Don’t


I’m going to say this now, before anything of the sort might happen and I appear to be insincere.

As a Manchester United fan, I had to experience my team going 26 years without a Championship. In 1990, our deep and bitter rivals Liverpool began a similar drought. The one thing I wanted was for theirs to last longer than ours and in 2016 I got my wish. I’d have liked that to continue indefinitely, but there’s no denying – even if there is regretting – that they’re going to be worthy Champions any time now. I’m resigned to it, and I’m happy to settle for thirty years.

The coronavirus has changed everything. There’s been mocking anticipation already about Liverpool’s inevitable progression being kicked in the fact by the possibility that the Premier League season will be voided. Thirty years ag, I’d probably have joined in that.

There’s an emergency meeting this morning of the Premier League to decide what to do abut the rest of the season. Suspension is pretty much inevitable, especially given the number of cases already affecting clubs. Some are saying that it’s a distinct possibility that the season will indeed be voided, and count for nothing.

Here’s my two’pennorth: Don’t. Suspend it by all means, safety demands it. But don’t void it. Nobody deserves to have something so long awaited denied them by what amounts to a dirty trick. I remember what it felt like back in 1993 and I don’t want even Scousers deprived of that for anything but events on the pitch. Susppend, yes. Catch-up, yes. But vid?

Don’t.

Not-Crap Journalism – The Scouser’s Story


She’s a Liverpool fan. They’re odds on to break a thirty year gap since their last League Championship. I’m a Manchester United fan. We went twenty-six years, and the Scousers’ long wait has been a source of fun for twenty-nine years. Truthfully, I wanted them to never win it again in my lifetime, and I got very nervous when they looked likely to do it in twenty-five.

But we beat them at that, and now I can accept it’s going to happen and not really care.

As for this piece, I know how Hannah Jane Parkinson feels and I don’t begrudge her a moment of it. She speaks for all of us in one manner or another (except that Leicester’s story in 2016 will always be better than yours).

The Law of Averages doesn’t get enforced round our way


At the moment, the last Fifth Round tie in this season’s FA Cup is going Manchester United’s way. In the Sixth Round, they would face bottom-placed Norwich City, away. United ought to win. As for the Bitters, they’re away at Newcastle United: a bit of a harder tie, but they too ought to win.

At which point we can dispense with a semi-final draw and just put us against them. Every single time the two Manchester clubs have both reached a semi-final, they have been drawn together and this will continue until eternity.

Equally, should the Magpies actually knock ut the Bitters, they are the one team in the semi-final draw that United will not be paired with.

Accept the word of one who knows.

One of the Boys: Harry Gregg R.I.P.


There are not many of them left, the ones who walked away from the Munich Air Disaster that threatened to kill Manchester United, that happened 62 years and 11 days ago, and now there is one fewer. Harry Gregg, the Northern Ireland goalkeeper for whom United paid the then-worled record fee for a keeper, has passed away aged 87. That only leaves Wor Bobby, Sir Bobby Charlton, who walked away from that plane.

But Harry Gregg didn’t just walk away. He went back inside to do what he could to help. He got a woman and her baby, trapped in their seat, out of the plane.

Harry Gregg was unlucky in his years with United not to win a single trophy, but he had something more, something that no-one ever wants but which is beyond praise. We bow our heads at his passing.

What it’s like to be a Red – 30 January 2020


A week is a long time in Politics, as Harold Wilson is always quoted as saying, with a frequency that if you weren’t my age would make you think he never said anything else. Have we already forgotten the white-hot heat of technology?

But a week can be a long time in practically anything if conditions changed rapidly in a short space of time. This week, it’s a long time in football.

Wednesday last week, I got home from work in time to see most of the Premier League game at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Burnley. Three points would have put United right on the tail of Chelsea in fourth place. Instead, we played with abysmal cluelessness and lost 2-0. To Burnley. At home. For the first time in 58 years.

Let me put off reliving that experience for a few moments longer. Since then, United have played away at Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup Fourth Round and won 6-0, the biggest FA Cup win since the same round in 1972 when George Best scored six on returning from suspension to lead United to an 8-2 win at Northampton Town (who, incidentally, we may play in the Fifth Round). And this Wednesday, despite being knocked out of the League Cup Semi-Final on aggregate, we beat the Bitters on their own ground for the second time this season.

Two good, encouraging wins in the space of four days. None of which serves to change in any respect the feelings I underwent last Wednesday, watching United bow down to Burnley.

