How I Became a Manchester United Supporter

It would have been sometime around 1995 or 1996 when I first watched a game of football. It was the season of Newcastle’s collapse, of “I’d Love It!” and supposedly not being able to win anything with kids.

I grew up in a non-football household with not a single family member showing the slightest interest in it or indeed any other professional sport for that matter. I owe my initial footballing education to a boy who lived across the street when I was only 8 years old. It was the early days of Sky Sports and the FA Carling Premiership (as it was then known) when the pre-packaged, event-like status of each match was truly taking off. The presentation of Richard Keys (shudder), Andy Gray (shudder) and the peerless Martin Tyler made every 90 minutes seem vital, essential viewing for any aspiring football fan. The boy’s father was the only person I knew who had access to live football (yes live, not just the selective once weekly highlights on BBC’s Match Of The Day), the exclusivity making it even more special. I don’t remember the exact moment, or even the exact game. Only that there was a time when football was an unknown irrelevance to me, and then suddenly the only thing that mattered.

The jarring goalkeeper shirts of Peter Schmeichel, Giggsy’s curly mop and the upturned collar of Eric The King are just three of the images that now seem emblazoned forever in my memory. It began with a battered VHS tape that would arrive each Tuesday morning containing the action from the night before. Monday Night Football was on too late for a kid like me who still thought Power Rangers were the epitome of cool and thus I would wait expectantly for the recording to be delivered each week by my mate’s dad. As they were both United fans then these were the only games I received. It was then, with a certain inevitability that I became enamoured with the Theatre of Dreams and Fergie’s Fledgelings as they chomped away at Newcastle’s healthy lead. Each tape held one game, Manchester United versus Southampton stands out for some reason but I can’t remember why, especially when the picture was jumpy, constantly requiring the tracking to be adjusted. Plus, with no sound. Without Tyler’s dulcet tones and the roar of the Old Trafford faithful, I was left to fall in love with football on my own terms. No grisly ex-pros were there to influence my own reading of the game, telling me which players were having a stinker or how the latest South American import ‘didn’t like it up at em’ on a cold night at Burnden Park. It most likely had something to do with the encryption placed on putting satellite TV onto VHS but I didn’t care. I shrieked and yelped by best impressions of Messrs Motson, Davies and Co., providing my own narrative by commentating on contrastingly dull and pulsating affairs.

Of course, it helped that Manchester United was winning and that they played such an exciting brand of football, full of heart and commitment. However, from the moment I began sourcing my football from a Man United-dominated household, there was a certain inevitability about where my loyalties would end up. By the end of that wonderful season, I recall receiving another video, this time a season review entitled ‘The Double Double Winners’ that showed every goal, the ill-fated grey kit and the emergence of a new team that would grow to conquer Europe within a couple of years. That 90 minutes or so of edited highlights encapsulate everything about why I follow United; belief, vibrancy, hard work, youth, nouse, class, flair and all that purveyed over by a Scot who has been sitting in the dugout longer than I’ve been on this earth.

The term ‘glory-hunter’ is one I’ve come to accept now though it still rather sticks in the throat. I know I’m not a Mancunian or have any real affiliation to the city of Manchester. I probably should have supported one of my local teams to guide me; Shrewsbury Town, Crewe Alexandra or someone of that ilk, but I had no father figure to guide me along that path. I ended up being a product of my environment; watching re-runs with a mad Man United fan that lived across the street. It could have just as easily been Liverpool, Everton or Hamilton Academicals and I grant that United’s success made it more difficult to escape their clutches, especially for an impressionable youngster just wanting to fit in with his mate.

Those crackly VHS tapes were the foundation stones but my dedication to football and United was solidified by a trip to see a European game under the floodlights in the autumn of 1996. Rapid Vienna travelled to Old Trafford for what was a largely uneventful match, notable for Ole Solskjaer having his crown jewels crushed at the hands of an Austrian defender whose name escapes me. From the fanfare of the Champions League anthem to the fluttering of the large football-like bed sheet in the centre circle, I was hooked. Those forays north to sit in the Stretford End have sadly been few and far between given the rising costs and insatiable demand amongst supporters but I continue to follow the Red Devils’ progress from the comfort of my armchair, at least for the present.

