There was a time in the late 90s and early noughties when Manchester United were the most hated club in Britain.
It was easy to quantify really; they were having a jolly good time winning all those trophies and playing an exciting brand of football that we all loved.
Worse than that, they relied heavily on their unrivalled youth system. Some of their players never even left the club. It was shocking!
They were the easy target. The big boys whom everybody wanted to see fail. But time trickles onward and soon the football community found newer, wealthier big boys to hate.
Step forward Roman Abramovich. Step forward Chelsea.
As the noughties wore on, Abramovich’s ‘Chelski’ side demanded instant success and were going to get it by any means necessary.
Those means were, of course, chucking loads of money at star players and then sacking the manager when things went awry. Soon ‘Anyone But United’ became ‘Anyone But Chelsea’.
“They don’t have any history!”, they shouted. “They bought the title!”, they wailed. The constant managerial sackings didn’t help, but the players did their part as well.
Didier Drogba was always being accused of going over easy. John Terry – England captain at the time – was caught having an affair with Wayne Bridge’s ex-girlfriend. Even Petr Cech’s Nirvana covers couldn’t convince people to like them.
In short, Chelsea had become the easy targets.
But, like denim jackets, hating Manchester United is coming back into fashion. The ‘ABUs’ are back and wait with baited breath for another season of struggle for the Red Devils.
But do they have a case? Are we, the passionate football fans, supposed to join them in their crusade?
There was a beautiful moment of irony during a farcically violent New York derby recently, when a few New York City fans were pictured with a banner stating they were ‘against modern football’.
Evidently they were oblivious to how much ridicule they were going to receive in other parts of the footballing world.
The reason for the ire is fairly simple: New York City FC is modern football through and through. Song sheets? Founded by an Arabian billionaire? Signing blockbuster names who couldn’t give a toss? Banning swear words?
Their rivalry with New York Red Bulls is less Children of the Forest Vs White Walkers, more Katy Perry Vs Taylor Swift.
Maybe you should be sitting down for this, Manchester United fan, but your club are quickly becoming the British equivalent.
The recklessness in which they have approached both the transfer market and the managerial position in recent years has been downright scandalous: someone needs to call Health and Safety.
It has only been three years since Alex Ferguson retired and ever since, the once model football club has been free-falling into disrepair.
It began when David Moyes found out he was being dumped in the newspapers. Something akin to what happens in celebrity gossip pages, I imagine.
The most recent episode of the Manchester reality show was the publicity stunt signing of that Swedish fellow. A good football player? Sure. A good icon that can be marketed beyond the third dimension? Now you’re talking.
Jose Mourinho’s appointment is also more ammo for the ABU brigade. Another pantomime villain in a sport that is turning further and further toward entertainment. Football fans once again want to see Manchester United failing.
The denim jackets are being dusted down and tested to see if they still fit comfortably.
Money-spinning signings are now the rule rather than the exception for the Old Trafford club.
Gone are the days when their name alone was all it took for a player to jump on the first flight to Stretford, now they need to be led by a pound-shaped carrot dangling in front of them.
The arrival of Henrikh Mkhitaryan may result in improved performances, but both his and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s arrivals are damaging for the youth academy.
For all his faults, Louis van Gaal was prepared to take a chance on the young. History suggests these same young prospects will be lucky to even make the bench for a League Cup game under Mourinho.
Towards the end of last season we saw the emergence of Marcus Rashford and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, as well as the flourishing career of Jesse Lingard.
It’s difficult to see exactly how Rashford and Lingard will find the same level of opportuniy in what is becoming an increasingly crowded forward line.
Spare a thought for poor James Wilson who bagged two on his debut, scored twice in the 2014-15 season and has since been seen wandering the Brighton seafront.
The appointment of Mourinho may well be the final nail in the coffin for the old Manchester United tradition of integrity, youth, and community.
It is an open secret that Ferguson, Bobby Charlton and David Gill were – at best – skeptical about the Portuguese manager’s appointment, due mostly to his off-field antics as opposed to his on-field tactics.
There is the inescapable feeling that finally, even the most ardent United men have grown weary of the Glazers’ takeover.
Maybe this is simply modern football being played out on the biggest stage possible, by the biggest club possible.
Everything Manchester United do will always be scrutinised but it is hard to escape the feeling that England may be losing one of its finest institutions, not just in its sporting world, but in culture itself.
Seeing a club abandon its traditions in favour of joining the big-money rat race is not enjoyable to watch – it gives rise to a new generation of anti-United fans.
But perhaps they never left. Or perhaps denim jackets never really went out of style.
3 thoughts on “Is hating Manchester United finally back in fashion?”
They are only hated because we have both youth and money on our side and have done for many many years. It’s called jealousy. We have now taken this approach buying players like this as everyone else doing it and the competition became unfair, so to survive you have to do one better then your competitors, which we are doing. Once were settled you will see a lot of youth coming through, and we will still see the youth this year too, we have a lot of Europa games too as well as others.
Spare a thought for Wilson? More like spare a thought for Marcus Rashford who took his chance and scored 8 in 7 matches last season.
If the academy grads are not up to spec, is Mou to blame for that? Maybe the club needs to ensure Butt&co are producing true prem-league quality players first before worrying about the production line.
Maybe with the Tahith Chongs and other recent recruitments we can meet that criteria.
Manchester United need to raise the bar on the quality of players if they want to be title contenders again ( and that is where they are meant to be. A United that does not challenge for titles is worse than filth).
The ABUs never left. They weirdly just piped down when we were shit. It’s almost like they want us lording it over them so it gives them something to be angry about.