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  1. #31
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    Sir Alex Ferguson message of support and congratulations to Red News for the 25th anniversary today

    "Dear Barney,

    I am writing to you today on behalf of the players and staff at Old Trafford to pass on our very best wishes for your 25th anniversary.

    We could not let the occasion pass without adding our best wishes to you all on this special day. 25 years what an achievement!

    I hope you all enjoy the celebrations and I wish you all the very best for the future.

    Yours sincerely

    Sir Alex Ferguson CBE
    Manager"
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  2. #32
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    Lovely stuff

  3. #33
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    Sir Alex Ferguson message of support and congratulations to Red News for the 25th anniversary


    "Dear Barney, I am writing to you today on behalf of the players and staff at Old Trafford to pass on our very best wishes for your 25th anniversary. We could not let the occasion pass without adding our best wishes to you all on this special day. 25 years what an achievement! I hope you all enjoy the celebrations and I wish you all the very best for the future.
    Yours sincerely
    Sir Alex Ferguson CBE
    Manager"


    http://www.rednews.co.uk/subscription.php


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    Red News 25th anniversary Reditorial from RN190


    When we first started Red News I was but 16 years old, and didn't have a clue (some would argue that, at least, has not changed). I had more hair than the Da Silvas, was still laughing at the antics of those in Laser Blue 3 stars, but couldn't contemplate a life beyond the dreams of winning just one solitary title that always seemed tantalisingly, or agonisingly, out of reach despite each false dawn summer and start of season hopes that ‘this could be our year’. Too many times, it was never that. It became endemic in our fabric.


    It was 1987. April 20th 1987 to be precise. And we came out for the home game against Liverpool. Jan Molby, Emlyn Hughes and Ian Rush the targets. The fat, the bad and the ugly. The craic was still grand, if the football wasn't, we'd made a consistency out of inconsistency, rising to the occasion and then floppily deflating whenever we thought destiny beckoned, and the honours board, as such as we could claim any contact with it back then, read Liverpool 16 Manchester United 7. city were still a laughing consistency, that won't ever change, but much less on our radar, the only note that year of finishing 17 points ahead of them from our uncomfortable ‘perch’ of 11th place, was that they were relegated once again. Times were thoroughly brilliant and bad all at the same time. Proud to be a Red, yet chastised that that lot down the East Lancs. had an almost relentless march to each title and not realising that such riches lay ahead for us as the tables were about to be turned. Fergie knew from his time at Aberdeen, and we knew from them, that winning breeds a winning mentality. Why this season was so important to stop city, for the continuing dynamic. In the end, city also stopped themselves...


    For Fergie's very own 25th anniversary, our cover said ‘he changed our lives’, and that is precisely what he has done, to those of my generation, born out of wedlock to those older Reds who had seen some of it all before via the 60s and ‘68, we all could not dream that these additional riches were dare possible. But also unique for those lucky younger Reds, who may well have missed out on better times in terrace support, but have known nothing but success these past twenty years. Any Red writing this script and presenting it to anyone bar Fergie back then would have been carted away to the Kenny farm.


    Yet this was never a Robert Johnson Crossroads stage, for all good pub talk of ‘wish we could have won all this with the way it was back in the 70s/80s’, that was never an option, or on offer. Be glad that we have and have had this success however infuriating some of footballs modern ways (and ills) are; imagine how shit it would have been if we'd have stayed as shit.


    Of course, there were bumps still to come. A 1-5, serious doubts over the ‘Boss’, much humble pie eating, Anfield '92, where many of us left cursing that we'd never see that one title triumph, let alone the avalanche since. There isn't enough time to list the highs and fewer lows, nor where exactly things changed, or the greed that has been bred from the success leading to sometimes excess gluttony with expectations, but in 1986/87 we won just one league away game all season. ONE! Guess where though? Anfield, not of all places, because it summed up the times. They'd never beat us, but the relationship so lop sided, it needed a divorce, because our game against them should not have been all that mattered and the focus, we are and should be bigger than that. They not even able to enjoy the small victories as we once did, and whilst those times hurt, this period must be of greater pain to any Mickey than even ours was back then because to have loved and lost it all, is a worse fall than to have never really had it after such a long time without.


    But whilst it's easy for any Red of a certain age to become the old codger in the local you try and avoid, Uncle Albert like starting up about ‘the good old days’, however good certain aspects were, it's part of life's rich tapestry (or rather, the ups and downs of all the good and bad bollocks that surrounds us on our journey) that it wasn't all this nirvana that some paint the 80s as. Old Trafford wasn't always bouncing, sometimes it could be dull and quiet, for all the joy of away days - and many were great - we were treated like shite. Still are of course, that to be the eternal damned curse of just wanting to watch your team? History gets re-written, many crowds during darker times flirted with 30,000 gates at Old Trafford, not sell outs, and certainly away fans didn't ‘come to see United’ as they'd now like to suggest. The gates of many of our rivals (Scousers apart, let’s give tham that) were embarrassing, like Newcastle, and as the centre spread shows, teams like the Geordies often bounced up and down in travelling numbers depending on their own fortunes. Many were part-timers, United able to cope better than others because we have such a loyal, core, supporting base who turned up good or bad because that's what we do. And will do again even if things go that way again.


    This picture from 1987 by RN reader Nic does show that there is a difference in the crowd arriving early compared to at kick-off now. Well then you had to get there early, if you were a Stretford End regular and you wanted the best spot, or 'your spot', and that helped as much as the flow of movement and freedom did to noise levels. With OT such a state now, it's why I, in principle at least, support this new Singing End idea. What have we got to lose? Hopefully Utd will help, encourage people arriving early with cheap ale prices, proper entertainment; improving dire fan-club relations. Get youngsters in, in greater numbers.


    It's mad that many of our readers - and contributors + sellers - weren't even born when we first started. It's very sad that as a consequence of being the young kid naively carrying bags and boxes for all these years, you see fellow Reds drift away, or worse still, depart this United world. The obituaries of faces you've nodded at, or knew, the singular saddest thing to deal with, and there are many great lads who have passed in our time, who will never be forgotten.


    The fanzine itself wasn't there to appeal to a set crowd or group of Reds. I always wanted it to have open appeal, rather than a closed shop, In fact I like it when people say ‘I liked that article, I wasn't expecting that, but I wasn't sure about that other piece’; well, maybe not so much the not liking some part of the mag but that's sometimes the price in not wanting to become predictable, I always want to try different things, some come off and hopefully not too many don't, but we're not seeking a set audience or adopting a set line on these pages; that you open the pages of RN and pretty much don't know what to expect (bar my over-elongated Ed’s and Pete Shaw's irrational celeb nude based rants) is a good thing. Each mag has individual content and any view that we/you disagree or agree with is the open appeal of a fanzine, you shouldn't have to agree with every article. Debate should spring. I hope I've never overplayed the importance of this tiny little mag outside Beetlejuice, I realise its place and how some view it. What I do know is I value greatly the loyal Reds who do stop off (be it at the ground or online) and support, and make a difference. We never did this for money, we did it to give you a voice. That great Utd emporium of swag/scarves/programme sales, Tony V once told me - and he was being complimentary! - that RN is ‘cerebral’. I liked that. To think is a good thing. Utd fans should think, challenge and have a mind of their own. I never wanted to seek the lowest common denominator. Of course we plunge the depths for euro away tales, 2nd division barminess and the like but equally on the next page it will hopefully bring a smile to your face or querying a piece and/or disagreeing with it. Making you think. It might not appeal to all, but i never sought all, more those who liked the road less travelled (with drink and goonage thrown in). That road isn’t so bad you know.


