Sarah Flotel is a London-based, incredibly passionate football writer, musician and songwriter. She is also Co-founder of Hot Scores, a weekly video podcast and blog site devoted to fans of the beautiful game. Sarah is the first non-MUFC fan to write for us here on TF.
“I F@ck%ng hate United”…..How many times do you hear that phrase scattered like confetti through conversation and forums up and down the country? It isn’t a hatred born out of rational thought processes like the general consensus of feelings towards a club like Millwall; the fact that ‘no one likes us, we don’t care’ is their slogan speaks volumes. The feeling towards Manchester United are misplaced hatred born out of pure and simple envy towards a ridiculous run of success, the football is authentic and built on rock solid foundations.
A consummate neutral can only take their hat off to the school of Manchester United, it’s what we all want for our clubs, a manager worthy of complete autonomy over his players, one who makes great signings and recovers with strength from any mistakes; someone who nurtures the youth by blending them sugary sweet with the old, defends his players like a lioness her cubs, stands up to referees and the FA, whether right or wrong. Sir Alex Ferguson’s roots in English football go right to the very core.
There is a school of thought in modern psychology that if something triggers upset it is something you crave for yourself. The by-product of this is to show disdain, not be pleasant in your pursuit of it. These wants and needs could be anything from a loving parent to a funnier personality, beauty or patience and this is what Manchester Utd do so well, trigger all the things we want for our teams.
It is easy to dream of Barcelona and the perfect fluid motion that flows from their birthright, the sublime components of an eleven-legged creature who grew up sharing sweets without scraps, banging conkers and building tree houses that look like Swiss log cabins. In all seriousness, the Barcelona way is not a reality for clubs in the English Premier League and may not be for any club or country worldwide. They could be an anomaly, a rare kind of footballing perfection that passes only every 76 years, like Halley’s comet. When Jimi Hendrix broke onto the swinging London music scene in 1967, the likes of Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend wondered which part of outer space he fell from. Nobody has every played the guitar or performed like him since, plenty have aspired, been technically more proficient and achieved brilliance in their own right but his ingenuity was absolutely unique. Sometimes we just have to accept that some levels of mastery transcend what is within the reach of even other immensely talented individuals, there are elements of this with Manchester United too.
If you break it down to the bare bones, what is there to really hate? The fans? Yes, arrogance and exorbitant confidence can be unattractive but what are they meant to do, hang their heads in modesty about how fantastic their club is? This isn’t fine art or literature, this is football, where thousands of people gather together to will on the success of a team they are emotionally bound to, for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health.
There’s nothing wrong with the ground or the journey, the owners are only for United fans to take issue with, not the business of other club’s fans. The kit surely can’t stir up painful feelings (unless you are Arsenal) and the pitch is in better condition than ever, not even a dedicated Alan Titchmarsh and braless Charlie Dimmock team could have rescued it a few years back!
All those things are trivial and when it comes down to it, so is the hatred that many feel towards the most successful team in the history of the English game. Looking at the dynamic between Manchester United fans and their adversaries, dislike is a natural by-product of competitiveness and Liverpool are the closest in heritage and success, geography makes for more intense rivalry too. There is a natural snobbish pecking order with Manchester City and that will rein for many years as any future success will be from financial input alone. It shouldn’t be quite the same with Chelsea as they were already riding up in 4th position the season before James Bond villain Abramovich threw the chequebook on the table; they had a good backbone of the squad present too.
With every season’s passing the hope that Alex Ferguson will retire ignites a candle in non-Utd fan’s hearts, believing he is the pulse of success. He has and will continue to build a legacy until the day he takes his place in the stands and that won’t disappear when another takes the throne, it could be quite a few years before Manchester United are no longer the main beneficiaries of fan hatred. Odds on, it won’t take City twenty-six years to catch up on those stakes, twenty-six months is a more realistic timescale for the scathing brigade to launch their attacks, in fact it has started already.