California Dreaming: How I Became A Manchester United Supporter

I grew up like most kids in coastal southern California; surfing, being outside, and playing sports.  Soccer was something I played in elementary school with friends at lunch, along with 3 seasons of AYSO.  Playing soccer was something fun but at the age of 10 or 11, my understanding of soccer pretty much revolved around chasing after the ball within a certain area.  My dad tried vainly to keep me interested by taking me to NASL games for the California Surf and indoor games in Long Beach and even getting me to watch “Soccer from Germany” on PBS in what I can only guess was the Bundesliga circa 1981 or 1982.  Higher understanding of how to actually play soccer would have taken longer but surfing and sailing were more fun and soccer pretty much fell away from my mind before junior high.

The next time soccer showed up in my life was the 1994 men’s World Cup and the 1999 Women’s World Cup.  I saw as many games as possible and loved watching it, but then what was there to watch after those World Cups ended?  Eventually the LA Galaxy and later Chivas USA played nearby but with so many Lakers, NBA, NFL, college football, and baseball games on cable — and the beach right outside my door, watching soccer pretty much never happened.

Fast forward to fall of 2009. I’m newly married and trying to find new things to do with my wife Juliana (Jules).  We watched David Beckham’s first game with the Galaxy in 2007 (Jules loves Posh Spice and David Beckham) and a couple Galaxy games without much impact on either of us.  One weekend we decided to head for downtown Huntington Beach to have breakfast and watch a match.  The first bar we approached had no satellite working so we headed up the block to Killarney’s.  Inside we found 10-15 guys; all dressed in red, drinking beer, yelling at the TV, singing, and generally having an amazing time.  I figured out it was Manchester United while we ate breakfast and joined in the drinking, watched from the edge as the guys at the bar kept on drinking, yelling at the TV in barely understandable English, and of course singing.  Jules likes to drink beer but I couldn’t believe she was having fun watching sports on TV!  Towards the end of the match, one of the guys leading much of the singing, walked by and we asked,

“Where did you get the cool shirt?”

“Brought it from home.  Hey give me your email and phone.  We’re starting our own supporters group, we’ll have discounts on beer & food and we’re here every weekend”

And away he went. Victory shots followed the win and off we went.

On the drive home and over the next couple of days, Jules kept saying how much fun she had, that we should go again. (By the way, here’s stuff my wife likes: beer, fun, singing, and big groups of people.  What can I say, I’m very blessed.)

That next week we both received an email from the HB Red Army detailing who the opposition team would be and what time the match would start.  That next weekend we went back, watched, drank, cheered, but stayed off to the side but had more victory shots. Arsene Wenger was sent off by the ref during the game and decided to head for the stands to make a random but memorable game.

The next week she bought Manchester United jerseys for us on eBay and that weekend we went back, watched, drank, cheered. But this time we were recognized a little and we started talking with some of the group we began to know as the HB Red Army.  More victory shots.

One of the big changes came with the Manchester City game in September 2009. The match started at 4:45am Pacific Standard Time.  A birthday party ending very late the night before had Jules beg out of heading for the pub (as we now called it) at 4:15am.  For fun I set the alarm, loaded the bike onto the car and headed out.  Strange riding at 4:30am through downtown Huntington Beach, lots of people out and about and of course a lot of HB police.  Most of the HB Red Army had yet to sleep, as a big fight the night before encouraged everyone to avoid sleep if possible. And lots of hurting people were there way too early.  Being in California, there was no alcohol served before 6am, so when 6am came the bartender was super busy as the orders came in fast.  Michael Owen’s game winner at the end of what we had already come to know as “Fergie Time” sealed the victory which was followed by lots of different victory shots and a slow bike ride home at 7am.  Nothing like careening into the house and waking the dog and wife, reeking of booze, and being so ecstatic about a game that took place 6,000+ miles away on another continent.

I was newly married & found something new to enjoy with my wife, something nobody seemed to understand or care about but us.  This was ours and yet it’s something we shared with most of the world and with a few million Manchester United fans worldwide.

54 thoughts on “California Dreaming: How I Became A Manchester United Supporter”

  1. As much as I hate Man Utd. this is on the best stories I’ve read about finding a club to support on this site.

    Well done.

  2. Stop saying soccer! It’s called football and has been far longer than any other sport which has copied it’s name, look it up, i edge closer to brain cancer every time I hear you yanks say that s word.

    1. I agree. At least call it British Football or International Football. Something. But the term soccer is offensive to many non-american fans.

      1. @Tonspeed
        the term soccer is offensive to many non-american fans.

        Only to idiots. Sorry, I don’t like to throw stupid insults around, but like the Gaffer said, if the word “soccer” is so offensive to British people, then why do we have Soccer Saturday, Soccer AM, Pro Evo Soccer, etc? It was also used fairly commonly in general conversation and in media in England until the 1970s, when the increased prominence of the NASL lead to the birth of the misconception that “soccer” was an Americanism.