    Our greatest victory for not just our readers but all Reds was Teresa McDonald tirelessly fighting the club after the ridiculous policy of refusing to offer tickets for euro aways travellers going unofficially in the early 90s and particularly the '94/95 season - so that thousands of Reds had to blag their way into the Barcelona end for what was our biggest European tie since '91. She kept on and on at club and FA officials until they saw the wisdom of their way and offered euro away briefs for those travelling with the club and on their own backs. Since then, we've fought for those in the Loyalty Pot (even though I'm not in it) and all manner of vital MUFC fans' topics. We believe in that voice for United fans. As for what people can take from each mag, which takes 100s of collective hours to produce each one, I am minded by what John Steinbeck once wrote: “And just as any reader is like me, I hope my book is enough like him so that he may find in it interest and recognition and some beauty as one finds in a friend.” A round about way of me saying, for £2.50, I hope you take something of worth from each mag. We try our best.


    Because kinship - Unitedness - is what United is all about. It can occupy varying points in your life compass, and mean all manner of things to all people, but hopefully wherever we stand, we cherish what it gives us. The sadness away from United is that life in its beauty and ugliness reminds me as I'm quoting people, of what Patrick Swayze's missus once said: “I’ve learnt that life isn’t fair, it doesn’t give a shit, it carries on, or ends, regardless.” And what I love about United is it doesn't judge that, or what happens away from football, as it isn't forgiving or seeking forgiveness, it is, just what it is; a constant. It isn't an unreality, and we all take it seriously - beyond serious of course - but it is there at its core to if not be entertainment as that seems too contrite to describe what United means as ‘just’ fun, but it is everything then, to be the thing to look forward to, the escapism from all the shit even if the Utd shit can be pretty heavy shit at times. Life can be both beautiful and wank all at the same time. As in affect United themselves can be. But we treat the imposter of life different to the joys that United allow us to dream and embrace. And as long as we do live, United is a monumentally great thing to have in our lives.


    And what it gives us in return, is almost indescribable. It is my mates - nearly all of whom are United; at my wedding, me wearing Eric Cantona's underpants because we bagged them at the beach football and I knew they'd bring me luck, and it didn't seem an odd thing to do, more an odd thing if I hadn't have done it. Utd is all I've pretty much done - in terms of hobbies if I can dare use that term for this big thing - since I was 5, fortunate I repeatedly pestered my Mum after that first visit so she took me to shut me up, but I never did shut up and we kept going. And we got our LMTB’s in the early 80s and then we'd argue during the games about the game so much we went our separate ways, she to South Stand and me to K Stand in '89. She's had a serious stroke and can no longer attend, but the passion is there as she watches games on tv. It's not as important as life and death as she has fought that many times since the stroke, but it is also the most important thing we've shared together and one of the most important thing IN our lives. From drunken vodka bottles shared in Kiev with her and seeing her face as Ole's winner went in at the Camp Nou. To being with my Red mates on my stag do in Magaluf with Reds from Manchester, London, Holland and anywhere in between. All as mad, odd and great as each other. It's United, 'innit.


    These have been the happiest days of my life, as well as the toughest. That's life, and United mirrors that. One day this glory may end. But most of us will still be there to watch history unfold. I don't owe it all to United, I have an understanding wife, a baffled family, but this has shaped me, this fanzine I consider my baby, so that I would now be so well off if I never had desperately sought pritt stick and Letraset to complete the title of Red News in April '87, say doing a job without hassles of print deadlines and paying printers, and just going to the pub and heading to the match instead of selling in the rain; but I have no regrets. I did it because I passionately believed that Utd fans deserved a voice and always will and still do. It has been an honour to do this. Like talking to Busby Babes like Eddie Lewis or the emotion of Alex Dawson talking about his mates who passed. Of hugging Steve Bruce after the Double win in '94 before an interview, of nabbing those Eric underpants and wearing them (washed...) at my wedding, of wanting to be Vidic's friend as he was that nice for another RN interview. These high points have far outweighed the cold wet sales when people shout ‘Big issue’ for the millionth time or walk past going ‘it's shit’, as if half a brain makes them the funniest heckler ever. And thanks to all of you who don't pander, who do stop. None of this possible without you. And of course, the lads here. 900 selling days covered by over 100 sellers. 300 contributors providing over 8000 pages and 5 million words. Thanks to all, it's been, well, dirty fun. (and don't get me started on that new seller, poo Lee, and no, he’s not Chinese...).


    None of this possible without Manchester United of course and whatever the moans, never forget how great it all is; because the 90 minutes is just one element to what being a United fan is all about. The net has changed things, for better and worse, people seem more rabid, and we're certainly less United since 2005. But history weaves and the cycles turn and things do and will change. Edwards and co. may make their 90 millions profit, but their time passes, and we as a mass remain; we plan our trips and games as pretty much we always did, even if it's easier to actually book things now but actually more hassles to pay for and organise (and at times justify).


    I love the Fergie little old man heel-dance-skip when we score, and the fist pumps (Blackburn away recently, Highbury 2-2). For all talk - some justified, some not - of what he gets wrong, I concentrate more reassuringly and filling up with what he gets right. I love Alex Ferguson. How I can have this level of affection for someone I've barely met, only connecting via a love for Utd, only those who love them and him can explain and understand, but like all our heroes, we don't necessarily have to touch or bow down to, to appreciate. I've made mistakes, so has he. We all have. As he walked around the pitch for his testimonial where we could never have dreamed he'd have stayed on for this long, and won so much more, the tannoy played Fatboy Slim's ‘We've come a long, long way together, through the hard times, and the good.’ It remains 100% a song for him. The good far, far outweighs the hard. Cherish him for as long as we can, he is a genius and we are blessed to have had him AND Sir Matt.


    I can think of so many Utd memories off the top of my head. Blackburn home '93, Barcelona, '99 (and ‘94, gulp), leaving Anfield that ‘92 day, Fenerbahce in Istanbul and being guarded by a tank outside the Utd end! Of last minute winners by Yorke at Charlton which gave the team belief for the '99 finale, Ole's four, the 9 against Ipswich, doubts over Fergie, and then humble pie more than once. So many come to mind. But equally, I think of my best man, a Red, of drinks shared on all our travels, the funerals with United scarves and flowers draped over coffins, the love shared, the mates not seen in seasons and hooking up with, the anticipation of sorting away days and euro aways. It sad that we go to all these lengths, would fight to the bitter end for a club who eyes us more suspiciously than we ever do it back.


