Can We Expect to See More Manchester United Fans Switching Allegiances to Other Teams?

One of the critiques that soccer supporters of English clubs have of the globalization of the Premier League is the number of front-running fans that have no connection to the clubs they support who adopt teams. These types of foreign supporters have disproportionately through the years supported England’s most successful and best marketed club – Manchester United.

Nowhere is this more true than in the United States, a nation whose own soccer culture has been largely underground and faced hostility from the entrenched sports media who sometimes even deride the game as one for foreigners, not true-blooded Americans.

Against this backdrop, the rapid emergence of the Premier League on the American sporting landscape, especially among younger fans, has threatened the soccer-hating sports editors and programming directors who have made a living off cheap shots aimed at the sport for years. But an uncomfortable reality about the game’s growth is that many of these fans are also supporting sports teams closer to them in different sports. Manchester United’s difficult 2013-14 season has already seen some repercussions among American fans.

While not scientific research, I’ve already noticed a decline in interest in the Premier League among some Twitter followers who follow a multitude of sports but “support” Manchester United. This past week when the Red Devils lost twice at Old Trafford seems to have intensified the trend.

This morning a published story reported that a Manchester United fan in the US decided to switch allegiances to Chelsea. Then after posting this on my Twitter timeline, I got a number of responses from true United supporters in the States saying that they have seen fans who come to the pub who support the club dwindle as the difficult debut season of David Moyes has continued.

While every nation has its front-runners, including England (the number of casual Liverpool fans in London in the 1970s and 1980s speaks for itself), the United States has a particularly bad reputation for being bandwagon hoppers whose attention span for truly supporting any sports team in a meaningfully passionate way is limited. Unfortunately, the willingness of some United fans to jump off the bandwagon, even if it is small percentage of overall Manchester United support in the USA, speaks loudly about some of the difficulties the sport still faces in the country.

Editor’s note: For the latest Red Devils news, analysis and opinion, visit the Manchester United team page.

39 thoughts on “Can We Expect to See More Manchester United Fans Switching Allegiances to Other Teams?”

  1. Yeah only United supporters switch allegiances and are all glory hunters. I mean Liverpool haven’t been serial contenders since 1990 aside from their big trophy haul in 01 or 02 and 05 and they still have more fans than Chelsea City and Arsenal. Why is it that we are the one club used as the bad example for the press every time. We get it SAF bought off all the refs and we will never win anything again. The hate and bias is really annoying coming from people who are supposed to be objective. No matter how I hate city I have to give them their respect and dues. I wouldn’t expect their fans to switch allegiances due to the team performing poorly. The only supporters that do that are the ones that don’t even follow the sport on a close basis but just a casual observer who likes a team that may win and those aren’t the fans that go to OT or even buy a consistent stream of merchandise to support the club or even buy the overpriced Manchester United stock.

    1. You’re fighting a losing cause. We obviously are all a bunch glory hunting of trophy whores who only know success and should ALL be judged based on the transgressions of one individual over the millions of true Manchester United fans out there.

    2. Liverpool has more fans because we are not the plastic variety like alot of you mancs.. We havent won anything in a long time but we are here still supporting our team and our days of glory are soon returning!

  2. Wait so that one Manchester United fan in Kenya who committed suicide means ALL the Manchester United fans out there will commit suicide right?
    The one Arsenal fan who bet his house and wife on a football game means that all Arsenal fans value their wives as property and it means their all sexist pigs and are all stupid enough to bet a house on a game like football? This is the logic that you’re using and I don’t understand it.

  3. Sad but true. oh well I support my team through the good and the bad. Manchester United for life…and I’m an American. First team I ever watched last team ill ever support.

  4. Any big team in any league or sport that suffers through a tough time will have the casuals drop off. United have been the biggest club forever so they’re bloated with casuals. There’s nothing inherentaly wrong with this. I’ve met plenty of great MUFC supporters and I’ve met my share of know it all but know nothing supporters.

    People want a big team to root for. We have the same issue here in NYC. The Yankees and Giants are loaded with fans who just want to be on the winning side. They’ll come running back once the winning does.

    I’ve always found it weird that people want to root for the establishment.

  5. There are two sides to it – here in England, nobody just ‘switches allegiances’. Basically you support whatever team you were born into, whatever team is your home town/city etc. And you’re stuck with that same team for life whether they’re winning trophies or not.

    For American fans who ‘switch allegiances’, I can sort of understand because a lot of them have no real connection with a club from the other side of the world. On the most part there won’t be any family tradition, they won’t be spending their hard earned on tickets etc. They just pick a team out and go with it.

    The closest comparison I can give is when I was younger and was obsessed with the NBA. Used to watch it live in the mid to late 90’s in the early hours on Sky Sports (because of the 5-hour time difference!) and found myself ‘supporting’ the Chicago Bulls – mainly because they were the team everybody wanted to beat at that time. I haven’t watched it for years now… whereas my genuine love for Liverpool has never left me. I imagine Americans feel that same love for their own local US sports teams.

