Friday, January 25, 2008

I Like Manchester United...

... but I don't like Manchester United the same way the red part of Manchester does. I can't. I wasn't born there. I've never been to a game with my grandad, father or my mates. I didn't grow up following them through the bad times of the seventies and the glory times of the nineties. I came to my love of ManUtd late and a continent away.

Football clubs in other parts of the world are not like professional sports teams in the United States. Football clubs in England grew organically in their community. Manchester United Football Club started in 1878 as the Newton Heath Cricket and Football Club, a sports club of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company. The name was changed to Manchester United Football Club in 1902. ManUtd have been playing their home matches at Old Trafford since about 1910.

I became aware of ManUtd when I was in college watching the UEFA Champions League, the European club championship. I saw players like Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Paul Ince, Andy Cole, and Ryan Giggs. When I started watching the English Premier League consistently in 2002, I struggled with deciding which team to support. ManUtd seemed an obvious choice but I didn't want to just jump on the bandwagon.

My father-in-law is from Birmingham. I always drink coffee from a Birmingham City FC mug when I'm at their house but he isn't really a soccer fan. The only soccer game he attended as a child was an Aston Villa match. He remembers the Aston Villa supporters, in an ale soaked rage, destroying the train on the way home from the match.

I thought about supporting Hartlepool United FC, a team known for their mediocrity. They have never won any major trophies, but have also never been relegated out of the Football League. They are not good and they are not bad. I like that. The problem with a club like Hartlepool United is I would never get to see them play. They play in the lower divisions and are seldom on television.

So, being free from the constraints of geography and familial loyalty, I chose ManUtd.

I know a little about the rivalries. As a ManUtd supporter, I am supposed to hate Liverpool. I don't hate them though. I want them to lose to ManUtd every time they play but I don't hate them. I'm supposed to hate Arsenal also. Okay, I do hate Arsenal. I'm supposed to hate Manchester City FC (the blue half of the city), but I can't get too worked up about them.

I'm not from England and I'm not from Manchester. I'm not even English. I'm an American who likes watching exciting soccer. ManUtd plays exciting soccer. ManUtd has exciting players - Rooney, Tevez, Ronaldo, Giggs, Anderson, Scholes, Vidic, and Ferdinand. ManUtd has an intense, interesting manager in Sir Alex Ferguson. Sir Alex always seems as if he is going to explode. ManUtd have won a lot of trophies but only a few since I started following them. They will probably win many more.

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