    I've not always hit the right note - I have made some errors and those of judgement too - but as I have said several times to SAF, I hope he or you never doubt that we have done this from a position of unequivocal love for not just MUFC but in wanting what is best for United. Martin Edwards told me: “I am not in favours of fanzines”. We are there to be the thorn, if needed. Not quite a badge of honour but we must have been doing something right to still be here, and have such warm words from SAF in his letter of congratulations.


    There is sometimes a view these days that a fanzine is no longer relevant in this online led world, well we may find out soon enough if people did turn their backs on the 3 important Utd fanzines, but not only would such an horizon at OT be a bit less bright, and less passionate, it may also allow even more excesses from those in charge of the club as our mere presence right next to the forecourt has always given them food for thought and a reminder, visually and in print, that we would challenge them. A fight alone from the net from people who don't go could be one of peril. You have to have a presence, not just sat at a pc. We do actually praise the club on occasion, when they get things right - like giving tickets to independent travellers which lasts still. I thank those of you who supported RN at any stage this past 25, it's been an honour and a privilege as much as it's created relentless demands on my time, for an understanding wife but not the apathetic mass, like daytrippers and the like growing in number, who just look you in the eye and simply do not care or look at you as if you are a leper. They didn’t even try one. What harm could it have done?


    I don't like selling as much as I did, especially as OT can resemble in the very early hours of a matchday like the mall in Dawn of the Dead by George Romero, but I get to see the ebb and flow before each match, and still at its core, what OT is, is ours and what we make it. Without being too pseudo if you don't mind! We still buzz off United, we may moan, too much at times, but think of Toni V. running towards goal at Blackburn, or news of Swansea's goal against city at OT, and it's not just a smile is it. It's life itself. We still get a buzz when we think United.


    It's been the best of times on the pitch and ‘only’ at times, the worst of times off it, if you push aside the curtains and Fergie's magic which cover the truth of life under the Glazers and their half a billion taken out of the club to go down black holes or to arseholes. I am so glad so many Reds from yesteryear who were time spent Reds got to see many of the early successes and just sad that so much has changed for the worse away from the glare on the pitch and its glory.


    The debt, the decline in atmosphere, the change in the make up of our support which at best the club haven't cared about and worst privately gloated about as they aided its decline. It's been am incredible journey but I can't help feel sad that we finally got all our dreams desired but in the process saw something lost in our matchday experience. The club don’t care, the fans do, that's the way it's pretty much always been and why we set up the fanzine in the first place. Sad that our lot has got worse and we're treated with the same disdain.


    Whilst we celebrate 25 I can't help but worry for the future and the next generation of Reds with an infrastructure so soiled and only saved by the miracle work of Fergie who kept things afloat and then some on the pitch and managed to maintain a feeling of family and kinship off it as we're owned by debt collectors who don't even attend matches they bleed from. Proper Machiavellian genius from them.


    The fight might seem as imbalanced as ever but it's one we still have to get up off the ropes from with hope that maybe miracles do happen. Because as Fergie has shown, there is still magic when you have belief and as his life changing era has shown from the Nou Camp, to Turin, Old Trafford of course, back to Villa Park, Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane; miracles do actually happen where Manchester United Football Club is concerned. Let’s hope one day that happens off the pitch as it has done on it. Thanks for all your support. Thank you Fergie. Truly, there is nothing on earth like being a Red.


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  4. #34
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    The Reditorial from RN183 on kinship amongst MUFC fans


    What does Manchester United mean to you?


    Well, how the hell would I know, let alone any of us try and define it. I can guess, like you could mine, certainly sharing many similarities and offshots, but United means different things to different people. That's why the Uber Reds policy of dictating what Reds should do, dress as and behave will never work. We're all different.


    Because it's not simply about being a supporter is it, that wafer thin term ‘support’', not nearly enough? Fanaticism, fan, don't really do it justice either, because it's far more than just watching the team for 90 minutes and being behind them then. I don't mean the travel, the hassles, the excesses, both in financial and physical form, either, but if it were just about the 90 minutes, you'd put United to bed straight after a game when you got home, and not think about the club during the week, until the next game builds up.


    And that's just in relation to the team, there is a whole bunch of extras that go with it, let alone planning the next trip, or who you'll watch the next match with, who you'll meet up with away from the match. It's amazing with a support base so different, from so many differing strands, proper cosmopolitan with the odd purple smartie thrown in who you'll try and avoid, that we get on as well as we do. And this isn't about assessing support, that you have to go every week to count. Define it yourself. No pressure. Nobody to deliver to. That's why United is still special. The only time you really can do what you want. Support United as you see fit (though there are certain lines not to cross, most would agree on, anyway).


    United and us - this life led together - is so much more than just going to match. People may travel just minutes to see the 90, they may travel 90 (+) miles, or continents even, just to see the team, but whilst what we're heading to is certain, the way we do it all, the way we want to do it all, is a ragtag mix of hopes, dreams and achievements, and that's the support I'm talking about, let alone what the actual team will do that day!


    Some of the excesses of branding out the Utd name around the world may grate (the club so willing to sell its name any which way they can, ok, if it helps the debt and hastens their departure - yet never forget the £478m taken out which could have been used solely for the good of the club - but so unable to put the name attached to United which we'd all welcome to see; Football Club, back).


    And it isn't of course just about a matchday day. It never is ‘just’, whatever the scoreline, because every one takes an effort, has a story, has a tale to tell about somebody, about something on the way to a match or MUFC related. Even meeting a hero in some chance encounter. Some may eye their one a season visit, or go all the time, but it's more than a focus or event. It's glib to adopt the Nick Hornbyesque ‘way of life’', but for those who've done it, just do it, it is like that. It's not a hobby.


    Outsiders, those who you dread meeting who don't get it, don't get football, don't get the passion which yes can be absurdly lived out at times, may look down at this ‘hobby’ in their eyes, but this isn't planting flowerbeds in the garden once a month and forgetting them, or seeing floating fish in a tank when you've forgotten to feed them. Everybody knows when United are playing. if you can make it or not, if the desperate attempts (or easy for the lucky few) to get a ticket for an away game has come off. I veered away from people saying Hornby got football, when he didn't really resemble any life I've seen at games, and it suited a generation who wanted to pseudly attach themselves onto the blossoming revival and all seater stadiums to have a bible to admire and point to why they were now 'getting' football. Football books have stuttered since. I'm encouraged, even if he is a Spurs fan, by John Crace's autobiography as a depressed Spurs fan (aren’t they always depressed?!). He writes: “After my mum and sisters, Spurs is the longest relationship I have ever had, and it's an infinite source of enrichment: Spurs show me how to win and lose, how to say hello and goodbye. From 90 minutes to a lifetime.”


