A Reditorial on why supporting Manchester United is about so much more than the 90 minutes

Red News was 27 years old on the 20th April 2014.

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I’m that fed up with this season maybe now is the time to stop writing about it! For all our angst, it will play out this way or that. And whilst it's been that toilet we'd just like to flush it down the pan, and erase it from memory, such is what Gary Neville called United fans’ collective will to “dream” that, however absurd we know it to be, in those desperately few happy hours after the Olympiakos win, we could enjoy a rare few hours conjuring images of supping Superbock in Lisbon.
Then we drew Bayern...

The season has been woeful, as have the players for much of the time, and so part of you was searching out a claims form - injury to my senses - after the Liverpool game (the Scousers had nicked all the forms however) yet just 72 hours later, however poor the opposition, you were left to wonder where that type of performance had been all season. Yet we know that the doom that Sunday was far more indicative of the season itself, yet life is always better seeing our red glasses half full so we cling to the game where dreams hoped for better. Moyes has to deliver them, if not, his fate will be sealed, but for now, one solitary game appears a job saver and has put back his Doomsday Clock (see last ed). For now.

As has been said, whatever his fate, we can look him in the eye even if some players can't, that at games our support has been solid, and much better. As good as it's been in years at home. Whilst online you get the impression that every single United fan is a moany mard arse their whole existence, we are dreamers and being a football supporter is much more fun if you embellish realism with hope, and actually do what it says on the tin; support. The atmosphere has improved, and so, perversely, we're enjoying our participation this season more than we usually do, when we sat on our arses moaning at success. Let's have some fun! So good or bad, and mainly bad, we have had fun.
As we well know, the 90 minutes is just an iota of what supporting United is all about. It is the fixed location of our week and attention but however much of a hold United has over each and every one of us, the 11 men kicking a football is just one tiny aspect of this whole, for want of a better word, mad drug. And like with every drug, there are highs, come downs and over doses.

Since last issue, Reds near and far travelled far and wide to pay their respects to RN founder Teresa McDonald as she was laid to rest. The connection was that 90 minutes, but the bond was infinitely more. Manchester, Cockney Reds, Greece, Norway and many other places in between were represented as a section of United's hard core match going crowd were represented; Tony O'Neill, Boylie, Tommy G, Phil Holt and Welsh Phil amongst many. As one Red quipped: “more than city get for an away game.”

It was incredibly moving to see this United turn out for something as far removed as travelling to a game as you could get, wanting to pay their respects for someone they had shared many matchdays with. This diverse, eclectic mix a representation of the United crowd itself; a builder next to a banker, rampant right wingers next to looney lefties, the don’t knows in between; the multi coloured spectrum of Planet Red.

Teresa was much more than just a Manchester United football fan, as we all are. We have our lives, our realities with which we use United to escape to and form, or just to enjoy our lives with United in our lives. There is no set formula, no actual ‘top red’ manual way to do it, do it how you want, how you please, so long really as it pleases you as supporting United is a force for good, should be good, enjoyed. It should not be the negative maelstrom of moaning mard arses that dominate the net so that you think some get no pleasure whatsoever from it.

Teresa ran a jazz bookshop for some years, serving amongst others the poet Phil Larkin who once praised her for her ‘civilising influence’. The singer, and friend, George Melly described her as “short, intelligent and formidable”. She took photos of Louis Armstrong. She lived. And she lived a varied life but settled upon and knew that at United she was most comfortable, and had the most fun. She realised it can be a wonderful thing; just this. It is often now a derided term, ‘the United family’, it sounds like one of those horribly arsey branded statements the marketing men have bastardised, but the reality is that at United games there is still a United family. The link can be tenuous, just letting on, a nod at a game, or strong, so that a goon together at a game can develop into lifelong friendships. We are not all the same so it's pretty amazing that so many of us get on for starters, and of course you converge towards more like minded people, but if United's spectrum is rich, we are enriched by becoming good friends with people you may never have met, or entertained, were it not for United.

Two lads who started to go to games with our wider circle, became friends, became RN sellers, were ushers at my wedding, and these two oddballs (Ste and John) will be friends for life because we stare at men in red shirts. We share beers, we share lives; Reds have babies, get married, and yes sadly as a consequence of the fucked up nature of life's cruel tricks, funerals. We take the rough with the smooth at the game, and so we have to when life gets dirty, and Reds will mourn with you, help you through the tough times. The messages of support and kindness from so many of you helps a great deal. Whilst it might not have felt it seeing us stuffed by Liverpool as it looked like a dreaded “shift in power”, even when crap, United is mint.

United conjures up so much; we remember trips, goals, goons, moments and also mates no longer with us. When we look towards a forthcoming game, again the focus is of course on *it*, the day is much more, we can plan trips with mates, look forward to the pre or post match beer and know that when it comes you can hopefully pack up all your troubles and just get involved and play whatever part you can. Watch United, and dream.

The modern United is seen as a curse, and whilst the owners, the prices, the hassles are fucking irritating/disgraceful, it is not a curse, and should hopefully be seen as what it is, a blessing; supporting United, and you need to be doing it right I suppose, is life fulfilling. It is unlike anything else bar a drug I suppose. And as far as I can tell, no drug comes close to this fucked up shit we go through each and every season! It is not a hobby but a way of life.