So, my allegiances are laid bare for the world to see. Most people who know me know I support United, but as I make my first few tentative blogging steps, I thought it prudent to put forth the whys and the wherefores behind the colours pinned to my sporting mast. This piece may sound like one long nostalgia-tinged soaked-in-a-rose-tinted-bath of footballing memories and, for the most part, it is. I love United but I love football more. If told to choose between the two I would continue watching the game as it is the intrigues and intricacies that make up the sports wider narrative. The devil is in the detail. We love it because of the subplots, the rivalries, the ex-player returning to his old stamping ground and the statistics that hang around the necks of once hotshot strikers suffering a barren patch in front of goal. Without United, all these factors would remain and though supporters and fandom is the lifeblood of the game, I would still watch Rotherham against Accrington Stanley quite happily in order to fill an afternoon.

38 thoughts on “How I Became a Manchester United Supporter”

  1. EVERYTHING about this I find repellent! This guy with his bullsh*t story, everything. THIS is what’s wrong with football & football supporters in this country.

      1. I’m a Leeds United fan period. More than that I’m a season-ticket holder, have been for many years. I also try to get to as many away games as I possibly can. I’ve seen plenty of ups and downs.

        I’m not getting into a pissing contest. I’m telling you these facts because they make a statement about me. Real football fans will understand what I’m talking about. I am a football fan.

        You mate, on the other hand are a consumer, nothing more. You have developed an affinity, over time, with a successful brand. Your ‘love’ of MU is like a form of Stockholm Syndrome. 

        To you football is WWF! That’s effectively what Sky has packaged and sold you. But it takes 2 to 69, and you willingly assumed the position.

        Naturally, MU as the brand most aggressively promoted by Sky, were shown more in the early days, just around the same time as you noticed Toby from across the street. 

        MU had big names. They had players who were like popstars. They had players who were popstars. My God one of them even married a popstar, a Spice Girl no less! You were just pleased it wasn’t Sporty Spice! It was all just too much excitement. Certainly a lot more interesting than boring history textbooks, and of course Toby liked football. 

        But you didn’t just see them on Sky, no. Murdoch’s papers then kicked into action, promoting the team and individual player brands they decided were the biggest drivers of box-office and circulations and basically shit-sprayed both you and Toby with it! 

        Sky’s agenda was to sell that idea of virtually following a team, like a disconnected franchise wherever you are in the world. That’s an important point, irrespective of location. 

        I like my football to be organic and locally-sourced, not some homogenised, supermarket variant. I like Barcelona. I love their football culture, the success but I don’t seriously expect anyone to believe I’m a Barca fan. I’m a fan of their football but I have my team. You and Toby expect us to believe that you are Batman and Robin simply because you’ve bought the costumes.

        Real football fans follow their teams not some soap-opera. No, actually that’s unkind to soaps. What you’re watching is the Harlem Globetrotters every week, and come on who doesn’t love them, eh? That’s basketball isn’t it, Toby? You’re certainly not gonna start rooting for the Washington Generals are you? No, why would you do that? They ALWAYS lose, that’s what Toby said. Well, your mother always drummed into you that you were her ‘little winner’ so, gosh darnit, you’re siding with the winners.

        This is all doubly worrying since even as a student of history, you clearly have no real idea of what real football is or was.

        But that’s a story for another time, you two. 

        Now come on Toby and David bathtime, then bed for the pair of you.

        If you’re both very good next time I’ll tell you about competitive balance. Before Sky there was true sporting prowess where victories were fought for and earnt, not given by referees.

        Do NOT, I repeat do NOT even get me started on your hagiography for the 39th PL fixture concept. Idiot.

        Ask Toby this in bed tonight. Why is the date January 3rd significant? 

        Clue: it’s not your anniversary!

        1. There is more than one way to skin a cat. Each individual chooses their personal path to God. That could be attending church every Sunday, or praying each night at home before bed. It could be singing in a gospel choir or walking barefoot to Compostela. Each form of worship is perfectly valid. We all follow the same thing, it is just that sometimes circumstance dictates that we follow it in different ways, with neither way superior to the other.

          I would dearly love to attend more home matches and hold a season ticket like you but like many I have financial and geographical constraints. The fact that the demand for tickets is also so great means someone has to miss out on the fun.

