Manchester United are no longer mid-table, we’re no longer enduring the worst start in our Premier League history, we’re very much still in the title race. All of which leaves one important question: who are we going to demonise this week? It can’t be David Moyes, after all we’re winning, it can’t be Nani or Danny Welbeck, they haven’t been playing. Mmmm….Steve Round’s looking like a good prospect, I’ve never liked the look of him and I’ve heard he didn’t put the cones out properly the other day, come to think didn’t the under 21s get beat against Stoke last week, could be time to start a ‘Warren Joyce Out’ campaign.
United fans have been extremely fortunate throughout our entire history to have witnessed some of the finest players to ever lace a pair of boots. From the days of Billy Meredith running down the wing, wearing his flat cap, puffing on his pipe with his faithful whippet Obi-Wan alongside him, through to the Busby Babes, the United Trinity and the class of ’92 et al. We’ve been well and truly spoilt. But for every George Best there’s a Willie Anderson, when Fergie’s Fledgings were breaking through Sir Alex had the presence of mind to sign Graeme Tomlinson- just to add equilibrium to the squad- not that he ever got near the first team.
While every club has its fair share of duffers, with some sides such as Stoke City even signing a few of everybody else’s, United have usually been lucky enough to have strong players in every position- at least in the Premier League era. It’s the fact that the bar is raised so high at Old Trafford that probably encourages some of our fans to be so vitriolic against those that aren’t quite up to the job.
Take that ever-popular, tower of strength Ashley Young. Yes, the former Villa man goes down quicker than Joe Hart’s credibility during an ad break and he hasn’t exactly set the world alight since Sir Alex signed him, but the level of hatred for him from some of his own fans is somewhat shocking. I’m not about to defend Young’s actions- they’re cringeworthy, but even before the diving nonsense had really reached its latest nadir he was well and truly persona non grata among many Reds due to the inconsistency of his performances.
Young isn’t alone of course, Nani was recently booed at Old Trafford for setting up a goal, oh no sorry, it was for being a bit rubbish after he’d set up a goal and not leaving the field of play in the mandatory 9.4 seconds before it’s acceptable for your own fans to boo you. What a great example for Adnan Januzaj who replaced him: “don’t worry lad, we’ll love you unless you frustrate us, then the gloves are off.”
The one thing the Sir Alex Ferguson era gave us was success, well success, a multi million pound training facility, one of the best stadiums in Europe and world wide popularity, but mainly success. It was the success that became expected under Sir Alex that made some Reds tolerate failure far less than most fans would and often beyond the realms of sanity. Ryan Giggs, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Michael Carrick are three of our most successful and popular players in recent memory yet all have endured stick from the boo boys at one point in their United careers. Justified? No. Harsh? Yes. Bonkers? Definitely.
The international break will be a welcome respite for Young from the attention of the fans who wish the “diving bastard would do us all a favour and jump off a cliff” but he shouldn’t feel too downhearted. There are United fans who will always loathe at least one member of the squad, although some do it with a tad more wit than just spouting insults from the stands. When I started attending United matches with my mates in the early 90s, the Scoreboard Paddock where we stood was a hotbed of comedic entertainment, with Brian McCLair often being the butt of many jokes- “here goes the pie-eating maestro on another pointless diagonal run into the abyss” was the sort of comment that could be heard regularly.
As we saw with the reaction to Wayne Rooney earlier in the season and even against Arsenal on Sunday, United fans can be amongst the most passionate and loyal in the world. That’s not to say all Reds are like that, with the invention of social media some fans have the chance to directly let a player know just what they think of him, without even attending a game- just ask Darron Gibson- and it’s networks such as twitter and other forums which can give you a direct view into just how hated a player has become.
Young may never recover from the level of disdain fans feel for him now, but he can take solace in the fact that as many a United player will testify, yes Reds can be quick to judge and some of can be overly harsh and ungracious but all you need is a half decent performance against a Liverpool or maybe even a City, and you’ve got the chance at becoming a legend.