If 1999 never happened and you watched a film that told the same story, you would spend the duration rolling your eyes and tutting. As if that could happen. As if you could get a group of local lads, playing for one of the biggest teams in the world, go on to achieve something no English team had before. As if United would be a goal down to their hated rivals Liverpool on 88 minutes in the FA Cup, only to win the game 2-1. As if Ryan Giggs would have scored that goal against Arsenal. As if United would come back from 2-0 down to beat Juventus 3-2 in the semi-finals of the European Cup. As if United would won the league by one point. As if United would be 1-0 down on 90 minutes in the European Cup final, only to win the game 2-1. It’s just ridiculous. What a ridiculous fairytale. But it is a ridiculous story that we got to live and breathe. Whatever any club achieves, even if it is the Treble, they will never win it the way we did and they will never win it with a core group of players who have grown up supporting that team.
If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor.
When Sir Alex Ferguson first got the United job, finishing 7th and winning nothing would have been a decent season. The fact that things could be so much worse than they have been this season means we are labelled spoilt for being so angry about what has happened with David Moyes as manager. It’s hard to argue that we’re not spoilt, given that we haven’t finished outside the top three since 1990 and haven’t gone longer than a season without a trophy since then. But when you’re the champions of England and one of the most profitable “franchises” in the world, surely there’s nothing wrong with saying that 7th in the league isn’t anywhere near good enough.
So, this season has been awful. The only silver lining is the fact defeats don’t ruin my weekend anymore, so accustomed have I become to seeing the team lose. I could walk up to the ground for games against the likes of City and Liverpool without a care in the world. There were no nerves. We were obviously going to lose and, even when we did, it would make no difference to our season anyway.
But things are different now. The grey clouds that loomed large when Moyes were in charge have shifted. It’s nothing to do with the results though, as United may well stumble against Norwich today, but everything to do with the approach to the game. We’ve got a United man in charge now and there’s no way we will play the football that Moyes employed.
It’s hard to avoid sounding cheesy when talking about Ryan Giggs’ appointment as our temporary manager but I’m genuinely over the moon he’s got the job. Not just that, but that his mates get to join him. I went to the Class of ’92 premiere in Manchester last year and it gave an even greater insight to the bond between these players. Nicky Butt put it pretty well yesterday when reflecting on it all.
“It will be massive for us, a proud moment for us all. To be there together is a bit of a surreal thing. We walked in here together when we were 12 and to be here now – I’m not 40 yet but Giggsy is, and myself and Scholes are nearly there too. So for us and Phil to be there together is a very proud moment.”
Giggs has revealed how this situation even came about in the first place, with him making the calls to his former team mates.
“Nicky was with the Reserves so I asked him to come up and help with the first team which he was more than happy to do. Then I phoned Scholesy because I know how much the club means to these people. They feel the same way I do about the club and I know in the short space of time we have they’ll give it everything to make it a success.”
‘Not arrogant – just better’ was our banner which has gone missing this season. It’s hard to brag when you win fuck all, get outplayed by your rivals, and don’t even hold a place in the table that will see you qualify for Europa.
But what our fans are experiencing now is better than anyone else can imagine. It’s cheesy to talk about it and rival fans can dismiss it as desperation or anything else they like, but this, right now, is incredible. These next four games rank amongst some of the most highly anticipated games I’ve experienced as a United fan. Not because I think they count or make any difference to our season though. Liverpool will probably win the league and nothing we can say or do will make that feel any better. But because we get to celebrate our heroes, our legends, the former players who love the club just like we do, and no other English fans get to experience anything close to that.
“I’ve got to say it’s the proudest moment of my life,” said Giggs. “I’ve supported Manchester United all my life, it’s been the biggest part of my life since I was 14.”
Who else has a manager who can talk about the club like that? I’m not even just talking about England now, but worldwide football. Giggs is a lifelong red, he’s spent his entire career at United, he’s won 13 league titles, he’s played almost 1,000 games for the club, and he’s our manager.
Our coaching staff is made up of other proper reds, who also joined the club when they were kids, who are best mates, who came through the ranks together, and who went on to enjoy the most successful season any club in English football has ever experienced. No other fans in English football can come close to comprehending what that feels like.
Roy Keane released his autobiography in 2002 and talked about the group of players who will now take charge of our remaining games this season.
“They form the core of the team, on and off the field and are bonded in a way that excludes the rest of us. At the heart of our club there is something solid, something real, something identifiably Mancunian, an attitude created by the Six Amigos, that is fundamental to the team and its success. When players join United, however much they cost, wherever they come from, it is this attitude they must plug into.”
This is it. This is what separates us from everyone else. I’m not being arrogant, we are just better, and I’m not being flippant when I say that.
These remaining weeks are golden and however spoilt we may be, and however shit it will be to see another team lift our trophy, let’s not to be too spoilt to appreciate just how fortunate we are to be reds.
Ryan Giggs’ red and white army.