          To be told ones passion is not ‘real’ or worthy, simply because of my route to fandom, is quite a sneering opinion. For example, would the love for my girlfriend be any less ‘real’ if I met her on a dating website? Its via new fangled technology and is by no means conventional, so maybe I should just leave her and start leering at women in nightclubs and ply them with drink like the old days…

          The question is, would you have the same issue with my early days as a football fan if I had chosen to support Arsenal or Chelsea say, even if it was with Sky’s whole-hearted backing?

          Wonderfully written, eloquent response though. How you source your football is fine, great, fantastic and no better or worse than my way. We all love the same game, whatever guise it comes in, isn’t that right Toby?

          3rd of Jan? Tis the FA Cup 3rd Round – Man Utd 0 Leeds Utd 1 – great performance and a richly deserved victory.

          1. David, I wrote a similar article a few months ago and got the same results.

            Oh well, some people will just have to learn to live with the fact that not everyone will support ‘their’ club.


            To: Agent Tobias ‘Toby’ Niedermeyer


            That time is here. I’m advising you that, with immediate effect, your deep-cover standing orders have been revoked. You are hereby directed to engage the protocol. Do you understand me Soldier? That means that you’ll be able to go back to your wife! Once you’ve completed your final mission.

            Your orders are to cook the subject his favourite meal. Bangers and mash. From previous intel we know that the most compliant subject-state is achieved with a suggestive formation of two dollops of mash bisected by a single banger Maybe, a bit of gravy ‘spunk.’

            From there, you are to proceed directly to running him a bath. Whilst the subject performs his ablutions, loudly singing along to his Glee CD, you are to prepare the De-Briefing Area, or DBA.

            In previous operations we’ve found subjects extremely resistant to de-programming. The simple fact of pulling them out of Murdoch’s arse has been reported by on-site operatives as, 

            “Like unplugging ’em from the f*ckin’ Matrix man! I mean, there was sh*t everywhere y’kno wha’am sayin?”

            Once the DBA’s been established, contact HQ, restrain the subject and await my arrival with the De-Brief Package or DBP. Is that understood?

            SCENE: It’s the classic interrogation-scene setup. Subject is sat at the table, sweating.

            Good evening, Mr Eykelestam. No, don’t get up. May I? *takes chair from other side of room and loudly slams it on floor, sits down, lights up cigarette and takes a deep drag*

            It’s time we had the talk. No, don’t look at him. No, in fact let me introduce you to Colonel Niedermeyer. That’s right, he reports directly to me. I know everything. The shirts, the Alice band everything.

            *Exhales cloud of smoke into the light*

            You’re probably wondering why we’re here, yes? I’ll tell you. It’s Blue-Pill Red-Pill time but unfortunately, I only brought ONE pill! 

            All of your experience of football to date has been one long, delusional, masturbatory fantasy! That’s right! Hard to believe isn’t it? I couldn’t believe it myself at first, but it’s true David. May I call you David?

            Don’t believe me? Well I’ll prove it to you. Take the pill and you’ll see that there IS a world beyond Rupert Murdoch’s rectum. You have to see it for yourself.

            What you’ve been watching is a pale facsimile of what football really is. Sure, it shares some genetic material with it’s parent but it’s no more football than say *dramatic pause* High School Musical is Opera. See? We’ve done our research on you.

            For instance, we know how potty-proud you used to be as a child. Happily spending hours on yours, absently humming to yourself and refusing to let your mother flush away it’s contents. Of itself, an unremarkable childhood phase ordinarily but, in you? somehow persisting well into your late-teens.

            Let’s fast-forward to where we are now. Football is dead. Are you shocked to learn that? We knew it the moment word reached us that Steve Bruce was paid £3m for ‘image rights’. 

            Football is life. That’s right. It’s not about ‘jam every day’ and kissing boys as you seem to think. Within it’s rich fabric it is possible to learn every thing there is to learn about life. It’s also possible to experience every shade of emotion that humanity can experience. I am rich because I go through it all with others. We are a broad, all-encompassing church. They come from all over the world, from every walk of life but we all come to share the same experience. To follow our team. 

            But I can see you’ve had enough tonight. The news about your ‘ickle Toby’ seems to have hit you pretty hard. So I’ll wrap things up for this session.

