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You Say City And I Say United, Let's Call The Whole Thing Off


Listening to the BBC Radio Five Live commentary last Sunday of the match between Manchester United and Leeds United, I was taken aback by a statement that the commentator made at the onset of the program. I’m paraphrasing, but the commentator said that in the interests of simplicity, whenever he mentioned “United” in the commentary, he would mean Manchester United, not Leeds United.

While I realize and understand that if you said “United” to ten soccer fans and asked them which team you were talking about, nine of the ten would answer “Manchester United, of course” while some smart arse would mention “Scunthorpe United, up the Iron!”

But to me, I find it a bit condescending and demeaning to a team that is snubbed. If you’re a Leeds United or Newcastle United supporter, aren’t they “United” to you? And why should a Leeds or Newcastle supporter concede the title of “United” to Manchester? Sure, the Red Devils are one of the biggest and most popular teams in the world, but each team deserves the right to be called by their chosen name. To me, how hard is it for a radio commentator to add a three syllable word (Manchester) or a one syllable word (Leeds) before the word “United.”

Maybe it’s because I’m a Swansea City supporter, but it bothers me when I see a headline that screams “Veron Reveals City Snub.” If I didn’t already know that Veron was rumored to be interested in a transfer to Manchester City, I may have guessed the story was about Birmingham City, Man City, Stoke City or several other clubs. Yes, most soccer diehards will recognize that this is an article about Manchester City, but how difficult is it for Sky Sports (and other media organizations) to make it vividly clear?

If you’re a Manchester United or Manchester City supporter, or are lucky enough to support a team that is a one word name such as Arsenal or Everton, this whole City vs United thing may not bother you. But for the neutral soccer fan or for the team that can’t be called United or City for fear of confusing the general public, it’s quite annoying.

Photo credit: Toksuede

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  1. MartinJ

    January 8, 2010 at 12:07 am

    I noticed the slip-up by the commentators, too. Being a Manchester United fan, I thought it somewhat amusing. Back in my old country, South Africa, I used to be a City fan, this time Durban City, and our hated enemy was Durban United. So I guess I am somewhat unique in that I have switched from City to United.
    PS to The Gaffer: Talking about a slow news day, anything to tell us yet about Setanta and Fox??? It’s Friday already (12:06am on the East Coast) and no information???

    • The Gaffer

      January 8, 2010 at 1:43 am

      Martin, not a word unfortunately. In reflection, I think this is poor PR by Fox Soccer Channel to leave their viewers out in the cold. Fox obviously now has taken back the rights from Setanta, but they haven’t told us anything about where and if we can expect to see the games that Setanta usually carries.

      The Gaffer

  2. Andrew

    January 7, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    I’m not sure I can see the necessity in this article. Jargon and rhetoric is completely natural, it’s in no way a snub but simply an occurrence in any form of social discourse, especially one dominated by the media and a fundamental shift in human communication. I guess I don’t understand how this can be “condescending”, leading me to wonder exactly what it is you’re trying to say, possibly that it’s a minor inconvenience to fans of smaller clubs?

  3. Michael

    January 7, 2010 at 11:54 am

    I completely agree with your article,its spot on.I think it lies with Manchester being a two club city,which in turn has caused the people of Manchester to refer to there clubs as city and united.Which in turn spread to the nation,refering to both by there title,instead of manchester, to tell both clubs apart.

  4. brn442

    January 7, 2010 at 11:53 am

    If there were two “uniteds”, “wanderers”, or “rovers” playing at the same time and commentator wanted to use the term for just one (not surprisingly, the bigger) club then thats condescending, lazy, and simply wrong.

    The Veron example is a stretch however. In fact, it’s not unusual for tabloids to do the opposite, e.g. “Beckham turns down shock United move” only to find out that they were referring to some unfounded, dubious rumour about him joining Newcastle United – too late, you already bought the paper.

  5. gunjack

    January 7, 2010 at 10:56 am

    wat a pointless article!!

  6. mmmmmlody

    January 7, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Probably commentators, writers, news reporters shouldn’t use “United” or “City” without adding rest of club’s name when it’s not fully clear what team they are referring to. But you still have to remember that: “There’s only one United!”.

    And that’s truth, no matter if you are talking to Manchester, Leeds, West Ham or any other “United” supporter. In man’s heart there is only place for one club, so it’s important to think who you are talking with so you could understand him/her.

    In Poland most known Lechia is team from Gdansk, but no one is going to convince me that “Lechia” is referring to any other club than my local Lechia Dzierzoniow. But still all journalists are using the word to describe that Gdansk side, and that’s the life, isn’t it?

