On Saturday afternoon a name popped up on my twitter timeline I’d not seen or heard about for almost two decades. This wasn’t a long lost uncle or childhood sweetheart this was none other than that footballing colossus Nigel Jemson- you remember him, the bloke who erm, played for a few teams during the early 90s before disappearing into obscurity.
The reason my TL was full of ‘Jems’ as I’ve just decided rather wittily to label his tweets, was the part time fireman and former Halifax Town caretaker manager had decided to have a bit of a pop at United via the BBC Sport website. Jemson was asked for his predictions for tonight’s game and noted how he didn’t like United and when questioned about it on Twitter referred to Steve Bruce’s late goals against Sheffield Wednesday as one of the reasons- Jemson played in the match – he was subbed after 53 minutes.
There was something comforting about Jemson’s random hatred for United as it reminded me of a bygone era when it seemed everyone despised us with real venom. Visiting fans acted as though there was real rivalry between us and them, often leaving Reds bewildered as the likes of Bolton Wanderers and West Ham became enraged during what were to us run-of-the-mill encounters against sides we spent 363 days a year thinking nothing of.
Pundits and columnists could always be guaranteed to blame United for everything from the ill discipline in schoolboy games to the Hitler diaries turning out to be fakes. United were hated by all outside Old Trafford and men like Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, David Beckham , Cristiano Ronaldo and Beelzebub himself Sir Alex Ferguson boiled urine across the land.
Burning effigies and graffiti on your front door were part and parcel of being a United player following a World Cup as you were blamed for either getting sent off for England or having the audacity to wink when someone else did- against your side- during a quarter final – after a clear stamp.
Everyone hated United because we were successful- even Jemson cited that as his main reason- yet things began to change somewhat last season. Rival managers didn’t blame the referee for defeats at Old Trafford- they offered comments of support for our beleaguered boss as they picked up their first wins in decades at our hallowed ground. It was sickening seeing so many opposition managers sticking up for David Moyes, when we’d seen so many of them blame Sir Alex’s influence for countless defeats. United were crap so we deserved sympathy not hatred, it was sickening.
Of course our old rivals such as City, Liverpool and to a lesser extent Chelsea, still hated us and revelled in our new found mediocrity but even they seemed to be treating us as an afterthought as they exchanged meaningful games during title a race we never once even influenced let alone took part in. We’d become an irrelevance, more deserving of pity than scorn- it was a new nadir.
This season though has been different, managers have started moaning about us again, pundits have spent a disproportionate amount of time lamenting how we’re in the top three despite being dreadful and spending the GDP of a medium sized country and rival fans have spontaneously combusted at the injustice of our unbeaten runs.
Louis Van Gaal may not be getting much credit of late, but as long as no marks like Jemson are crawling out of the woodwork to remind the world of their bitterness towards us, the United manager is doing something right….