    Total context in one paragraph. I have known Manchester United now longer than anyone else bar my family. I know that when I'm at a ‘do’ and I hear Walking on Sunshine, I do a pathetic David Brent dance not because I like Katrina and her Waves (though I did fancy her when it first came out), but because when we played Boro hoping to win the league at thiers in ‘96, that was the song that came on before we left for the ground. A few pints in, we all sang it, to much bemusement amongst a group of Boro fans we'd drank with (and somewhat encouragingly they didn't chase us about as some Boro liked doing). Now I hear it. I think of that day. Of ‘down by the Riverside’. I've never thought of anything else when I hear them.


    Life is like that, the life united, United becoming life. We do other things, we enjoy other things but we are tied to them and spending how much of our life going to games, thinking about going or watching them, wherever that may be, or discussing them. It is the tug that pulls at us, and we pull at it, stronger a times or just safely there to cling to when we are distracted. We may hate what many aspects of the club have become, but at its core, that look at the ground, those first steps up to your seat; now sometimes ageing, drunken steps into the stands, are still as welcoming as ever.


    Our United does not judge. Does not do greed. Bar wanting trophies. And if our cycle ends, those who just do this thing, will stay and do this thing. We'll moan more, if that were possible, but doing is what we said we'd do, and most, will, do.


    It's not a crux, of course that is said many times, it a happy or sad escape, but that too is glib. It may help us escape from realities at times, but escape means running away from something when we're more likely running (if I could still run) towards this as something enjoyable. And it is here to be enjoyable even if we are put through the wire. We befriend people at games, or with more modern media resources befriend them even when we don't know them properly and haven't even met them in person (and hope they are ok when we finally do!) and they can become real friends. Meeting up at games, on way to games, after games, then maybe even away from United, though talk may no longer involve United as much or as often as company grows, and you discuss lives, it is still always Red based in essence.


    With Red friends becomes the usual circle of life; births, deaths and marriages. You grow older with mates, so they have kids. Christenings, where a good few Reds will attend. Sadly attending funerals where the majority of the contingent have been Reds to give a fellow Red a proper, respectful send off. To be remembered by this extended family. And weddings, be they ones with long suffering spouses who have long since given up on understanding the obsession/drug, but accommodate (most of time) their lives together with it. Or Reds who have even met at games, got on, got it on. And got wed as Reds.


    So it was on international weekend just gone, around 25 Reds from as far flung places as Greece, Wales, and Wythenshawe attended Dutch Erik’s - a Red of many years - wedding. Dutch Reds greeted us, the numbers bulked. We all knew each other from United, and here we were on a euro away without the football. It was quite fun without the inconvenience of the 90 minutes interrupting the company, no being batoned or penned in. Erik said it took him a while to understand why the UK was called so many things: United Kingdom, Great Britain, Little Britain (his only joke of the speech!). To those not part of this life and Red world, what United bonds we share would be equally hard to fathom, Reds treating it like a euro away without the football, considering it a United trip, following a team not playing for another week. And this would be replicated somewhere else that weekend, whether in Manchester, or elsewhere. Erik even asked us all to wear tuxedos, some request when most of us had never seen one let alone worn one. Mates known years, shared goals, games, grimaces, disputing maybe certain issues like selection or even ownership together but sharing something so special that it's unique. And, of course at such a thing, not one non Utd fan was stupid enough to ask for the band to play YNWA and make that unwholesome mistake!


    Football culture is different of course. I'm sure you don’t have scores of Harry Potter knobheads meeting in the pub away from the film or after they've read the book and sharing lives. Train spotters, always the oddballs of the universe, have to be admired for still doing their thing when every train now looks the same bar the name, but that's a hobby (or a crime, depending on your outlook). That is put in a box when they go home, not to be mentioned or shared until the lunchbox is packed and the duffel coat pulled on, and the flask is ready to be opened to spot the same Virgin train the next week.


    I actually have a mate (and a seller!) who sits nexts to me who likes Harry Potter but also getting rancid drunk at United and was an usher at my wedding. Behind me is Steve who has been there as long as we have, and the lad who was in the band that was eventually to become Oasis, to the left Jason, sat by us for years, all good lads, all of us different. After a game we'll meet the great and the good, all from different lives, backgrounds. It's easy to say we share a love of United, that it natural we are going to get on, but what does that mean? There’s that many of us it does not stand to reason. But on the whole we do, and that’s great.


    Some may be in need, needing help and a Red will go out of their way to aid just because they have heard the immortal words: “I’m a Red”. You can share a moan, a natter, a pint with a stranger before a match, see them again, say hi, and then becomes mates, which becomes talking shit at 4am in an odd seedy bar on a euro away. Even Justin Timberlake understands. “I can’t think of a faithful as strong as the Man United fans.”


    At times we hate what the cub itself gives us back in return, but the relationship is as strong now as it ever was with the untainted core. Not quite ‘United wife kids’ in that order then, because United is constant, at the forefront or in the background whilst we get on with the struggles of our lives. And then seek it out when we want some escape from them, or to top off a happy period. We go when we're sad, happy or buzzing. We go with loads, or few, or just by ourselves. Journeys can take a day, or trips last days. The 90 minutes is the focus, and why effort is made, but it's so much more than that. It would have to be to put up with all the hassles we now face.


    An obsession ‘for sure’, a way of life, rarely but a ‘hobby to most’'. We know what it means, we know how significant. So we can’t explain it at times, or tell anyone else how to do it. Of course there is always a jobsworth to try and spoil the fun. We're celebrating this way of life, but United being United, they can’t help but fail to get it or celebrate this passion from its own terraces. One well known Red (not Erik) once asked if he could use the crest on his own wedding napkins. About 50 to print. Nobody else would see them. The club in full congratulatory mode warned him, no, or else he’d face copyright issues and consequences. They don’t make it easy, do they?


    But whatever, this - being a fan - really is the only time we can ‘do what we want’. Match ticket hassles, etc, not forthcoming, we support United in the way we want to on the whole in terms of waking up, checking United news, and planning your next match, whenever that be. And then getting to it and (trying) to enjoy it. We do it with like minded souls or polarised individuals who we like doing it with. We are a family. Maybe not one big happy one anymore. As I’m not saying everything is rosy, especially under Gimpsville, and some who act up well beyond normal boundaries. But pretty much, we're on the right tracks still. We mix and mingle well with all the tentacles from far and wide and there is still, despite all the changes, nothing on earth like being a Red.


    Congratulations then Dutch Erik, and all of us like him. One of many in this United family who would scoff at any who think supporting United is just about watching 22 men wearing some poncy kit made out of recycled bottles kicking a ball around for two periods of 45 minutes each way. A culture, a way of life. Call it what you will. We call on it as often as we want. And we know that ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, or whatever way you look at United, it is always there.


    Barney
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  5. #35
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    The more Sir Alex Ferguson talks about the Glazers, the less you want to hear of it.


    The more he does, the more I feel transported into an episode of Lost; we're not exactly sure of the year, but the in fighting between some Reds seems exactly the same whatever time in space we've landed on somewhere between 2005 and 2012.


