I’ve supported Manchester United since 1968, when I was 11. That was the year they first won what was then called the European Cup (more information about that here). There wasn’t much football on TV in those days, but I remember watching the match with my father on our black and white TV, and thinking that this would be a good team to follow. I wrote down the names of the players (including such legends as Bobby Charlton, Styles and Best), and the rest, as they say, is history. I should say at this point that my father was a great football man, and a Newcastle United supporter. I often wonder what he would make of the way the game has changed in the years since his death in 1986.
Throughout my early University years, as an undergraduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral researcher, football didn’t play a major role in my life, largely because of most of the places where I lived (which had not much TV access at all; hard to imagine now), and the fact that I had very little time to watch it anyway. I moved to Keele University in 1986, the same year in which Alex Ferguson arrived at Manchester United. Having a more stable life, and my own TV (!), I was once again able to follow ‘my’ team. And later, in 1994 I married Angela, a ‘proper’ football enthusiast, who introduced me to Champions League football on TV, and generally rekindled my enthusiasm for the game. Over these years, Manchester United steadily became stronger and better, culminating (of course) in their treble win in 1999. From then on, up to the end of the season in 2013 when Ferguson retired, the trophies kept coming in. It was tempting to become complacent, but at the back of my mind was the feeling that it couldn’t last for ever.
So, fast forwarding to the end of the season in 2013, I supported David Moyes as replacement for Ferguson (see an earlier post). Although this support has been tested over the last few months, I still think he’ll turn out fine, provided he is given time, and money to add to the team. At the time of writing, Manchester United are a poor 7th in the league table, and they are out of the FA cup. Survival in the Capital One Cup depends on overturning the first leg result by beating Sunderland by a sufficient number of goals on Wednesday. The transfer window is open until the end of the month, but so far there is only speculation about new players joining the club, or of players leaving.
So, having supported my team for nearly 46 years, these are obviously trying times! But I have come to the conclusion that there is no point in bemoaning poor performance, since Manchester United are now going through a period of change, and (just as happened in 1986) it might take several years for them to rebuild. It seems unlikely that they will qualify for Champions League football next season, and even a top 6 finish isn’t guaranteed. So it’s a case of taking each game as it comes, enjoying the successes when they happen, but being philosophical about the defeats. It will take time, but Manchester United will rise again!