results since then – Arsenal, the Bitters – I’ve never been seduced into thinking that maybe it’s working, maybe next season it will finally start to come together, maybe I’ll have to apologise for being so badly wrong (some apologies are easier to make than others).

No, I want van Gaal out. He has only one use at present, one purpose for me, as a placeholder, keeping Mourinho’s arse out of the Old Trafford dugout.

I didn’t just watch the United game yesterday. For a second successive Sunday, I also watched the Leicester game that kicked off at 1.30pm. It took me back to the 1995/96 season, when I followed both Droylsden and United. At the back end of the season, I got very used to double match weekends, with the Bloods on the Saturday and the Reds on the Sunday, and even a few double match days, most notably when I was at Anfield at 11.30am on the Saturday, and back to the Butchers Arms for 3.00pm.

Two games in a day takes a fair chunk out of it for the little things, like food-shopping at supermarkets with no direct public transport access. Though I’m backing the Foxes for the title, it doesn’t mean I can watch them with anything like the fervour I bring to United.

But there was no fervour in that game. If we’d scored, I’d have roared, but this season I have only rarely been able to muster the full-throated bellow that normally accompanies a goal. Watching United has become a chore, not a pleasure. There is no anticipation, no expectation. It’s a ritual without pleasure or excitement.

And if Mourinho were to come to Old Trafford next season, it’s a ritual I would have to deny myself. Just at the moment, that has its kind of attractive aspect. I mean, it’s soul-destroying to watch United this season, to try to support and believe in a team whose victories are never deserved in the way to which I became too used.

The slow tempo, the constant lack of imagination, the instinct to turn back, to play the ball away from the opposition’s goal rather than towards it, the insistence on playing so many players out of position – I mean, Ashley Young, yesterday, what was that? The inability to see where a goal might come from, the loss of confidence and commitment in the team, no football fan can bear to see that from the team he supports, and the long years when such things were quite simply unthinkable make watching United a pain. Two to three years off becomes appealing.

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