“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Manchester United is staring at what could be its last Champions League home match for some time when it faces Olympiakos in the second leg of their European tie. United is facing a 2-0 deficit against the Greek champions and would need to score three times without conceding if they hope to advance to the quarter-finals of the competition.
Of course, the club is not mathematically eliminated from finishing in the top four (or five) in the Premier League, a position that would secure European football for next season. But the Red Devils are being handed their coats and told that the bar is closing. In other words, it’s only a matter of time.
In a season of record breaking lows on the pitch, Manchester United’s traveling supporters (The Red Army) have proven time and time again to be an unwavering source of inspiration for the club. Despite the sputtering performances of United’s players and their manager’s inability to galvanize the team or engineer winning tactics on any kind of consistent basis, Manchester United supporters have continued to fill every seat allotted to them at away fixtures. They have barely warmed those seats while continually standing and singing encouragement to their faltering idols.
The response of these fans shows in the club’s results. Manchester United actually has more wins on the road this season than they do at home.
That steadfast loyalty has been on display at Old Trafford, largely in the form of the Stretford End supporters. But the entirety of the Theatre of Dreams has occasionally fallen flat during several home contests this season. While United’s most passionate supporters have remained resolute and focused on lifting up the players and their manager, large sections of the adjacent stands have stuck to groaning and criticizing the club or just leaving the stadium before the match has ended.
But Sunday’s match against Liverpool was a turning point for United’s home support this season. With their club trailing Liverpool 2-0 and the away supporters looking to revel in their team’s triumph, United supporters burst into song and subsequently drowned out any attempt by their rival supporters to rub more salt in the wound… even as Luis Suarez tucked Liverpool’s third goal past David De Gea.
For the final 20 minutes of the match, 70,000 Manchester United supporters took the opportunity to remind their North West rivals (in unison) how many English top flight titles their club has in its trophy case.
“Twenty times, twenty times, Man United! Twenty times, twenty times, I say! Twenty times, twenty times, Man United! Playing football the Busby Way!”
Of course the song refers to Manchester United twenty league titles and was a reminder to rival fans that Liverpool may have won the battles this season, but the Anfield club still trailed United’s trophy haul while being stuck on eighteen league titles (their last was in 1990).