    1. I think that’s a great point. If you’re watching sports from thousands of miles away, it’s easy to become a fan of a team that is on TV all the time just because it is really HARD to be a fan of a team that is only on TV once per season.

    2. This.

      I used to live a stones throw from the stadium in Nurmberg so that is the only club outside of the US I would say I support. When I moved from Germany to Chicago I became a Bulls/Bears/Blackhawks/Cubs fan. But I still watch a ton of soccer. So I’m a casual for Fullham because my youth coach played there and whatever teams have USMNT players. Outside of that, I watch compelling matchups, teams with a style I find attractive, or a player I like. I just don’t know how I could get that attached to a club in some other section of the world I had no attachment to.

    3. Absolutely!

      When I moved to the UK (went to Uni there)and fell in love with football I was lucky enough to have two close friends who took it upon themselves to give me a course in ‘Football Studies’. They made up hilarious exams like ‘match the team to their home ground’, gave me geography quizzes, and we had great fun going down to the local to watch matches.

      Then one day they said ‘ok, so now you have to pick a team. You have to support this team no matter what, and you should know their history, and it should be a team that you enjoy watching, and they should be from a place that you can relate to.’

      So I picked a ‘top team’ and a second team that happened to be our ‘local’ team and have been supporting them both ever since.

      It really does come down to exposure for us Yanks, and it sucks when others insult us for following a big club when we don’t have the context you’re talking about, Paul. It was hard for me to understand the stereotypes about certain fans, and clubs, which were often tied into larger things about geography and identity that I just had no sense of, and no firsthand knowledge about.

      All of these things will take time to catch on here in the US.

  6. I really think there are two types of these “glory hunter” fans.

    There are some who attach themselves to winning teams just so they can behave like d-bags and taunt fans of other teams. I’m not sure why they do it, but I assume they’re miserable humans suck at their jobs and whose families hate them.

    But there is another type too. I’m the worst type of “glory hunter” around because when I was a kid, I grew up in a part of the US without professional sports. I became a fan of the teams that were on TV all the time, that had charismatic/excellent athletes and were good. In the late 70s/early 80s, that meant the Dallas Cowboys, NY Yankees and LA Lakers.

    I can hear the groans and vomiting. It was probably inevitable that I’d end up a United fan.

    I do appreciate it when my teams win. It’s fun. But I don’t think I’ve ever used it as a reason to taunt people to behave like an ass.

    What I really love about supporting good teams is that I watch sport to see world-class athletes doing world-class things. I’m rooting for them to do something new and better. If they happen to WIN along the way, that’s just a bonus. I want to see them be EXCELLENT.

    I don’t really care that much about “competition”. I want to see EXCELLENCE. The most depressing thing about United this season is the lack of excellence because there is nothing excellent about all this hoofing the ball into the box. The most excellent thing we have this season is Wayne Rooney switching the field and Wayne Rooney still running like a madman in the 85th minute.

    1. How true! I would just like to see them play well. The results will take care of themselves, somewhat.

      There’ll always be bandwagon fans. And nobody can stop them. The positive from that is they purchase merchandise and help grow the club (the negative is that the club’s owned by the Glazers).

  7. I think the title should read.Can We Expect to See More Manchester United Glory Hunters Switching Allegiances to Other Teams? So United your just going to lose some dead weight. True fans are there thru thick and thin i know i am a Forest fan.

    1. Unfortunately this is Kartik we are talking about. Yet another incendiary headline designed to provoke. The guy is slowly destroying this site.

      1. I write the headlines.

        It’s a fair article on a topic that’s been covered by several other websites today.

        1. Well that explains why so many articles on this website infuriate me. This Kartik guy who just started writing for the site is probably a new fan himself seeing he backs *HITTY does not write the headlines? No wonder the headlines never match the articles. I have to admit the rheotric in some of his articles are okay but the headlines are big turnoffs. Then it is you CHRISTOPHER HARRIS in tandem with the *HITTY fan taking this site down.

          1. I have a feeling your support of Manchester United is clouding your vision.

            Kartik has been writing for this site for several years.

  8. I’m an American living in the USA. Two and a half years ago, I committed to watching the EPL a lot more.

    Thanks to ESPN, I watched Swansea City’s first game on their return to the EPL — they got drubbed by City, 4-0. However, I appreciated their style of football and decided that I would support the Swans. I now watch nearly every game they play — EPL, Europa League, FA Cup…

    Jumping on the bandwagon of one of the EPL’s Top Six teams never appealed to me.

  9. Seeing a trend from this author. If WST wants to remain relevant and viewed, it might want to dial back the nativist rants and embrace the “world” in “world soccer talk”.

