Leading up to the FA Cup semi-final against City, RoM will be running a series of interviews with United fans. Our first is with Andy Mitten, Editor of United We Stand, who will be talking us through his favourite derby day memories, City’s fanbase and our greatest rivalries.
Scott the Red: Where do you think our rivalry with City ranks alongside that with Liverpool and Leeds?
Andy Mitten: The Manchester rivalry has been ascendant since they came into a few quid and started buying decent players. Before that I thought it was overrated and frequently a let down when compared to the big city rivalries around the world. I considered Liverpool far bigger rivals and they earned that right. The Leeds rivalry burned brightly in the 70s and for a decade in the 90s. It was horrible to go to Elland Road for a time – but a buzz all the same. That’s one for the backburner while they work out where their plans for world domination went wrong.
City? That’s one for now.
STR: What’s your favourite ever derby day?
AM: The 5-0 in November ’94. We needed cheering up after getting dicked against Barcelona a week earlier.
STR: What your favourite ever derby day goal?
AM: Loads. McClair’s equalizer in a 3-3 at Maine Road in 1990. Roy Keane, Maine Road, 1993. We needed cheering up after getting knocked out of the European Cup in Turkey midweek. They were singing “2-0 up and you fucked it up” as they threw Turkish Delight bars at us at half-time. They weren’t singing that after United scored three goals to win…
STR: Whereabouts did you grow up and what was the red/blue divide like?
AM: Spent my first five years in Stretford, less than a mile from the ground. Then my next 18 just over the border in Urmston and then Flixton. Mum’s from Old Trafford so I think she thought she had made it when her and my dad bought a semi in Stretford and then Urmston.
I could hear Old Trafford from our house in Urmston on big matches. Lived in Gorse Hill while I was a student for bit, which was handy for the match.
Urmston and Stretford are very, very red, I’d say about 80%. I had and have some good blue mates who have followed their team through thick and thin. I respect them and have more in common with them than half of the clowns who claim to support Manchester United but it got a bit embarrassing in the 90s. The Reds were really travelling the world to see United, while the Blues were going to Grimsby and Gillingham. We stopped winding them up – it wasn’t fair. A few even came on United pre-seasons with us because they would have never left England for football otherwise.
STR: Do you think City’s half empty grounds with £5 tickets this season in the FA Cup and Europe have shown people outside of Manchester that the blues have been lying about who the city belongs to?
AM: City are a big club. Their support is staggering given they haven’t won a trophy for so long, but they are nowhere near as big as United, not in Manchester, Greater Manchester, England or abroad. There’s no shame in that – United, Madrid and Barca are the biggest clubs support-wise by a distance, but some Blues should not persist with lies.
City have a few pockets of support in Tameside and Stockport where there are areas which are more blue than red. I once went out with a girl who’s dad was blue. They had family in Duckinfield and we went up there one night for a do. It was very blue and felt alien to an upstanding citizen like myself. They used strange words like ‘going down’, ‘relegation’ and ‘play-offs’ that I couldn’t decipher. I couldn’t believe it was less than 10 miles from Manchester City centre.
STR: Which City players do you think would get in to our first XI?
AM: David Silva and Carlos Tevez. Actually, you could argue a case for a lot of them – I’ve always liked Pablo Zabaleta and Adam Johnson, but they don’t have the togetherness or team spirit of United. Nor a manager who knows how to keep on winning. That team spirit and knowledge is worth 50 expensive Bosnian strikers. They have been profligate in other areas of the transfer market though. They can afford to be.
STR: Any regrets over Tevez leaving?
AM: Yes. He’s a world class player and I don’t like to see world class players leave Old Trafford. He’s been made a pantomime villain, but there’s two sides to the story about him leaving and, as ever, it boils down to money. He goes where he can get most because his agent advises him to. That’s why he came to Old Trafford in 2007 and that’s why he left for City in 2009.
STR: Is all forgiven and forgotten where Rooney is concerned?
AM: Nah, but then I don’t really expect loyalty from footballers. They go where the money is at every level. Wayne’s a decent lad. I’ve interviewed him several times and I like him, but he’s put his life into the hands of an agent of ill-repute who used well founded fears of United fans to get a better contract. I don’t like Stretford’s style, but then why should Rooney be loyal to United when he’s an Everton fan? He’s exercised his right to move in search of trophies and more money. No different to Tevez then. Players see things very differently to fans…
STR: I suppose the problem with that is the difference between players who play for a club, do their best and pick up their wages… and players who do that, whilst kissing the badge and telling anyone who will listen that they love it here and want to stay forever. Anyway, what are your predictions for the game?
AM: United to go through to the final. Again.
STR: Are we gonna win the league?
AM: Yes. Said it at the start of the season and got laughed at. Sticking by my words and almost ready to take even more money off Blues I had bets with about who would finish higher, us or them.
STR: Easy money. Cheers mate.
Andy Mitten’s best-selling 2006 book ‘We’re The Famous Man United. Manchester United in the 1980s – the players’ stories’ is out in paperback on May 10th, priced £7.99.
Andy Mitten on Twitter