        Seriously, if you’re “offended” by Americans using an old English slang-word to describe football, then you need to toughen up.

        It’s called football and has been far longer than any other sport which has copied it’s name, look it up.
        American Football isn’t some sport that arrived after the invention of “real” football, and simply stole its name. Both sports (and both codes of Rugby) evolved from common ancestors around the same time, and all four sports have been called simply “football” at various points of time in various places.

        i edge closer to brain cancer every time I hear you yanks say that s word.
        Much as I would not wish a potentially terminal illness upon anyone….soccer, soccer, soccer!

    2. American football and soccer both became popular at the same time. Just because you only heard of american football in the last 10 years doesn’t mean it didn’t exist in the 1890’s too.

  3. Actually the term soccer was the name coined in the UK in the 1890’s since it’s a contraction of Association :)

    1. It’s a matter of respect, not history. The ‘N’ word once used to be a legitimate word for people from Africa, but I dare you to call that to a black person’s face now. Language matters, and the legitimacy of a word is not determined by history but by feelings and popular opinion.

      1. Hmmm, that’s a good analogy. Saying soccer is just like using the n-word….rrrriiiiighhht….

        Honestly, I can’t believe there are still people in the world who take time out of their day to lecture Americans on their choice of word to describe football/soccer.

        Out of interest, do you take the same passionate opposition to Australians and Irish people calling it soccer? Do you send letters of complaint to Hull Football Club (Hull FC), which is in fact an English Rugby League club? Do you complain that Italians use the word Calcio, which is neither a direct translation of Football nor a phonetic approximation of the English word? Seriously, different people use different words, get over it.

        1. Oh yeah, I must have forgotten about that time when football fans were captured, chained, sold like cattle, forced to take transatlantic sea voyages in terrible conditions, forced into involuntary working arrangements, whipped, denied access to education, denied the rights of everyone else, all the while being derogatively reffered to as “soccer fans”. No wonder the word is so offensive!

          Oh wait, no that didn’t happen did it?

  4. Yes Tony your right, the term soccer was thought up by an English man but it is merely a nickname and one that England never embraced. Ask any Englishman who knows his football and he’ll tell you the same. The word football even appeared in some of Shakespeare’s writings far before the 1890’s. What is the name of the game’s governing body? FIFA of course. Where is the word soccer in FIFA? Exactly, it’s not there. And to answer your question Gaffer, I do watch and love Gillette Soccer Saturday and Soccer AM but even the presenters on those shows do not say the word soccer unless they are mentioning the shows name. Even “Hells Bells” corrects anyone who says soccer on Soccer AM. Also Gaffer FIFA 11 is far better than PES.

    1. Simon,
      Firstly, whatever Shakespeare was referring when he used the term “football”, it was no more closer to soccer than it was to Rugby, Gaelic Football or American football. Each of these games was only codified in the mid/late 19th C. Before that, the term football could refer to any of a hodgepodge of primitive ancestors of these games.

      Secondly, FIFA is so called because it is a FRENCH acronym. It is the Federation International des Football Associations. So that only proves that “Football” is the “correct” name in the French language. It has no relevance as to which is the preferable term in British English or American English.

      ps Americans call pavements “sidewalks”, they call crisps “potato chips” and they call trainers “sneakers”. All these corruptions of the Queen’s language must break your heart, I’m sure.

      1. No Dave you have some of your facts wrong. Football and rugby were once one sport but american football was taken from rugby, changed to suit the american man who invented the game and called american football for some stupid reason when a foot to ball action hardly exists. Also gaelic football was known as caid or peile(which is just gaelic for ball) until the word was given an anglicised name to suit the English.

        Also FIFA was founded by English(as it was their game) and other european representatives in France which is why the title FIFA is both French and English(Football and Association are not French words which you didn’t seem to realise).

        1. Simon is right. if you want to go back to the 19th century, football was around long before rugby. There was association football and then one day william webb ellis picked a ‘football’ up and ran with it in Rugby school in the heart of England and thus rugby football was born. American football came from rugby football, the name rugby was dropped and the rules changed, americans had no other option but to call association football by its nickname ‘soccer’. England went the other way, dropped association to leave just football and dropped ‘football’ from rugby football to leave just rugby.
          Rant over

          1. Pete, football was not around “long before Rugby”. The story of William Ellis is a myth – the game of Rugby wasn’t suddenly invented out of the blue by some naughty schoolboy.

            Football existed in various forms throughout history. In the 19th C, various schools each had their own version of the rules. In some, you could hold the ball in your hands, in some you couldn’t (amongst many other variations). Representatives of the top schools got together to formulate a definitive uniform set of rules, which led to the codification of Association Football in 1863.