    And all those transfer stories would be soooo much longer if journalists would have to add Madrid after every Real. So it’s not only laziness, but also practicality.

    Ps. Does anyone know if there is this Rooney picture available in higher resolution, as I’d love to have it on ma computer as a wallpaper.

  7. Johnny Rebel

    January 7, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Only the media refer to Man U as “united” to football fans they’re simple referred to as manure.

  8. Radders

    January 7, 2010 at 9:34 am

    United isn’t just a word at the end of the city name. It is the history of the club & its city. If you come from Manchester you may refer to that city’s teams as City or United. If you come from Brum you may refer to your team as City or the Villa. But this does not excuse commentators & pundits who have become lazy & disrespectful to fans. They betray their own lack of knowledge of the history of the game & clubs who play. When two uniteds or cities clash they should respect the pride that both sets of supporters have in the history of their club.

  9. John

    January 7, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Slow news day?

    • The Gaffer

      January 7, 2010 at 10:07 am

      John, we can’t have a scoop in every post we write! 😉

      The Gaffer

      • johnno

        January 9, 2010 at 8:20 pm

        hey gaffer tell those rags they not mancs they in trafford borough

  10. Jack d-NUFC

    January 7, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Although I can understand much of the frustration in regards to names like United and City simply coming to refer to two football clubs (from the same city which probably adds to many peoples annoyance) I would point out that this often is not a problem for many clubs as they and their fans are often referred to as, for example the “Toon” for Newcastle, or as you used in the article, the “Irons” for Scunthorpe, or the “Swans” for Swansea. As a passionate Newcastle fan I would also say that I do not personally find commentators referring to Man U as simply United particularly irritating although that may just because I have grown up always recognising Man U in this manner.

    • Rob McCluskey

      January 7, 2010 at 12:07 pm

      I agree but I think it shouldn’t happen when both clubs in question are called United like in this situation

  11. Bremer

    January 7, 2010 at 7:30 am

    As a Leeds UNITED fan I fully agree.

    I remember a few years ago I was in the pub with the lads and they kept refering to United. Obviously I was being pedantic, but whenever they said United I siad, “We didn’t do that”, “No we haven’t”. I did say, “whenever someone says United, I think Leeds – cos that’s the most important club to me.”

    Just because one club is bigger than another does not give them the right to use a particular title.

    Lazy journalism or not, it just shows the priorities of sports journalists. Unless you are one of the top 6 or the bottom 4 of the Premier league, then you are treated like second class teams.

  12. Jean-Christian

    January 7, 2010 at 7:12 am

    I know what you mean. You see transfer stories all the time like “Kaka set to sign for Bishop’s.” Bishop’s Stortford? Or Bishop’s Cleeve? It’s so frustrating to see such disregard for proper reporting.

  13. Rob McCluskey

    January 7, 2010 at 7:12 am

    I heard that too, I was on my way back to Leeds from Newcastle and listening on the radio and it suprised me a bit, especially being a Newcastle UNITED supporter!

    But in England the focus comes on the big teams, take for example Alex Ferguson complaining that a referee isn’t fit enough to be at the EPL level and the media goes into uproar and sky sports are giving on the hour updates and analysis of the situation. Especially don’t do it when the two teams in question are called united!

  14. Richard The Red (Devil)

    January 7, 2010 at 6:53 am

    Being a Mancunian from the red side, I simply refer to us as “Manchester” so as to stick to those bastards in the other half of my beloved northwest city.

    • john

      January 9, 2010 at 8:14 pm

      you not manchester you trafford rangers you not even in manchester
      you red rag this is from a blue in manchester to a red bastard in trafford
      city coming to get you hows the debt these days?

  15. Peter

    January 7, 2010 at 5:54 am

    Newcastle United
    Sheffield United
    West Ham United
    Scunthorpe United
    Leeds United
    Boston United
    Hartlepool United
    Apologies if I missed any out. All it is, is journalists being lazy when commentating or writing on football. Also they are, as usual pandeing to Manchester United and if they didn’t Ferguson may kick up a fuss.

    Stoke City
    Hull City
    Birmingham City
    Norwich City
    Bristol CIty
    Swansea City
    Lincoln City
    Coventry City
    Gloucester City
    Oxford City
    York City
    And plenty more as well, there is no excuse for this laziness. All they are doing is undermining so called smaller clubs who actually have a better history then the so called bigger clubs. Sometimes, being called Wednesday has its benefits.

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