You can picture the scene, in a darkened room in a smoke filled bunker, men sit around a long conference table stroking white cats. It’s May 2013, above the door outside is a sign reading “Football Pundits Meeting.” The voice at the head of the table announces: “comrades, the day has finally arrived our nemesis, the Scottish red-faced boil on our necks has gone and with him the dominance of that vile, putrid club Manchester United.” They all laugh, Merson racks up another of the latest Premier League lines while Redknapp does a quick photo shoot for yet another advert. Finally United won’t be at the forefront of English football, finally the nightmare is over.
For a year or so the predicted demise of Manchester United in the wake of Fergie’s retirement seemed to come true, as David Moyes delivered one calamitous performance after another. Even better for the vast number of Scouse loving Manc hating pundits out there, it appeared as though Liverpool were about to win the title in the first Ferguson-less Premier League season. Yet it wasn’t to be and to exacerbate the misery for the ever growing ABU* brigade, United’s collapse wasn’t as emphatic and long lasting as promised, the club only spending one season out of the Champions League and failing to be the whipping boys they looked like under the hapless Moyes.
Maybe it’s with that in mind we should address the issue of outrageously biased punditry we’re currently being subjected to when it comes to the 13 time Premier League winners. It’s something us Reds have been used to since before the “you’ll never win anything with kids” days, but lately we seem to have reached a whole new level of bitter idiocy. Take a look at everyone’s favourite waste of licence payers money – Match of the Day. Usually we see the likes of Alan Shearer and Danny Murphy giving the kind of insightful forensic analysis you’d get from an Alsatian, but even their anti-United bias has been surpassed by the latest addition to the MOTD stable of morons- Ruud Gullit. Maybe it’s some age-old Dutch based spat between him and Louis Van Gaal, let’s face it the United boss seems to have fallen out with everyone from his native land during his career- but for whatever reason Gullit seems to have joined the ABU brigade with gusto. United win 3-0 against Sunderland to go top of the table and Gullit treats it as though somehow more passes before a goal ais an affront to all that is pure and holy about the beautiful game. What makes MOTD even more laughable is the way even a Liverpool draw at home to Norwich is praised as the epitome of attacking excellence while, United wins are dismissed as vulgar and undeserved. Speaking of Liverpool, watching the United game against our less successful North West neighbours on Match of the Day, you’d think it was simply a case of two poor sides facing off against each other, with one being a bit more s**t than the other. Granted it wasn’t the greatest of games, but there was only one team that ever looked like winning it and Bastian Schweinsteiger produced a midfield masterclass not seen at Old Trafford since the days of Roy Keane- more on him later. Yet, all that seemed to go under the radar of the Beeb’s assembly of a*ses.
It’s not just Match of the Day where we see weekly nonsense masquerading as analysis, Sky Sports have been at the forefront of that for years. Earlier this season was a particular example of the the anti United verbal excrement were often subjected to as with Gary Neville absent- Jamie Carragher went to town in his vitriol against the Reds following the opening day win over Spurs. Yes, it was a poor game, but Carragher acted as though Van Gaal had somehow shown himself tactically inept for the rest of his United career by only beating Spurs 1-0. Roberto Martinez standing in for Neville actually seemed embarrassed at some of the tripe being served up by his high-pitched colleague. Carragher’s United ‘analysis’ resembled a copper in the 60s trying to convince a victim it was really the black man in custody who’d committed a robbery.
Copper: “Did you see who robbed you?”
Victim: “Yes. ”
Copper: “He was black wasn’t he?
Victim: “No, it was a white bloke with blonde hair.”
Copper: “But he could’ve been black.”
Victim: “Well, not really.”
Copper: [takes out notepad] “Okay, I’ll just put possibly a black guy.”
Carragher tried his best to convince Martinez that somehow from watching United beat Spurs, it was obvious the Reds were doomed to relegation. Every idiotic point was discredited by the increasingly bored Martinez. The conversation more or less went along the lines of:
Carragher: “Look, look at how United leave a gap there, if they did that against Barcelona, they’d get destroyed.”
Martinez: [stifling sigh] “They won’t use the same tactics all season, you change tactics based on the opposition.”
Carragher: [Getting more squeaky] “Look! Look, at the space there though, Spurs could have easily exposed that!”
Martinez: [checking his watch] “It’s worth remembering, United won this game. The tactics worked.”
The real benchmark for United hatred isn’t even Carragher, it’s the plethora of plankton lining the Sky Sports studio on a Saturday morning. Over the years Soccer Saturday’s loathing of United, really has known no bounds. A few gems that spring to mind are Phil Thompson a few seasons ago claiming Sir Alex Ferguson would be concerned about not making the top four after only winning one of the first four games- United finished the season as Premier League champions, Paul Merson claiming David De Gea should be jettisoned in favour of Shay Given who was available- De Gea ended the campaign in the PFA team of the season- Given warming the Aston Villa bench and my personal favourite-
Jeff Stelling: “Is Ben Foster a better keeper than David De Gea?”
Phil Thompson: “More reliable.”
The most disappointing aspect of the media’s anti-United agenda, is the fact unlike many ex-Liverpool players who defend their side through anything – including racism and assault, our own ex-players seem to revel in actually sticking the knife in wherever possible. Nani’s sending off against Real Madrid was the worse decision I’ve ever witnessed at Old Trafford- well it’s a toss up between that and the Paul Scholes disallowed goal vs Porto- yet for Roy Keane “it was a red card.” Bizarrely after finally looking like the player we all hoped he’d become Chris Smalling recently found himself in Keano’s sights, who admitted he’s “not sure about him.” In Keane’s defence it’s his uncompromising nature and perfectionism that made him a success and at least he’s consistent as he was never shy of slagging off his team mates when he was at the club- which ultimately led to his departure. Paul Scholes seems unable to go more than a week without heaping scorn on some aspect of his former club, at first it was refreshing to hear a former player highlighting what many fans knew wasn’t working at United, but far too often it seems to drift into parody.
Of course all this sounds paranoid and it would be foolish to claim United don’t deserve criticism. But it’s worth noting that at the time of writing the Reds are top of the league, have beaten all the top sides under the current manager’s tenure- barring Chelsea- and have managed to score some truly memorable goals along the way. As a United fan I’d be lying if I said the last four seasons had been examples of footballing excellence but the level of criticism leveled at our club far surpasses what’s warranted by the displays on the pitch. Even the written press often join in with the latest headline grabbing denunciation of the signing of Anthony Martial an example of how hating the Reds seems to be part of the National Council for the Training of Journalists course.
In the smoke filled bunker as Martin Keown climbs down from a tyre tied to a tree, the ABU brigade gather round a screen and pray for a City win today. On the bright side United being overly criticised usually means it’s because we’re doing something right- the fault-finding actually seemed to be toned down somewhat when Moyes was in charge- so in many ways I guess we should embrace it.
*Anyone But United