It’s not just that we lost. They scored two good goals, the second one an absolute cracker. Things like that can happen. I’ve seen united beaten by teams they’ve outplayed before now, and I’ve seen us beat teams who have played us off the par before now. The relative strength and form of the two teams playing is only usually a guide to the result.

What hurt last week was the way United played. Since Fergie retired, I’ve seen some horrendous performances, whether it be under Moyes, van Gaal or Mourinho. I’ve watched a team that used o be supercharged in its speed of thought and movement lose all of that ability, I’ve seen regimented passing, sideways and back, I have seen games dominated by pointless passing, which comes when a pass is made to a teamm-mate who immediately delivers the ball back to exactly where the first player was standing.

I have seen United stumble against organised defences, where van Gaal’s strict instructions have relieved them from the ability to improvise, or Mourinho’s crabbed style placing them in a state of fear where they simply cannot risk shifting their shackles.

And I have seen them, more than once, play as if they are completely clueless, as if they have no idea what to do in a match, and that is how they were against Burnley. But this was one match too many. As individuals, as a collective, they simply did not have one idea of how to get themselves back in the match. Against Burnley. Burnley, at Old Trafford.

I wanted to switch off. I didn’t want to watch this any more. And I began to think what is the biggest heresy any fan can ever think about his team. I started to wonder if there is a point, really a point, at which you are allowed to stop caring about your team. A point at which you are permitted to turn your back and say, ‘I don’t care’. Can you stop supporting your team?

It’s supposed to be for life. It’s supposed to be an even bigger betrayal than cheating on your wife, walking out on your team. But last Wednesday, against Burnley, I started questioning whether you can do that.

That was a week ago There have been two wins since then, two good wins. The question no longer applies. But will that moment come again?

Depressing Reading


https://www.theguardian.com/football/2019/oct/17/glazers-legacy-manchester-united-liverpool

The above story appeared in the Guardian on Thursday. David Conn is actually a City fan, but he is also a very thorough and very impartial writer, especially about football economics. What he’s written is very depressing to a United fan, if our current form this season were not enough on its own, but it also has the ring of truth throughout.

United play Liverpool on Sunday afternoon. Recent United games have been the low point of the weekend, offering nothing of entertainment, of inspiration and especially excitement. On paper, Liverpool, with a 100% record over eight games and a very high standard of play, ought to absolutely hammer us. The only shred of hope I have to rely upon is that United-Liverpool games have never observed the form book.

Conn’s article however presents a horribly dismal prospect. Focussing on the Glazers’ ownership, it present a vision of United never recovering from the past years of malaise, post-Alex Ferguson. The club is subject to owners who are only interested in taking money out, and not in putting money in, something many of us said back in 2005. The ground is falling into disrepair, recruitment of players is in the hands of Ed Woodward, who has failed to appoint a Director of Football who might be able to set a viable direction/detract from his power.

And the Glazers are irremovable and will be as long as their cash cow sustains them.

I confronted this very position six and a half years ago, when Fergie stepped down, and I was defiant about accepting a period of no longer being a dominant force. I was naive however, in imagining a maybe four year lull, before we started being a challenge again, but then I lacked the imagination to understand that those who run Manchester United would be so prepared for decline and mismanagement to bring my club as low as it has. Talk of relegation seems monstrously improbable, but if Liverpool do defeat us on Sunday, we may find ourselves in 17th, one place – just one place – above the drop zone.

And if we find ourselves in that place, then it will be for one reason and one reason only: we deserve to be there. I remember relegation in 1974 and the resurgence United went through after that, though it still wasn’t enough to regain the League title for nearly another twenty years. Maybe we need that to make the people in control see what is really going on.

I don’t know what will happen, and when or if we will turn the corner. I keep thinking that it just needs a little bit of luck, a spark, a moment, something that goes right, and lifts the team’s spirit, the player’s spirit, and suddenly their confidence will start to return.

But until and if, I have to remember my defiance of six and a half years ago. I was with United for all that 23 years, from the FA Cup in 1990 to the Premier League in 2013, and what a glorious thing it was. And it all happened, and no matter what happens now or next week or next year, IT HAPPENED, and nothing can uncreate it. I WAS at Wembley for three Doubles, I WAS in Barcelona, all those matches I saw, live or on TV, I had every minute of that, and if I’m fated not to experience anything like that again, I experienced those twenty-three years. Twenty-three years of the taste of Gold (apologies Steve Engelhart), and I refuse to forget a second of that. What United are now cannot and will not destroy that.

So blow winds and crack your cheeks. Rage on, blow. And I’ll just close my eyes and be in the Nou Camp again. You cannot take that away.