    I get it. The author does not like people from other countries, especially (gasp) the United States being front runners or bandwagon jumpers, and especially if precious English soccer is invovled. Please. The United States is no different than any other country; we have good fans, we have not-so-good fans.

    By the way, I love the journalistic heft here: One guy “switches” his allegence (was it Beckham or something?) and the pubs have fewer fans coming (who knew that winning meant people would come to pubs with red on? Amazing insight.) and it “all hands on deck” to slam Americans for being a bunch of frontrunners.

    As a long suffering Minnesota Vikings fan and American Newcastle United supporter, I’ll just cheer for my “wee club” in the Northeast and try not to get run over by the bus full of Manchester United Fans leaving town.

    1. You are the exception mate. Most Yanks don’t know this sport at all. I live America and the author is right about Americans. They hardly deserve the sport. They uncontrollably support winners and that is it. I applaud you but not the rest of the Yanks and especially the dumb Yank owners at Manchester United.


      1. Bandwagon fans are not exclusive to the US. Yes, probably a higher percentage since many don’t have as an intense of ties to the club… But US fans aren’t why QPR had to drop ticket prices by over a 1/3 since they got relegated. Man City has had their revenue triple since the ownership change. There is a ton of loathing of US soccer fans…. Both from abroad and self loathing.

    2. I’m with you Nathan – I’m a Dolphins fan and a Newcastle supporter since 2001. So I’ve watch NUFC in the CL and in the Championship. Lots of pirated streams that year, but it was worth it.

      1. What source Christopher?
        The poorly written journal entry on 101greatgoals? An “article” (calling it that is a disgrace to real article) that speculated about an unverified reddit user attempting to switch allegiance from United to Chelsea? That’s your acceptable source as the chief editor of this website? That and the poor anecdotal from Kartik is all he needed to write this piece and you find that acceptable?

        Basically number of fans tend to go down as a team start losing? You don’t say Sherlock? That’s a trend quite easily notable by looking at the number of fans going to a club’s game as the go down from a position of dominance to one of struggle. It’s even more pronounced when the team start moving down a division or two. Just as well the amount of fans that a team gain by moving up the ladder (Chelsea, Manchester City) is a fact of life in the US just as in the UK. The exponential growth of Chelsea and Manchester City’s fanbase is no doubt due to their recent rise in fame and glory. That doesn’t seem to bother Kartik (Man City fan).

        1. He said there was no source for the article, and there was one.

          Judging by the number of comments on this article, enough people found the topic of interest.

          1. I’m a reporter for a living, pal, and that “source” is anything but due to all the reasons listed by other commenters.

            If you measure your success by how many commenters trash your story, then kudos to you, I guess you’ve made it.

  10. I’ve been a glory hunting Man Utd fan ever since 1984 when like most people then you sat in front of the TV at 4:45 pm waiting to see your teams name and result slowly appear across the viddi printer. I mean who wouldn’t choose to support Man Utd in 1984 during the glory days of losing 2-0 to third division Bournemouth in the FA Cup.

    1. United supporter since 1959. Got my news two weeks late via a subscription to the Manchester Evening News. I will support my team until I pass, but I reserve the right to not support SAF’s choice of Mr. Moyes. As for bandwagoners…everyone loves to support the winner. Those people who do not know the game would have no problem switching support to Liverpool this year. They just don’t get it.

      Those who know matter. Those who don’t know don’t matter.

    2. 1989 when they still sux. Grew up watching Liverpool on the telly (watching, not supporting), just because they were the best teams then.

      Inevitably, we’ll have tons of gloryhunters. Let them switch allegiance, we don’t need them.

    1. Lol. Once I saw the headline and then who the author was I just skipped to the comments. I knew he was throwing out the bait and a bunch of people took it. I didn’t read the article but the comments have been very entertaining.

  11. This is typical for Americans to switch their support of teams. I support 2 teams, Man United & the NY Mets. I am raising my children to support Man United & the NY Mets. I am sure they will do the same with their children.

  12. I’m a Man City fan in the US. I am not a glory hunter though. I started following City about 2 months before they won the title. I had no idea who they were, or what was happening. Never really watched “soccer”. Was always a huge NFL fan. The only reason I started following City was because of my wife, she wanted to have a sport she liked and never liked NFL. She decided she would follow City cause at the time they were the underdogs fighting back to the top. I could have picked any team but City it was, the only reason? I liked their colors :). But I can honestly say I am hooked. Have watched practically every match of theirs since that time. I could have easily switched side after their last season performance, but I did not. I stuck with them. I know for a fact, I will never switch. I am definitely a fan for life.

    As many have mentioned, switching teams happens in all sports. I see it all the time in the NFL. And also as many have mentioned, they are not true fans and the team/club are better without them.

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