Mum loved looking after her Utd family as she saw it, these mix of bricklayers, and office workers; male, female, young, old, part of the madness or just part of United, these people she drank, sang, and had a laugh and a life with, and they came to give their respect to someone who got it and lived Utd the right way; to just enjoy it. Fret over defeats, smile over wins. But enjoy the whole experience as much as the moment.

The players will come and go, as too, though it seems hard to ever accept that with their millions squandered, will the owners (or as she said when wheelchair bound last year: “If I could get up and boot a Glazer up the arse I would:), indeed when one former manager questioned her attendance at a far flung friendly he was told “we will be here long after you've left”. The players, the here, the now, the noise, is a filter during happy times on pitch or off it, but we’ll always remain Reds, we’ll always still go, one way or another, however we see fit.

With United we can all be kids at heart, we don’t have to lose that, of course treat United with the same scrutiny as the real world but don't necessarily succumb all the time to lifes negativity. On one online poll I saw, nearly a quarter voting said they’d take us losing to Olympiakos if it ‘rid’ the club of Moyes. I just don’t get anyone, ever, wanting their own team to lose. Our team.
Somewhere along the way, they’ve lost the fun, the point, and their marbles? This is supposed to be fun; to angst, gnaw, as this is United, after all, but to do it with a smile, and a swagger.

We're all a bit mad, have to be to be doing all this, to be this obsessed with what is just a game after all, and we nutters travel many miles to see blokes who sometimes don't want to wear this shirt, on obscene wages, and we go away, dissect what we’ve seen, have our beers and take something from it. You may go to the game on your own. But hopefully you will find out that there is a United family and when you are need, they will come good.

Maybe for a while in the aftermath of 2005, with many good people gone to FC, we lost a bit of that United-ness, which is on its return as a new generation who get it start to appear on the scene, got back that bit of community, which if our own club will ignore and not encourage, we can, to help each other out, to just do the decent thing when the time comes. There will always be the few scumbags who want to be in it for themselves, to fuck Reds over, but most get it, what Utd is all about. What it’s really about. Why you’re a Red. Why we’re different.

My own United journey started with Mum. We sat together in J, H Stand in the 80s with our LMTBs that then became the golden ticket of a Season ticket, her funding my habit when a kid. I saw her happy face against Barcelona in ‘84, and in ‘91 and in Barcelona itself in ’99. I saw her swoon at Eric, love Ronaldo, and get so excited when Stevie Coppell was on the wing. Yes we do like to dream at United and we demand a style of play not for the glory, welcome as it can be, but to get off our feet and feel the buzz, that United go about things differently. Why you know long after a game there will be pockets of Reds here or there enjoying each other's company and the bonhomie and enjoying the day, whatever the game has been like.

One lad at the wake said how he’d been short of money on one trip, ‘here’s a few quid’ Teresa said, and he never forgot that. So he made the long five hour journey by bus, and five back to say how important one Red has been in his Utd life. That helping of fellow Reds out may be reciprocated back to you one day; sorting a spare, offering a lift. This Red journey is a hell of a lot better not just with company but if we share it. They might not share your politics, but they can share your life. Because it is, as it always has been, a buzz. Even during the shit times we have moments to take to the bank with.

Utd is not the club who tell us what to do - usually aggressively, with a look down - it is everything. It is as much about the anticipation of the day itself and the day itself as the game. It is often joked that the game can get in the way of things.

People would have you believe that there is a new representation of the very modern United family with the half and halfers and tourists and whilst there are too many interlopers, at its core, we still have a core. That’s United. That’s why whatever happens this season, for all us sadomasochists, we’ll be there again come August. At the game, or watching it. However you do it.
When someone is told who we support, you know if it’s a Red or not who answers back, the froth from outsiders driven by an ABU inspired agenda, blinkered, but we know, we get it. We can tell, mainly, and whilst we have no right to ever say who should support Utd, you can begin to tell who supports Utd on your own wavelength.

Someone reading this will have a family member they are taking to their first game with soon, or going with their Dad, or Mum or have a new born they hope to take one day. Whilst the changes to our culture have been at times as horrible as they are unfamiliar, deep down the circle remains unbroken and goes on, as long as we are allowed to, and can afford it. It is magical, it still has that feel what Busby said: “a sense of romance, wonder and mystery”.

We go to United because of our own ‘X Factor’ and reasons. And I/we/you will continue to go United so long as we have our health and finances allow. Or if we don’t go, we will not end this support, or link. Success is enjoyable but it does not define our support. We will go when United are shit, or when they are good, though we will demand, angst and want the latter, we will not shirk the former. And we like doing it with like minded individuals, so next time United themselves try and steal the ‘United family’ as some marketing fluff, the real United core means as much now, and is still there, be it at games or watching them somewhere, as it ever did. To that United family, I salute you.

It is, obviously, not more important than life or death. But it can be life fulfilling and become the most important part of our lives, and whilst football is its core, supporting United is so much more than cheering a bunch of egotistical prima donnas about led by coaches who say ‘try’ a lot. Or as Carlo Ancelotti put it: “Football is the most important thing amongst the least important things in life. And that’s the way it should be.”

Or better still, “Manchester United stands for something more than any person, any player, any supporter. It is the ‘soul’ of a sporting organisation which goes on sea- son after season, making history all the time”. 28th August 1937, the United programme Editorial.

Forever and Ever.

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