There are the obvious teams to hate as a United fan. You may hate Liverpool, Leeds and City fans for singing their Munich songs (unless the eyes of the World are watching, when City suddenly decide to pay respect to Frank Swift). You may hate Arsenal for singing about winning the title at Old Trafford. But Stoke? You wouldn’t even think they showed up on the radar, but after their trip to our place last month, I left the ground with nothing but negative thoughts of them.
A fellow newly promoted team, Hull City, had visited a fortnight before, and left a very positive impression. Their fans were up for it, just like their players. They were vocal throughout and their team scored three goals against us, the first team to do so since Chelsea in 2005. That is the kind of club I’ll welcome happily every weekend at our ground (as long as we outscore them!) but Stoke just stunk of small time bitterness. They were an angry lot, their players kicking lumps out of ours and their fans abusing Ronaldo like nothing I’d ever heard previously.
Of course, we beat them 5-0 that day, and I took a strangely odd pleasure in it. It wasn’t like any 5-0 mauling of some nobody team, but more a ‘have that!’ to that nasty bunch.
Today, I was filled with a similar feeling when Tevez fired the ball in to the roof of their net.
Before the game, one of the several fans who showed up to watch the football in fancy dress, held up a mock Carlsberg advert. ‘Alex Ferguson, probably the best referee in the World’ it read. It was ironic then with 42 minutes played when United were awarded a freekick just outside the area and seven Stoke players thought they knew better than the ref. Their faces red in fury, they shouted in his face. None of them received a yellow card for dissent though. Makes you wonder what Mike Riley was thinking about showing Cristiano Ronaldo a yellow card for wagging his finger a few months ago at Stamford Bridge when two thirds of the Stoke team can shout at the referee and receive no punishment.
Now, you would think Stoke fans would be used to seeing lots of freekicks given against them, considering they kick their opposition every week. Their manager opposed the ‘dirty team’ tag they were given by Arsene Wenger.
However, Everton are the only team they’ve played this season who have committed more fouls than them in a match. Even against Spurs, when the London club had two men sent off, Stoke committed more fouls!
It’s odd then, that whenever the referee did award United a freekick, there were resounding boos and chants of the ref being a wanker. Do they behave this way against every opposition, or just in their ‘cup final’? This feigned outrage every time the referee blows his whistle for the latest Stoke player to kick at his opponent is ridiculous.
The “wanker” tag was also dished out to Ronaldo whenever he got in breathing distance of the ball. Today’s game convinced me of their obsession. At Old Trafford it was bad enough, but today they were on a mission. There were more chants for Ronaldo than there were for their own players. It’s sad.
It was no surprise then at half time when the home fans booed. No, they weren’t booing off their own team, rather the visitors. Can you imagine being so small-minded that you would rather boo off the visiting team than you would applaud your own? It was embarrassing.
Of course, Ronaldo got the better of them again, with their tribal chanting having more of an effect on their own players than ours. Andy Wilkinson took a swipe at Ronaldo, not intention for the ball, and was handed his second yellow card for doing so, receiving a standing ovation from his fans. Ten minutes after the defender was given his marching orders, United scored. Cheers!
With their fancy dress and appointed villains, the Stoke fans would have been better off at a Boxing Day pantomime than a football match.
I usually have a soft spot for the underdog, but the sooner these cunts go down, the better.