    The depression if not surprise at Fergie's comments seemed shared by a large section of Reds judging by comments on forums and twitter but they are of course, as we are constantly reminded, not a barometer of general Utd fan consensus; who knows what proportion of fanzineland with its readers and forums is constituted as so amongst the the wider world, but dismiss it at your peril, as these are the bread and butter match goers, expected to subsidise the good ship MUFC through good and bad. And will do. Have done. Do so.


    Since those numbing events in May 2005 when the horse owners (who had been encouraged to invest, remember) galloped off and left the Glazers to snout up the rest of the overall control they had long since eyed, the horizon for many United fans has been a divided one. The Glazers prior to control even went as far as fighting the very club and senior staff who they would then flutter eyelids at to do their bidding, a very strange offensive manoeuvre (and some could say they are offensive full stop) to gobble up that which Joel so badly wanted - division follows them. As we are constantly told, the likes of you or I are not representative of United's overall fanbase. How could we dare be, there's 658,999,999 others out there so common ground with that many is but a state of mind. I can only speak for myself, so any talk of ‘speaking for United fans’ is always much ado about nothingness, but sadly there doesn't seem anything like a United-ness, a unity, anymore, bar for the 90 minutes on each matchday (thankfully). But that saddens me as much as anything bar their debt.


    Many thought the words uttered by Fergie that cut through Cape Town fog - ‘real fans’ - were solely made to his mate Bob Cass but that's not true, they were replies to questions from Cass (and Steve Bates) on a tour 'sit down' with those scribes who had travelled over (and weren't banned!) in SA. Some others present didn't think questions on the owners in any shape were allowed, because of rules affecting the imminent IPO, leading to speculation on just why the subject matter was chosen - yet despite conspiracies it seems nothing more than opportunistic questioning right at the end of the normal pre-season Q&A sit down.


    So thats the what happened, but what about the why, the response given? It's led to intense Miss Marple fathoming whether this was some scratchy back brinkmanship from Fergie - defend the Glazers now before the IPO, and then be backed more significantly, or simply that he is blind to the consequences of the debt being pointed out by all and sundry, finds it all part of their legal (but morally questionable) takeover and he will defend them whenever asked - as he always has, in public at least. It happened, he thinks, he deals with it. Fergie does what Fergie wants and tries to always get what is best for both him and the club, and after a quarter of a century, in his mind at least, both interests will be intertwined, and though you can at times separate them and proclaim self interest for some of his decisions, I do not believe he says what he did to just maintain his lucrative - higher than plc era - contract. But because of the length of his unbelievable management tenure, it can be a danger that what Fergie says, has to go. Word given, word must be accepted and taken. He is not always right you know.


    We're all tiny little ants in this, but what we all share as fans from all sides is that we passionately care about United, its soul, and the release that it gives us from a life that can be both heavenly and haunting, and my lasting memory of the legacy of the Glazers is that we did used to agree and get on so much more than we do now. We're still good, and times can ve great, but things aren't as grand, the sound at times of it all slightly muffled. The rows continue, even taking into account that you rarely, if ever, meet anybody who believes the Glazers are actually a good thing. Well, apart from SAF. And does he? Does he really? Away from the shackles of public conversation, I know lesser Utd staffers who have to put on a front at work, but feel as many fans do about their overall employers.


    Add modern communication, and the internet what it is, debate initially flourishes and then gets replaced by bile - ‘my view is bigger and better than your view’ type of thing. A tree hugger at heart, though I've never actually hugged any wood bar my own, I grew up in a naive atmosphere that United fans had enough enemies as it is so we should look after our own and get on with our own. And be proud of it. We'd have fall outs, but like a drunk pals' reunion where we are hugging and sharing ‘I love you mate’ at the end of each evening, all would be forgiven. Unfortunately 2005 changed all that. We know where we are, and where we've come from - the sacrifices that some have made, the blows traded to get here, low blows in between. But for now at Old Trafford nobody has really come up with any great plan to try and repair the pieces. Be it when the Glazers are gone, or now, so that at the very least we can get on better; plan and plot a course ahead, building upon that thing we all share; United.


    The United phrase book needs updating. ‘Limited number of Season Tickets Available’ is like a mantra you can repeat instead of counting sheep at night; it was inferred for many year, as if to put fear into the equation - if you ever dare not renew your support will combust in a black hole because you'll never be able to come back, that United for years had a waiting list that took no prisoners; you renewed or you would be replaced. It was true in the early years, when I had but an LMTB you'd jealousy eye Season Tickets like Willy Wonka's gold foldies themselves, and then when capacity was restricted in the 90s they were hard to come by but now, some six weeks after renewal deadline expired, we are bombarded by adverts and appeals - via email and texts - which presumably many of those 659m fans aren't seeing to guarantee the sell outs which are no longer assured. I renewed, I don't feel guilty for doing so, as some mates do, but I do feel sorry that so many loyal, good Reds are no longer able, through choice or finances, to do the same, and as renewal date approaches I do feel twangs of remorse and disgust at what the club have done to tarnish the process. And as a consequence Old Trafford gets worse with each season, and I've not even mentioned the ‘sit down, shut up’' regulations that so blight modern footballing stadiums. On the face of it, all is jolly well well at Old Trafford, scratch the surface and tickets can be easy to pick up, unsold even. And this when we're on top of our game, the world in our hands. Mr Potato hugging Fred the Red.


    There are so many aspects to the Glazer takeover and all that has passed since that it's hard to remember the way things were - but whilst some (and I don't blame them at times) just want to cover their eyes and ears to the consequences of it, Fergie's magic and his continually successful achievements have helped support and cover up the damage of nigh on half a billion pounds going down the Suwannee. We'll never get it back. It is such an obscene amount, just gone, click fingers, KAPOW, that it almost seems ludicrously surreal at times - has this all actually happened? Does Gill really feel comfortable with this?


    These questions have pinged around like a Pinball Wizard, they've been argued and frustrated about since Day 1 - and top Reds have achieved honorary degrees in smugness on all sides castigating others, but it has done no good, especially after the event, to tear at someone who sat with you. It rips open the plasters covering barely healing wounds and takes us back to square one. We look back rather than plotting the next stages and all that we achieve when it's mentioned (and it needs to, every day should be an awareness about their ownership, not because people want you to concentrate on finances and dull stuff instead of the football, but the consequences of how United have suffered because of it, and done so well in spite of it), is collectively we slide back down the snakes and ladders board.