            Next time we will cover:

            The bloated, top-heavy, Ponzi scheme that the PL has become with MU as prime movers.

            The fact that the PL lacks genuine competitive balance and is in fact 3 separate competitions. The first for the Championship itself, also-rans bagging coveted Willy Wonka Golden Tickets for the Champions League. The battle in the middle ground and finally the plight of the weak as they struggle to avoid relegation and the now almost mandatory divisional double-dip! 

            We’ll look at the NFL and look at which of their successful ideas would be good to introduce over here. Central pooling and distribution of funds and the salary-cap model.

            How the PL is also hurting our national game.

            Between now and then though I want you to read David Conn’s ‘The Beautiful Game’

            Don’t worry, we’re going to get you out of Rupert’s arse. It’s going to be painful but you’ll thank me for it in the end. They always do.


        2. Supporting sh*tty teams like Leeds because you happened to be born in that armpit is much more noble. Get over yourself.

  2. thanks Jonathan. As all football fans know we don’t have a choice in the matter when it comes to which club we support, it just creeps up on us and before we know it, it’s too late! :-)

  3. no problem you are a Manchester United fan don’t let anybody say different.since city took the dog/tevez back it is MUFC all the way.GO SWANS GO BEAT city!

    P.S. the team i cheer for is in the Championship so i have no dog in this fight.ENJOY

  4. Oh look, another “How I became a United fan” story.
    It’s like every United fan has to vindicate themselves from being a glory hunter even though they know deep down that they are indeed just that.

    Good game against Bilbao by the way.

  5. we united fans,we’re appreciat that,this is good idea keep goin,united 4 rill,but that our old baba sometimes he cos problem.

  6. Well written article and it is great to read somebody else’s memories of football. As I was reading all the memories of my footballing past came flooding back. The most prominent in my mind, the 99 treble. I still get goosebumps watching the footage back. The intensity in my home at the time of the first corner was incredible and then the goal, my house erupted and then the second goal came and my dad went crazy. Rushing out into the street half naked, screaming. Lol, wonderful memory. I am a Mancunian and have supported United my entire life. The thing I don’t get about this whole “glory hunter” thing is… All the people not from England who like to follow the premier league… Who should they support? They have no connection to any team other than the teams style of play. You cannot call a person a glory hunter because of where they live. A glory hunter will switch teams when another team is winning. If you stick to your team through seasons of not winning you are not a glory hunter. That word is from jealous fans whose clubs aren’t as successful.

  7. I also became a Manchester United fan due to television. I live in Asia and there was one game where this team in Red named ManU in the score line was playing. I loved watching them so I decided to stick with em. I was about 8 at that time. I’m turning 18 this year and I’ve been a Red Devil fan since then. However, I am not a glory hunter. I just love football and would do anything to watch a United game live. It’s not about winning, it’s about the beauty of the game. The fans in Old Trafford really annoy me because for their sheer number, they should never be “outcheered” by away fans. Oh well. United’s teased the fans in OT too much, I guess.. Wake up, people!! You’re supporting the team for who they are, not what they do!

  8. I am a huge Manchester United fan because I live in Surrey and everyone around here supports them. Having lived close to london all my life doesn’t matter because i still buy lots of man u shirts, pens, phones, jackets etc.
    I really hate going to see man u once every season if they play a london team because the traffic back down to london is terrible because of all the london club fans and man u fans making their way back to london.

    Don’t call me a plastic fan…the fans that support chelsea or man city are plastic fans and arsenal fans are too. And the biggest plastic fans are liverpool fans from the 70s and 80s. Man u fans are not plastic.

  9. well.. im an indonesian and i dont hav any relation to the city of manchester also. so can i be United fans? or can someone in Africa with no association with England or whatsoever?
    football is a global product nowadays. United belongs to the world, and other clubs too. i think anyone can support any team, it’s just how far can you go in supporting them. My heart races everytime i watch United game.
    Foreign fans are mostly determined by the era. Ppl who grew up in 80s would probably be Liverpool fans, 90s would be United’s. while arsenal and chelsea also had their times. it’s ridiculous to question ppl’s preference.

