Steph Doehler is a Manchester United fan and respected football blogger. In this article she takes on the challenge of the age old debate of conflict between local United supporters, and the very vocal global MUFC fanbase.
It’s not a rarity for me to log on to Twitter and see United fans arguing of some football related issue. When it wasn’t Michael Carrick it was Jonny Evans but those discussions seem to have fallen wayward this season, so perhaps it would be nice to think fellow supporters of the same club could just get along and enjoy the view of the league table as we reach the climax of a rollercoaster season.
Don’t be silly. Of course that won’t happen.
And thus, I log on to Twitter this morning to see a very interesting debate has begun between the merits of local and non-local Manchester United supporters.
Let it be said from the outset, I am not a local Manchester United supporter. I was not born in Manchester. I don’t live in Manchester. I don’t have any family living in Manchester (I’m sure that’s the reason most “outsiders” use isn’t it? “My mum’s brother’s best friend’s cat hailed from there…”). My reason for supporting United was simple, my best friend did. He brought a poster into school one day of Eric Cantona, who had just moved across the Pennines to Manchester, and me being an impressionable youngster made the decision there and then to start supporting “his” football team – ironically enough, his father was a Manc! Anyway, enough of my life history.
The locals put forth a quite compelling argument. The ones I follow never once criticised the “out of towners” for being United fans. Far from it. Most local United supporters are savvy enough to recognise that were United not the global commodity they are today, chances are they wouldn’t have generated the success they have in recent decades. Afterall, we all know money talks in football. What the locals did say, however, is that they have an extra special affinity with the club that perhaps we will never understand. And you know what – despite many fans finding themselves incensed with the comment, I totally agree with the statement.
I’ve been very fortunate over the years to support a highly successful football club. Did I know they would turn out that way when I made that decision to follow United? No, of course not. But the fact remains, I made that choice. Many local supporters aren’t afforded that decision. United or City…that decision is often made for them with family influences and like. Instead in my family I have a West Brom supporting father and a…ahem….Liverpool supporting brother who spent much of our growing up calling me a glory fan. Something I could understand if it wasn’t for the fact he started supporting Liverpool in the 80s!
When United lose I sometimes receive a pi$$-taking text from my dad. If we score a dodgy penalty I’ll get a tweet from my brother, and when I get into work someone may or may not make a comment. Live in a community whereby you are surrounded by your greatest rivals day in, day out and I’m convinced a United loss is a lot more painful than it is for me. Yes, we can all sit here and compare stories about how depressed we get when United lose, how it ruins our weekends and so on, but more often than not the non-locals don’t have to live with the ramifications of said loss. Case in point – who do you think found the 6-1 derby loss more painful? Us non-locals who could dust ourselves off, get up the next morning and try to shut it out. Or Mancunians, who had to go to work the next day dreading bumping into that particular City fan with a smug grin on their face?
I’m fortunate, I don’t personally know any City fans. Locals can’t escape them.
At no point did a Manchester based United fan say they were “more of a supporter” than the rest of us and yet some felt that’s what they were insinuating. I don’t agree with that. How do you actually measure that anyway? By becoming a “Top Red” on Twitter, saying things like “GGMU” and so on. It’s like some pathetic penis-measuring competition sometimes, “I’m a bigger fan because I am a verified member of the MUFC Family.” Jesus Christ, give me a break. The ironic thing is no self-respecting, match going Manchester United fan would ever say things like that.
It’s difficult to truly define what a “real” fan even means these days – not just in relation to United. I know some supporters of my local clubs who rarely go to games, who don’t make that 25 mile journey to their club’s stadium but because they support their local team they are better than me, even though I regularly embark on a 200 mile round trip to follow my club. It doesn’t make sense, does it?!
The bottom line is I have a connection to Manchester United. They are the football club I have chosen to follow, through good times and bad. However, I would suggest that the manner in which I experience United is very different to how locals do. In exactly the same way I believe supporters within this country experience it differently to overseas fans. There is no way of suggesting which is any “better or worse” and it’s a pointless exercise to try to do so because most of us haven’t experienced our fandom outside of our current situation. I am fortunate that I don’t have to get out of bed in the middle of the night to watch United play. I am fortunate that in order to attend a game I don’t have to get on a plane.
As Manchester United fans we all want what is best for our club. We all want to win games and trophies. But let’s not be naïve. Our kinship to United is very different to local fans, that’s inevitable, but it’s not a bad thing. We shouldn’t feel offended that this is the case. We aren’t “less of a fan” as a result of it. It’s just a way of life.
Now let’s all stop bickered and start being part of this United family that so many people rave about…