Dear fans of Manchester United, or any high-flying, slightly under-achieving side for that matter, stop whining about how bad your team are. Instead, take a moment to spare a thought for us, the long-suffering football fans, for whom winning at the weekend is a rarity, a novelty, a beautiful oddity.
As my beloved Norwich City were heroically battling for a late equaliser down at The Emirates last weekend as they try desperately to avoid an immediate return to The Championship, the self-indulged and hideously fickle Arsenal fans were busy protesting against the most successful manager in the club’s history.
"the weekend is a rarity, a novelty, a beautiful oddity"
Even the nature of the Arsenal protest was painfully pathetic to watch. 12 minutes into the game and again 12 minutes from the end, to signify the number of years since the Gunners last won the Premier League, a few thousand disgruntled ‘diehards’ silently raised some cheaply assembled paper sheets reading ‘Time for Change’, before being quickly drowned out by those who prefer to back their team.
The Wenger haters’ favourite time to suddenly find their voice is when the Frenchman dares to make a substitution. On Saturday, with Arsenal having failed to get a shot on target thus far, the Gooners’ boss sent on the talented Danny Welbeck for Alex Iwobi, to the dismay of the critics. Minutes later Welbeck scored and the only unwelcome noise, for a Norwich fan at least, was the sound of 57,000 plastic seats flicking up as the home crowd finally got off their arses.
To rub salt in the wounds of any Arsenal fans reading this, it’s bitter rivals Tottenham that I think find the perfect balance between expecting their team to succeed but also being able to laugh at themselves when things, inevitably, don’t quite work out as planned. Don’t expect to see a swarm of angry Spurs supporters when Leicester finally wrap up the title, ruining the North London club’s best ever chance of glory.
YouTube has become the most popular outlet for these media-loving moaners, who often draw in scores of intrigued on-lookers who have nothing better to do than to listen to pseudo celebrities, such as Andy Tate, and their now famous ranting. When the cameras stop rolling, the Arsenal or United fans return to their comfortable suburb living. It’s time for these internet ‘sensations’ to go back to being generic plastic supporters.
"YouTube has become the most popular outlet for these media-loving moaners, who often draw in scores of intrigued on-lookers who have nothing better to do"
Meanwhile, Aston Villa and Charlton genuinely have something to shout about. Their respective clubs are in a dire state of affair, with an absent and dysfunctional boardroom off the field and a squad barely worthy of the shirt, let alone a five-figure weekly wage.
The long suffering Addicks’ fans, whilst understandably angry, have continued to be good humoured in the nature of their protests. From inflatable beach balls bombarding the pitch at The Valley, to a full-on funeral service held outside the ground including a Charlton coffin.
So, if you’re a fan a big club that is not quite meeting your exaggerated expectations, please pause before you begin your tirade of nonsense and think of the poor folk of Charlton and Aston Villa.
“This isn’t Sheffield Wednesday, this is Man United” said a disgruntled middle aged man sitting next to me at Old Trafford, whilst watching United fail to better Crystal Palace for large parts of the game. The sentiment, albeit a simple one, exemplifies the frustration felt by a sizeable majority of the United faithful.
At the start of the season, with Champions League football secured, top talents bought, deadwood cleared out, the stars seemed to be aligned for a serious title charge. For the first few months, the picture did indeed seem rosy. United were amongst the top three teams in the league, defending astutely and winning games, albeit with a tepid attack.
"Nine months down the line, and United aren’t even going to reasonably achieve the latter"
After a tumultuous first season, Louis van Gaal boldly promised the fans, “we aim for first, not fourth”. Nine months down the line, and United aren’t even going to reasonably achieve the latter. The season has been a disappointment of gargantuan proportions.
A cataclysmic cocktail of injuries, dramatic dips in form and an appalling inability to score, began to damage the fibre of the club. Many will argue that there’s little van Gaal could’ve done, but in actuality, he’s more culpable than it seems.
In spite of adequate backups in place, van Gaal’s decision to retain the same core of players brought down the quality of the play and brought up the levels of stress each of those starting players were under. The lack of rotation left many players, in what the gaffer himself refers to as ‘the red zone’, precipitating a disturbing number of injuries.
All of these issues came to a head when United faced PSV Eindhoven at Old Trafford, where a simple win would take United through with a game in hand. Van Gaal then instructed the team to lie low and defend over the ninety, despite having the best tools at his disposal, resulting in a dire 0-0 draw, forcing United to win at Wolfsburg in order to progress. Symptomatic of the Dutchman’s tenure, United lost and crashed out of the Champions League drawing the ire of their fans and the mockery of their rivals.
"The gamble surprisingly paid-off, but much like all of his measures, they came too little too late"
As United head for their lowest ever tally of goals scored, it’s worth noting that van Gaal’s front three average out at the tender age of 20 years old. Instead of buying stop-gaps to fill in the places of the several injured players in his side, van Gaal took the audacious gamble of blooding in six youngsters in an attempt to re-invigorate his squad. The gamble surprisingly paid-off, but much like all of his measures, they came too little too late.
In a nutshell, the amount of emotions United fans have undergone this year are of a poor quality roller coaster, one with laboured highs and steep lows. United have invested millions, built a squad of respectable talent and have a reputation of brilliant football to uphold. If they begin to get used to anything less, they’ll be content with mediocrity in the same manner that Liverpool and Arsenal have become accustomed to, and in the world of modern football, that is simply unacceptable.