Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Love-hate relationship with the Red Devils

I'm a Red Devils fan. I had briefly mentioned this before. Fan since 1985. So it has been 20 years now. For the majority of those 20 years, Fergie has been the manager of the club. Big Ron had been the previous manager from 1981 to 1986.

Man Utd in the 80s was like Liverpool in the 90s, a big club that was perpetually underachieving. Indeed in the 89/90 season, they finished only a couple of places above the relegation positions (13th to be exact). I seem to remember there was at least once in that season when the club was actually 17th, just one position above relegation! Nail-biting, to say the least. This was all in the old English League, not the current English Premier League.

There are certain eras when being a Man Utd fan had certain stigmas associated with it.

In the 80s, it was that of being the perpetual bridesmaid in the English League. To Liverpool. That the club was the best supported in England, with the biggest stadium, added to the embarrassment. The few domestic cups won did little to lift the spirits of the fans for we knew we were still a step below Liverpool then. It is the exact same position that Liverpool is in right now. They've won quite a number of domestic cups, even the Champion's League last season, but its fans know they are still a step below the current big 3 in the EPL.

In the 90s, it was that of being a "bandwagon" fan. After winning the EPL for several seasons, Man Utd fans suddenly popped up everywhere in Singapore. These fans are either those girls who are just hankering after the suave looking players, e.g. Giggsy and Becks, and not after the football or those guys who just pick the team of the moment to support. In addition, the club and its fans became targets that people love to hate. We were accused of being arrogant and such. I suppose when the club is successful, there will always be so called "black sheep" fans who gloat about it a lot. 樹大招風. I remember feeling quite pai seh about admitting to being a Red Devils fan then. I just might get mugged. And in a strange way, Chelsea and its fans is going through this experience now, but at a much faster rate. Not surprising, given its haolian manager.

Currently, the stigma associated with a Man Utd fan is that of being suay. Firstly, the club lost the league for two seasons running. Then Man Utd lost last year's FA Cup to Arsenal despite dominating the entire match. Some more it was on penalties. But the real whammy came when this happened. The details of the sale are well-documented elsewhere so I won't bother repeating them here.

But I do want to say my piece.

It felt like selling one's soul. I felt BOTH suay and incensed then. How can such a thing happen to the club I hold close to my heart? When I admit to being a Man Utd fan now, I can almost sense the pity in other people's eyes.

I have been in a dilemma since the sale. On one hand, if I continue to support the club, I am indirectly saying I support the sale, and lining the pockets of the new owner. No way! On the other hand, I still would like to see the club enjoy success and prosper. I find myself sometimes hoping the club will do badly for one or two seasons so that sales will plummet, the new owner will be forced to sell the club and the fans can then get it back. But seeing our club do badly would be really painful to watch. Catch 22 situation.

In the end, I settled for supporting the club in my heart and NOT buying any more Man Utd merchandise. Upon qualifying as Fellow of the IOA, I will have to fly to UK to collect my scroll. I had planned all along to attend a home match at Old Trafford whilst I am still in UK. But I've since called it off. That is my way of protesting the sale.

I hope the latest stigma of being suay will pass soon.

Akan Datang: a bit the gan jiong

205 days to go.

P.S. My favourite player from the 80s is Mark Hughes (currently Blackburn's manager after a good stint as Wales manager). From the 90s, I really like Ryan Giggs and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a lot. Who can ever forget Giggs' slalom goal in the FA Cup semis replay win over Arsenal in 1999? And who can ever forget Solskjaer's injury time winner in the 1999 Champion's League final against Bayern Munich? Sadly, Solskjaer has been injured for almost 2 years running now.


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