When you first met, you had no idea that they were ‘the one’, but here you are, twenty seven years on. Contemplation fills your mind, tracking along every obsession filled vein, to that major organ in your skull. You didn’t see it coming, the finishing line, but it was inevitable. The split is wholly amicable in the end, we have run our course now, and it is time to find a life apart from each other. But it hurts. It hurts so badly. And all you can do is drop them off at the station, to catch that train that will take them away from you…forever.
As relationships go, it felt fairly normal at the start. Those early days of flirtation and folly, were soon replaced by the mundane routine of life in the slow lane. But as the months turned into years, and our futures materialised into the present day, it became ever more apparent that our two destinies were joined at the hip, and that this amazing journey we were about to undertake, we would take together. Hand in hand. Devoted and united.
In 1986, we had no idea what Alex Ferguson would mean to us in 2013. We had no idea about the kind of relationship we would have with the man. We had no idea that we would name a stand after him at our holiest of homes and build a statue of him to overlook that location. We didn’t know that this would not be just another fling: An Atkinson, a Docherty, a Sexton. We had no idea of the incredible longevity, and of all the wonderful memories we would create together. And we had no idea of the depths of love and loyalty we would achieve.
And we had no idea how much pain we would feel when it was over.
I was ten years old when Fergie took over at United – I didn’t take to him immediately. That first year I missed the glamour that Big Ron brought to our club, which was previously welcomed with open arms by a fan base who didn’t really have trophy success to consider, in a Scouse sense of the meaning. Where Atkinson was larger than life and covered in gold and diamonds, Ferguson was British Steel and coal mines. It felt…wrong. It felt like a relationship with little direction. Maybe a rebound affair? Anyway, it would surely all be over before long, and we would get ourselves our very own Terry Venables character. Right? Thankfully not.
Fast forward almost three decades, and it is time to say goodbye. Everything comes to an end, even the very best things in the world. We have all contemplated the idea that this relationship was eternal, and in many ways it is. But physically, it is impossible. Our relationship with the manager can no longer be measured in anything less than repeated golden generations, but now it is time to write a new passage in this rollercoaster story, called Manchester United.
So the clock has been ticking for a couple of weeks now, and the train is pulling into the station. I had no idea how I would say goodbye, but I knew I wanted to stop spontaneously bursting into tears, when I thought about the level of loss I was feeling. I was going to take a deep breath, be the man I wanted to be, and wish the love of my football life a ‘bon voyage’ as I forced a smile, my face all lines of worry and pretence. I could do that, couldn’t I? Even though I died on trophy presentation day at Old Trafford and emotionally collapsed, I felt equally reborn the following day, in the streets of Manchester. Positivity oozed out of me and all of you, from Chester Road to Deansgate, and into the throng of Albert Square.
But yesterday really was the end. So as we kissed goodbye one last time and he boarded that train, my heart felt heavy. I remembered all of those times I didn’t believe in him, but that was mostly Djemba Djemba’s fault. However, the overriding memory was one of love and security. Security is one thing that is rarely present in a football relationship like this. So as the train pulled away from the platform, the ground swallowed me whole, and I was temporarily spat out into an oblivion I had never experienced before. The tears rained down, and it was time to accept that moving on was the only option.
Situations like this call for the pub. So that is where I headed, a football singleton for the first time in forever. But wait! Who is that attractive new red head behind the bar? I recognised them but I wondered what their name was? And as Slade’s ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ played on the jukebox, I made a move.
A new relationship had begun. We’ll get wild wild wild…all over again.
To mark the anniversary of United winning the Treble with a team that had academy products at the core, Made in Manchester is available for just £3 for today only. Some of the best football writers take a player each, from Sir Bobby Charlton to Ryan Giggs, George Best to David Beckham, Duncan Edwards to Paul Scholes, and many more, with 30 articles in total. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.