            Various schools were not happy with the finalized set of rules, and so got together (led by the Rugby school) to adopt their own alternative game, which became Rugby Football.

            At the same time, a similar and independent evolution of the game’s rules took place in America, which led to American Football.

          2. Dave you are spot on until the point you make about american football, Walter Camp (Father of american football) adapted the game from rugby by introducing line-of-scrimmage and down-and-distance rules. Football in general was brought to america by the english, but the oldest forms of football closely resemble modern day association football, then they took out the heavy tackling as well as other rules. Some people didnt like the removal of these rules and therefore made rugby. Then as I said american football was an adaption of rugby. Association football was the origional as it was the first official game with the name football.

        2. Actually american football in the 1890’s did actually have a reason to be called “foot”ball because the forward pass wasn’t legal and kicking was more involved in the game. The game has evolved with time removing the foot part but the game is still the same.

          Learn your facts before spewing your English nationalism, please.

        3. The word “Association” also exists in the French language. As for “Football” -sure, it’s a loanword from the English language. But that doesn’t have any reflection on whether or not “soccer” is a valid term in the English language.

          Your history of American Football is off. The antecedents of American Football were already being played in America before Association Football and Rugby had been officially codified in England. So to say they took Rugby and modified it is wrong. Back then, it was all just different variations of “football”. Regardless, the point remains that Shakespeare was certainly not referring to association football when he used the word football.

  5. The PBS show was “Soccer Made In Germany”. Around 1982 or so is when Alan Fountain took over the show from Toby “High, wide and not very handsome” Charles. It’s the reason my primary loyalty will always be to Schalke and the Bundesliga. And why I still love to hear matches that Fountain covers.

    1. Send an email to and you will get added to the email. That is the main way we communicate with people. The website was something one of the guys took on but then he left the area and hasn’t had much done since.

  6. I honestly don’t see how anyone can support Man United. There’s no passion. Just a bunch of band-wagoners.

    Good story though.

    1. You obviously never watch united play at home to city, liverpool or chelsea when the crowd was electric and our away fans are among the best in the league. Obviously there are a lot of glory hunters aswell but that is bound to happen when your the biggest club in the world, we still have as many if not more die hard fans than any other club in the world.

  7. This could have been the shortest article on this site; all you had to do was say the following: “Following ManU, it’s just as easy as following the Lakers!”.

  8. As someone who doesn’t really like “glory hunters”, and is skeptical about the idea of foreingers being true “fans” of English teams, and is extremely bored by EPL Talk’s off-season insistence on running these stories….I have to say this was actually a very good one, and can almost make me tolerate your support of Man Utd!

    Too bad the comments got clogged up with idiots arguing about football vs soccer.

  9. Great post! I became a Liverpool fan due to my best friend who is a scouser. This is how the game will grow in the future, not through new flashy preshows or celebrity fans, through personal interaction.

    And to join in the fray… soccersoccersoccersoccersoccersoccersoccersoccersoccersoccersoccersoccersoccersoccersoccersoccersoccer

    There, lets get that out of our system. lol

  10. Why does every discussion of an American discovering football have to turn into the soccer rant.

    I am not a fan of the term, but do not judge others who do so, its not in common usage in England, but I would still know what you mean.

    Just enjoy the game, the banter and atmosphere.

    Despite not being a United fan I can relate to this story as travelling the country or even the world I have formed bonds with people because of football/soccer/beautiful game and that is really something special.

  11. Great story my fellow Utd supporter. I have supported Man Utd since I was six, that was when I went to my first match at OT. I am now 41 and have now been in the U.S for 20 years. It great that we get every Utd gamevon TV here. I can not wait to them lice on Jul 30th in DC.

  12. First of all….. SOCCER SOCCER SOCCER

    Second, this story has all the symptoms of a weak foreign EPL fan. Walks into a bar finds a pretty piece of clothing, buys it, and convenes with other weak EPL fans to pretend to understand the history of the game.

    It’s amazing to see all these new Man U fans in the past couple years who have joined merely because there winning. I ask one of them who George Best or Bobby Charlton is and they tell me it’s there garbage man.

    Never been to Manchester. Never seen Old Trafford. Never will be a true United fan.

    1. So tell us wise one how is someone who isn’t lucky enough to be born into supporting Utd/Liverpool/Chelsea through family ties supposed to pick a team to follow, are they supposed to not pick a team to support just because they are successful at the moment in time?

      You sound like your typical bitter fan of one of the smaller less successful teams like Liverpool or City. You call Utd fans plastic because they live outside Manchester or because they haven’t been to old trafford yet you can only dream of having the fan base we have around the world, its for this reason your club whichever one it is will always be second best to us.