    Much will now be written about Fergie's latest comments, though granted we don't known the context of his replies, and on the whole they are nothing new (http://www.skysports.com/story/0,195...311574,00.html for example). We see the cold words staring back at us, and many don't like it, especially this dig at ‘real fans’ - as yet only darkly presumed what he might have meant by that. I am grateful it was SAF in charge during these dark financial years - imagine the repercussions of someone else having to deal with ‘no value’ (if we can leave his culpability in the Waiting for Midfield issue for another day) - as I never wanted United to decline to hasten their departure, granted a few think this toxic solution was the ONLY solution, but I could never bring myself to that point. I just didn't ever want them, don't want them now, and want them gone. I realise that saying that but doing as I always did by attending could be conceived as hypocritical - and not buying kits or beer at OT is small feed, but it is what it is, as dear old Zsa Zsa Gabor kept telling me. So what happens next? With you, I and others with all our differing views, sitting on this rather uncomfortable stool under the chestnut tree?


    You see, I don't think SAF has actually changed that much over the years, this is not a realigning in behaviour, outlook or personality, even though many talk about this change in his character and outlook as some significant turning event that has happened over the last few years. I just feel that people held him in such high regard pre-all this - so high it was deity like insufferable levels - that there was a failing to add a 3 dimensional texture to the human fallacy that we all possess - so that, transfer signings apart which are pulled apart at will, they failed to see he could make the same mistakes (as I'd see them) as you or I can make. He is only human. He was making the odd off-field mistake or error of judgement but ‘here comes the Treble. What did you say again?’ What he, you or I should do and what we actually do can be poles apart. It shouldn't be seen as blasphemy to love the whole but take to task over certain matters. That's what all good families should do. Errors of judgement over that length of time are inevitable, and though some will say ‘how dare you, you can't criticise’ - why not, every great figure should be open to constructive reflection. I readily admit I make mistakes, we all do. History will judge who is right or wrong here, but that so many fans - so many fans who have stood by him so often - consider he has let them down with these quotes, is pretty telling. These fans are ones I trust. These are the real ‘real’ fans, who traipse up and down the country and across the globe at vast expense, sacrificing much so they can support a team they adore and a club that turns its back on them more often than not. Most players not even showing a wave to travelling Reds on Euro aways, but these fans do it because that's what they do, loved or otherwise. I would stand side to side with them and know exactly where I am with them. And for those who think this is nothing; however much you can dismiss his comments, play them down, that the ‘real’ fans jibe didn't mean this or that, it was levelled at somebody, at some section of Manchester United fans.


    I don't think SAF should have resigned back in 2005, I never did, I still love him, he's changed our lives. But that's not a free pass over major issues. I know over any period of significant time there are going to be subjects where we'll disagree, that's what people ‘in love’ do, fall out even, even if fans are kept at substantial arms' lengths where we once were not, and could meet and talk, where these kind of distanced comments would have been followed by meetings to see what actually he'd meant. I have many friends who don't hold him in the regard that I do, but crucially the relationships developed over match going years means that we agree to disagree and move on (if it gets anywhere approaching heated). My wish would be that United fans as a whole - not the 659m - but a core (if we can even dare suggest one still exists) would realign, argue passionately but not get distracted, to place it in context in the greater scheme of things.


    If he can't raise questions in public about this debt - it's too late for that - and I sincerely hope he is behind closed doors, because it is #500m in pointless debt and PIKs and other unfathomables that could have been spent on his and our club, on securing a grand team for the final years of his final era - what I don't understand is why he goes out of his way not just to lavish praise on the hirsute Gingers from Florida, but put down those very fans who, yes, he may well not agree with, but who care passionately about the future (and past and present) of Manchester United. Who were doing it long before they arrived on the scene and will be there to pick up the pieces when they have left the ravaged landscape. Manchester United may not well do a Rangers, but will still bear the consequences of a debt that meant we were the biggest sports' franchise in the history of the world, and unable to properly exploit it, barely able to make ends meet at times. His comments were unnecessary and whilst everyone is big enough to not let words belittle his achievements, once again, the arguing starts, the real targets get clouded in mist and we're unable to use it as a launch pad not to reignite Green + Gold, but create something that lasts, that will have a longer affect, that will be inclusive and allow Reds from all the different avenues and choices made to at least reconnect if not follow set paths together.


    I'm not saying I expected him to tell the Glazers to sling it - but I do expect him to tread carefully when it comes to commenting on those loyal fans who give so much each and every season. Ignore all other comments if you will, or want, but ‘real fans’ was a slight. But SAF should no more be the target as United fans should be on opposing sides should; it does no good, it's counter productive, whatever the provocation at times. There is one entity to blame here, and one alone, whatever feelings towards facilitators. And it is the Glazers.


    But there is always hope. The thing worth remembering is you can't change what SAF says and feels, you can only react to it. And how you react to it and what you do could define you as much as you judge the comments. He has said similar in the past, he'll say the same again. It may be what he believes is the long game, protecting the club at all costs in the here and now as he has told friends, one that again you might not agree with, but if it were also just a short poker hand to try and flush out funds for this immediate challenge it's all a bit beneath the man, especially when you hoped such battles that we only find out after the event like his own with Martin Edwards were again, things of the past. Revelations may well only come when the next volume of his autobiography gets written. That’s a shame, as I’d love to know what he really thinks. I have such great respect for him - and I have been touched personally by his kindness - that it still hurts even at my age to be disappointed by anything he does.


    The worst type of reaction would be yet more infighting, it suits only one purpose; the continued awful deeds done in the name of profit towards Manchester United by a family who own it, though granted not its soul, but don't even attend games such is their devalued existence. There is nothing on earth like being a Red, never has and never will be, but I see an Old Trafford that isn't that what it once was. United were shifted to the Cayman Islands in a plot twist more depressing than fiction could dare create. Again, is this really happening?


    For too long any sense of 'United-ness' has lay dormant, the fans' groups don't meet, we believe in a core concept - the Glazers are not good - but as a collective we struggle to move forward from that point. How you get that inclusive-ness when you have polarised views within all the groups - hell there are lots of splits within all the contributors and sellers at RN but the crucial point is we get along - is beyond me as I am just the Editor of a small fanzine off Beetlejuice. We have the first step covered - the Glazers are not good for the health of MUFC. Step two is as hard to approach and fathom as what the Glazers have planned next. But 7 years down the line how far forward are we as fans at Old Trafford? Is it that improbable to then think of next steps. Together?


    But surely there has to be a way. We know there are some fans' groups that some don't agree with - but what harm can there be in everyone using this ‘teamunited’ idea not as a blueprint but as a chance to start afresh; maybe not to bring the walls of Rome tumbling down, but to just talk again, to start being more proactive, to reenergise, and to give United fans' not just more of a collective voice, but a sense of possibilities rather than the shrugging ‘what can I do?’ that exists now. It might be uncomfortable, the early meetings might not be pretty, but there can be no point with half measures; everyone who represents any section of Manchester United supporters from all sides should be invited, and Reds from all sections of our support then meet them. Together. And take it from there.


    I'm not saying any of this is the route to over throwing the Glazers, but it might well be to making United fans feel closer about, and to, each other. That can be no harm at all. For too long we've been pockets, we need to start feeling like a Red Army again. It may seem strange talking conciliation when these words from Fergie appear the very opposite - but if our representation of caring for the club is different from his, and we live in different worlds after all, then what better to use moments like this for good, rather than bloat in bile and further fall out? Fergie doesn't have to be nice to us. But he doesn’t have to not be nice about MUFC fans.