  10. I’m a United fan, my dad was a United fan, my grandfather was a United fan, my great grandfather played for the club and we all grew up right next to the ground. United is all i know and all i have seen and loved. That’s why I’m a United fan. They’re one of those clubs that have reached so high that we’ve collected supporters that love clubs that win and nothing more. Unfortunately that’s how it goes. But they were my hometown club.

    Whether they’re sh*t, or top shelf, I’ll be singing Glory Glory til i die.


    I see the Sh*tty fans and MU haters have woken up from the smelly bowels to post their hate. Keep hating.

  12. “I grant that United’s success made it more difficult to escape their clutches”

    I can respect someone that can just come out and admit it.

  13. i live in india in remote town where ppl never heard of football let alone having football club or stadium , & i started watching united in 2003 , 1st time on TV , exactly on the day when ronaldo debuted , i just liked the trickery & style of utd at that time ..i didnt know there history or heritage , i didnt had internet that time , & that season arsenal went on to become invincible , after that chelsea won back to back , but still i was united fan , watching them play every match regardless of loosing or winning ,even with big time zone difference , then they started winning again & later we had internet there & then i come to know abt their history
    so please never ever called foriegn or outside countries fan plastic or glory hunter , u hv know idea how they become fans or particular club .!! & oh btw GGMU !! we will this year too already ahead now!!

    1. Damn it !! .now i read myself & see lot of spelling mistakes!! ..please bear with me !! ..i hope there is no Grammer Nazi’s here

  14. Notice how its the glory supporter, like the author, who will jump up and down to deny that they are just that, a glory supporter! your football club represents, where you are bred, not because you saw them win on TV, FFS, there’s a reason clubs are named where they are based, don’t you think…

  15. I see your point, but realize in our modern society, that’s not going to be possible for football fans outside of England. People are attracted to the league b/c it’s arguably one of the best in the world. Top quality players aren’t attracted to England for the weather. It’s the level of play. To deny or scoff at a fan’s reason for following their club seems quite petty. That’s like saying ONLY English players should be allowed to play in the EPL. If you’re a fan, you’re a fan. It can only be better for the league in the long run, right?

    1. @Todd, You’ve completely missed the point about being a real football fan in England. The clubs represents your community and as I’ve said if you have no connection with the the community where the clubs are based, then why do you support them? simple because they want to bask in their reflective glory of winning leagues and cups. Thats a fact, you don’t see the author of the article and all those who agree with his sentiments support Walsall or Scunthorpe United (no disrespect to the both of those clubs). They are glory supporters, nothing more, nothing less. They can bang on about their reasons why they support Man United but they just make themselves look more foolish and I can guarantee they will never have the same passion for the game as real supporters.

  16. Why not just enjoy your club, instead of creating a rating system for what constitutes a true supporter? There are plenty of teams out there that I despise, and while I might have suspicions about why someone supports their club, be it Manchester United, City, Barcelona or whoever, it’s a waste of my time to evaluate their affinities.In a world where so many people are going without food, proper health care and things that are an actual matter of life and death, it seems kind of silly to engage in slap fights over who the “real” supporter is. Besides, while I can’t stand Leeds, I’ll be toward the front of the line to say that their supporters are awesome! Without the rivalries, we’d lose so much. Do you think that Boca fans didn’t miss the matches against River, or that Celtic fans won’t miss having Rangers as a foil? As for the argument that not being born in an area means someone can’t be a true supporter of a club, that makes about as much sense as saying that because someone was not born in an area that has abundant access to food means they deserve to go hungry.

  17. @ Dougie N, why are you equating football supporting to world hunger? there is no correlation whatsoever between somebody going starving and someone supporting a football team. Your making emotional platitudes to justify your arguments, which have no foundation to reality. If you really think that some people from Malaysia, Indonesia, Surrey, Bristol etc “support” Manchester United, the way somebody who has an emotional connection with the area that their team are based, then I’m afraid to say to you, you’re wrong. They “support” Man Utd because they want to bask in their reflective glory. If you don’t realize that, then I can only assume you’re another Man Utd supporter whose never been to Old Trafford.

  18. @ forest, then can I ask you this question, what about those people in Malaysia, Indonesia and anywhere else outside of England with no connections to any club at all? What are they supposed to do then? Not support any club and remain neutrals?

    I hope you will help me by answering this question.

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