      “Not arrogant, just better”

    2. While I will agree that there are too many frontrunner fans out there, I have to ask how do you become a fan in the first place? I’m sorry but there is a world of people outside Manchester or any other town or city in England where fans support the same teams. What about Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal or City fans living in the states? Wouldn’t they just all fall into your philosophy of not being true fans just because they don’t live near the stadium. That’s the wrong attitude to have and football (and yes I called it “football” because you use your “foot” to kick a “ball”, hence “football”) will be limited to the rest of the world. I have been a United fan since I was thirteen in the States and now I eat, breath, and sleep football. And by the way, if

      There are definitely weak football fans out there. They barely know anything about the game or the history of their team which is wrong. But at the end of the day, it’s fans like you that make me question why you want to limit the global impact of this game? Do you think keeping your team a secret from the outside world is what’s best for the game?

      I think this is a great article because it shows someone who got introduced to something different through interactions with other people. Even I went to Irish bars to see United play because the atmosphere was so intense and enthralling. At the end of the day, its all up to individuals to decide how they want to follow a team and no one has the right to tell them that their fanhood should be called into question. Besides which your team probably loves having international fans for money anyways so just live with it.

      I’ve never been to Manchester. Never seen Old Trafford.

      1. And I’m just as much of a fan as the person from Manchester.
        GLORY GLORY MAN UNITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        1. One more thing. Visiting the stadium doesn’t automatically give you cred as a fan if you don’t follow the team so that doesn’t even matter.

          1. VERY VERY well said. The most important comment in this thread, in my eyes. I don’t understand comments like these on a website that is clearly VERY American minded, with TWO of the podcasters (one ex-podcaster now..) who are American.. A lot of fools who post here have a tendency to imply that only Londoners can be Arsenal fans, that only Liverpudlians can be Everton/Liverpool fans, that only Mancunians can be City or United fans, that only men and women and children from Birmingham can be Aston Villa fans.. It’s absurd and YOU’RE absurd if you actually believe this and vomit a holier than thou attitude.

            A ‘BANDWAGONER’ is someone that knows NOTHING about the team, NO MATTER where they are from. Clearly, Americans are not English so most of them generally didn’t grow up watching the sport. In the last twenty years (especially the last ten), the Premier League has gained worldwide acclaim and fandom.. Because of this, people who DIDN’T grow up with the privilege to go and watch teams in person can STILL support the club by following their every move and watching as many matches as possible, if not all, and learning as much as they can devour of the team’s history and legacy. People that actually care enough to KNOW about the club and people who, most crucially, CARE about the team and how they do, season after season deserve your respect, whether you live a block away from the team’s ground or you live just as faraway from the team as they do. Learn to make that distinction. It’s just as easily done as it is said. Otherwise, as I said earlier, you’re nothing but an elitist fool.

    3. Re: Band Wagon Calling…

      Let’s first say that the people who started the HB Red Army are actually born and raised from Manchester and are now living in Huntington Beach.

      I am part of the group and I can say that I was not a fan of soccer but was the bartender when these gentleman (and I use that loosely) first came into the bar. They were fun to talk to and their personalities were close to mine, me being from Philadelphia (Yes. I was MORE THAN HAPPY to escort them around the city last summer), the passion was the same for our respected teams. Being from the States, there isn’t a reason for people to really become a soccer fan since it does not sit to highly on the list of sports that people experience here. It takes something or someone special to make us open our eyes. Since I met these guys, I have moved on from the bartending industry, but have a couple more members to my “family”. I joke with the guys often that if they didn’t convert me to ManU I would have been an Everton fan because of Tim Howard since he is from the US.

      Point being you strapper, we didn’t become fans of ManU because of their winning. We became fans of ManU because of the people we met and ultimately the friendships that we have formed and bonded since. That is what the story is saying. If you actually use 1% of your brain, you would get that from the story. Instead you chose to be an idiot and think of yourself being high and mighty and God forbid someone finds a reason to like your team.

      Up until now, I have had nothing but great experiences with English soccer fans. I hope your stupidity is the minority and that this type of retarded thinking is limited to just you.

  13. Great story! Does your wife have a sister? I would love to find a girl like that. One who supports the same stuff I do, to some extent anyway. She sounds like a keeper.

    Great story about the reason you like the club you do. Something that will be memorable I’m sure.

  14. Oh man! I hate United, even though I supported them in the CL final, but this is a nice story. It gives me pleasure when some of my American friends (Like the ones that I play “the beautiful game” with every week) talk intelligently about EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga and knows more than I do in terms of knowing the history and being a follower for a long time. This is how you get into it. Keep following as the EPL has never been as exciting as it is today.


  16. First of all the initials MUFC stand for Manchester United Football Club. Second sorry to hear that someone is now supporting the thiefing rat scousers in Liverpool boy are they playing great. Looks like we are on pace to win our 20th Premier League Championship and is why MUFC is consifered on of the best team sports teams, management, and fan base in the world.

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