    Of course none of this is new, sad to say. The arguments from day 1 under them to day 2628 now have been regurgitated and lobbed back and forth, again and again and we are no nearer their overthrow, sadder still no nearer throwing arms around each other for a much needed group hug. But history tells us one thing. They will depart. As did all those who came before them. What state the club is in, we do not know. Nor who will come next, but we must not just start planning for that moment, as prepared as mere fans can be, but start the realignment Manchester United fans need to be in so we are better placed and in a better place than that which we are now.


    Being more United as United fans does no harm, and can help Reds - note redaway's fantastic efforts to secure higher away tickets allocations on our travels when host safety committee's want to reduce (and we really need to see less aisle standing as that seems the point they are gunning for us on) them. Helping Reds, unifying them. That's one lad on his own, imagine if we could reconnect a few thousand? We need to move on, looking back is doing us no good. In its purest form, whilst of course we are here to ‘just’ attend United and be entertained, to have fun, to care about United on and off the field and how it is run is not a crime. Nobody cares more than any other person, it's channeling all that passion into some sort of greater collective. And explaining why being called a fan who isn’t ‘real’, is no fun, and not fair at all.


    The Glazers don't talk to us. Well, they haven't talked to anyone about United since 2005. There's is a lead I do not wish to follow. Let us hope United fans in small numbers and large start to talk again. Argue passionately, and figure a way forward rather than fight. The divisions do us no good and if we can't convince SAF of that, let's hope over time we can convince ourselves of it. As the advert goes, it's good to talk. But anything is a start. And better than this place now. ‘There's no doubt about that’. Tree hugging can be optional.


    Barney. Wednesday 25th July 2012.
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  6. #36
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    December 2008. Manchester United became World Club Champions. Here was the report from the trip to Tokyo


    This article first appeared in RN153


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    I arrive at my hotel reception at 2am. The place is massive and even at this hour there are 4 staff who beckon me to sit down; the procedure to set a wake up alarm call for the airport bus involving serious consideration, at least two entries into two large diaries, a lot of nodding at computer screens, and my signature on two separate pieces of paper. I'm dishevelled, drunk, and dressed as Santa. Or at least I was, but each hours drinking seems to have seen caused unintentional disrobing of my uniform so I've lost my belt, my hat, and my reindeer, if I'd had any.


    Another Santa staggers in through the main doors, greets this Santa with a loud airing of a song from the game earlier - “Bring on the Martians” - and steps into the lift to take him to the 39th floor. This is Tokyo, we're World Champions, and not very much seems to have been lost in translation as I head to my room with the reception staff waving off this inebriated Santa to his lift. Life is good when it's this good.


    Rewind a few months and my post one-day trip to Moscow promise to sacrifice all it took (and that will be a lot this season) to see United in the Super Cup and now Fifa Club World Cup Finals (formerly the Intercontinental and Toyota Cup) this time around after regretfully missing out in 1999 meant I called on my trusted friend Barclaycard Visa and booked and paid for the flight and hotel to Tokyo at a time when sterling was holding its own against the Yen. Little was I to know that upon arrival in Japan everything already priced exorbitantly had that much more of a grip around the balls. I'd still had a result paying at the old rate as when I went to change up my spending money a week before the trip it's not an exaggeration to say Sterling was devalued by nearly 5% in the time it took me to leave the house, grab a coffee and get to the bureau de change. This supporting United abroad business is becoming expensive now it seems as though only United themselves are doing anything of note outside of the UK as the team holds its own but our economy flounders against any opposition as those running the economy show all the financial skill of Peter Ridsdale.


    I was disappointed that we'd approached the game in Monaco with only half interest in the lead up to the match, though of course the timing straight into the season didn't help, and though the approach to Tokyo had been regarded with disapproval at times because of the unnecessary further disruption to our league campaign (surely only in football land could FIFA arrange such a tournament just a few days before the real Santa got to work, madness timing...), I was worried that United would struggle to take this re-worked format of the tournament seriously. All season Fergie had seemed to send mixed messages about the event (at the start of the season even seeming to suggest he'd take a reserve side with Stoke in mind - “It is possible that I will leave a lot of our more senior players behind”), and then joking that Paul Scholes would be dreading his return to first team action because of where it was: “Paul Scholes will be available to go to Japan. He'll be delighted with that! He's taking anti depressant tablets already!”


    But as December approached, the tune began to change, and rightly so, and Fergie time and time again made more of the right noises about competing in a tournament that, as David Gill also suggested, could in years to come rise in stock, a potential for a proper world tournament for the top club sides to compete against each other. Fergie saw the light after we'd bagged the trophy: “I have no regrets about going to Japan. The prestige of being there was immense. We tend to be parochial about football in Britain, but the opportunity to become world champions is something money can't buy. To start with, you have to become European Champions to take part... United didn't become a global name by staying home. We are a big club, and bidding to become world champions is what we're all about. So we had to be in Japan”. And quite right too.


    We can't change the opposition put in front of you, and make no mistake, though the media (ironically playing the event down but many sending their best journalists out to cover it as Fergie also noted: “The English media don't take it as seriously as we do”) and the likes of Graeme Souness belittled it as nothing more than a half competitive series of testimonials, those Liverpool fans watching back home know we've now done something, twice, that they never could and Sourness himself knows that their own European Champions tried to achieve on three occasions what we have now down the twice. ‘You’re not famous anymore...’ indeed.


    After Moscow I viewed the trip to Tokyo as further proof of winning the European Cup, as if there was even more to be had from that particular achievement, a further icing on the cake. As this season fast forwarded quickly I wanted to win it, big time. Crowned Champions of Planet Earth. How often can you say that? Fergie best summed it so: “We're delighted to be going to Japan. We're going there because we've won the Champions League and I hope we'll be playing in this for the next five years. It's an achievement to just be involved. We're the only British team to have won it - and I consider that to be one of the club's greatest achievements. We won the Intercontinental Cup in back in 1999 and as the first British club to do that it was a prestigious piece of history for us. To win this would be even better. Of course it's worth it".


    Scolari managed Palmeiras when we beat them in 1999 and recently said: “Keane's goal is still in my mind. I don't want to think about that game again”. It matters, and will matter more so, so don't let the ABUs fool you otherwise, though of course we could do well with trumpeting it ourselves more, even the latest update to the Official History of United DVD didn't even mention our 1999 triumph, nor the testing ties against Estudiantes in '68. If it were the Scousers they'd already be seeking to keep the trophies, so I can't see why 'Champions of Planet Earth, 1999, 2008' shouldn't adorn the Stretford End as a new flag too. We have to celebrate it more to make it more.


