Manchester United fans can be guilty of having a certain snobbery when it comes to loyalty players from other teams show to their clubs. Recent examples of Ashley Cole stabbing his boyhood club in the back for the money and promise of success at Chelsea, as well as Steven Gerrard handing in two transfer requests at Liverpool for the same reason, have left United fans turning up their nose. We have high expectations on the attitude of our players and more often than not, these expectations are met.
The recent fan reaction to the case of Gabriel Heinze, who was a United player for three years, making just 53 appearances for the club, is testament to our hard hitting stance. Whilst the player had lost out on his first team place at United, we could have forgiven him for wanting to leave, but there was no chance of him getting support over a move to our most hated rivals. After the deal collapsed, there was no hesitation in our minds that his time at United was over. Sir Alex Ferguson and our fans were never going to find a place for him again, which was shown by Heinze’s squad number being handed over to new signing Owen Hargreaves before any further bids for the Argentinian had come through.
Whilst Liverpool fans have welcomed Steven Gerrard with open arms after he twice confessed he wanted to leave, getting in touch with Chelsea over a potential move, there is not a chance that would have happened at United. Our fans would not stand for that disloyalty.
The point is, United fans expect our players to give 100% to United. When Rio Ferdinand stalled over a contract for a few months, he was booed by our fans. You either want to be a United player, or you don’t, and there is no in between. Ferdinand has clearly seen the error of his ways since then, eager as anyone to get this latest contract signed, with the confessed hope of seeing his career out with the club. Again, this can be contrasted to Frank Lampard, who has been stalling his contract with Chelsea for over a year now. Several negotiations have broken down, yet the fans still adore him.
Earlier this week, Rio Ferdinand summed up the attitude every Manchester United player should have. “If I’m performing well and the team is winning, then I’m happy,” he said. “But if we’re not winning then it doesn’t matter how well I’m playing. Maybe in the summer I’ll look back on the season and be able to say ‘yeah, I’ve been pleased with my form’. Until then, the focus is on winning trophies.”
After beating Barcelona, Cristiano Ronaldo who is likely to be crowed World and European Player of the Year, after already scooping the PFA and Football Writers’ awards this season, reiterated the same point. “My performance is not important, winning is and we’re in the final. It was a great result,” he said. “Of course I feel good. It has been a great season and I’m in a great moment. I’ve scored many goals. I have played well but so have the team – they have been fantastic. You want to win all the time when you play for Manchester United.”
Italian World Cup winning manager Marcello Lippi has today said it is this attitude we see in our players that will guide us to league and European Cup success this season.
“United will win their remaining league game to win the title,” Lippi said. “Chelsea are in good shape but I think United have a slight advantage in the final. You can clearly see that every United player is ready to sacrifice himself to help the team. Nobody thinks for himself, everyone is focused on the team first.”
Will the attitude of United players give them the advantage over Chelsea in the league and European Cup final?