    But back to the Santas. If it were Geordies or Siddy fans doing it I'd be taking the piss out of the sad bastards but whether it was plenty of the local Asahi beer or the unusually high temperatures that saw t-shirt weather in the day, it just felt right to be doing it for the Final, an inspired idea by Welsh Lee to buy 23 of the fuckers for £5 a go. Before that we sampled Japanese hospitality and even a little bit of culture; though it took some getting used to to sit on a toilet and be approached by a set of buttons on the seat itself, one trigger happy finger and you'd unleash a stream of hot water shooting right up your back passage before the main event had even taken place. People would no doubt pay money for that in some S&M clubs back home. By my return to UK I actually started missing the option of that wave setting after unleashing my very own Mount Fuji into the Tokyo sewage system each morning. It took me an hour to work out which button did what (never worked out why mind), and this toilet going lark seems serious business for the Japanese.


    I came here for a pre-season tour in 1997, and much has changed. The economy is still on a wave (people seem either rich or just plain very well-off, well apart from that single tramp we saw who just lay on the tube forecourt wanking himself off to puzzled looks but he seemed happy enough with his own company), but the place has more of a Western feel to it (the obligatory Starbucks on nearly every street corner now), and the locals seemed fascinated with us and by us, as well as a friendliness and kindness shown to the mini Red Army in town which seemed like a different world to the one I left back in the UK.


    My grandfathers generation may still have issues, and it would take a deeper mind than mine to theorise how they have come from A to B historically these past few generations, and the Japan I saw may well have a conformity to regulation that borders on the disquieting (nobody jay walked even if there isn't a car coming for hours, just waiting like Zombies for the man to change to green to walk on mass), but there was a cleanliness, and just plain nice feel to the place. Not one bit of graffiti, anywhere. Yes it's busy, and a million people seem to fit on every corner, but it was just bloody nice to be treated nicely. The tube and Bullet train made ours back home appear Third World, and maybe I didn't get to see the underbelly that no doubt does exist somewhere but it seemed safe, however drunk anyone was, and an air that this was everything that the UK now isn't - an atmosphere of a bygone era, of not much spoiled and I left hoping that nothing will change it in years to come and what once was back home.


    I'd say about 600-800 Reds made the trip across, and many drifted each night towards the Westernised Roppongi area. Even then there were a lot more locals than a decade before, and scouting parties would seek out extended happy hours where you felt you'd had a result if £4 pints could be negotiated in bars full of Reds, Western men, prostitutes of all shapes and sizes from various nationalities and the odd Japs there just to sample Western bars that truthfully bear no resemblance to any bars I've ever encountered anywhere West in my life. The trip to the States in 2003 has always stood out as one of the best in my life, but this was to match it and if one episode summed up the well behaved (but of course pissed up) nature of the Reds out there it was to a tiny train bar, designed as one single train carriage and packed to the rafters with all sorts, as one well known Red (Holty), surged the crowd inside one way or another as if he were leading the Stretford End Sway in the 1970s.


    The mass of bodies went left, right, up and down, with Mr Holt's bald head leading each particular sway, and such was the buzz inside that it actually attracted a crowd watching outside. The bar had a massive bell inside with which unsuspecting newbies would ring it, and then be shown a sign near to it that they'd have to buy the bar a drink. So many Reds got caught in this particular sting that I wouldn't be surprised if the owner retired on the profits from that night alone, and one Red punished with a big bill (JT), decided as he'd self funded a large investment in the bar by now, it was his right to try and take the bell. The bar staff defended the bell and rope as if they were soldiers in a Warzone. One of those truly great - and surreal - nights.


    Though some of the early games leading up to our entry at the Semi Final stage (strange that 4 teams had already been knocked out by the time we played our first game) were played in Tokyo itself, ours were to be played in Yokohama, about 17 miles away. Not many stayed there, bar the team (struggling with the jetlag and time difference so that many got no more than two hours sleep each night during the whole trip) and journos, and except for the ground and a few bars nearby there wasn't that much to do on a matchday, bar watch a cosmopolitan bunch of swag sellers from around the world (and Manchester) selling all manner of United gear outside the main station about 10 mins away from the ground, whilst once again United themselves seemed strangely and naively absent with their own commercial presence bar the odd item on the stalls inside the ground. You do wonder about the nous of our own marketing team if they didn't think to set up a few stalls selling gear to people desperate to get anything with United on it whilst fake Rooney shirts reigned supreme.


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    The first game against Gamba Osaka was exciting stuff, well certainly the last 20 minutes were, and the home support cheered their own teams moves, and our own, and even locals in Utd shirts seemed to enjoy both teams' goals and contributions, the Utd contingent easily identifiable at both games as everyone bar us and the Gamba Ultras (behind their goal and excitable rather than menacing) sat down. In between the screams with each attack there was eerie silence (real silence bar the Reds nattering or bellowing), and then suddenly Ronaldo would have a free-kick and the sky would light up with hundreds of camera flashbulbs making it seem more like Oscar night. But job done. We all knew we were here for the Final on Sunday and it would have been unthinkable to have gone all this way to get knocked out so early and instead be competing in the pointless 3rd-4th Placed Final taking place before the main event. Between then Andy Mitten, UWS Ed, celebrated his birthday with a good night out in a new area of the city - the nights theme to be every Red there to debate, in some cases tirelessly, who they hated more; city, Sheep or Scouse.


    You wouldn't want to be claustrophobic when out and about in Tokyo and the sheer number of people going anywhere, at any given moment, is actually a little bit unsettling (unless you are a Man City fan and are used to a million people in one place like the hill at Blackburn...), but getting around is simple enough when you work out the maps, etc and it was good to hook up with a lot of familiar faces who'd made a lot of sacrifices to get out here and appreciated the absurdity of having a pint a 13 hour flight away (and I'll say now if Rio's back is a mess after being sat in the nice comfy reclining seats he had, he should have sat in mine designed for a dwarf there and back) as if Reds swapping stories all this way out here was the most natural thing in the world. We're so lucky to have seen United where we have, that you don't really appreciate it until 23 of you meet up dressed as fucking Father Christmas and consider it actually quite normal behaviour!


    I got a small idea of how Ronaldo must feel every day of his life as we posed, and posed, and posed some more, and then some, for pictures every step of the way from Tokyo to the ground by bemused locals. I don't think I've ever laughed as much as seeing these totally random figures, united in costumes, colour and team, stagger here, there and everywhere as the hours passed like alcoholic Santas. Pity the kids out there who thought we were the real thing actually delivering the presents on the 25th as we've ruined that mythology what with the beer stains and belching. At least enough of us had the beer bellies to prevent the need for any pillow padding to be required.


    So the Santas meandered to the ground, care of various photocalls, and the magnitude of the game started to hit home. Every Red may have viewed it differently; the tournament that is, as this game was none better than watching Sunderland at home, with LDU Quito showing the same attacking intent even when we were reduced to ten courtesy of another moment of Nemanja madness, but for me it felt, after Rooney's goal and we nervously eyed the clock towards becoming World Champions, that this was my pinnacle, the end of this particular road, but not the journey itself, as a United supporter.


    What I'd been waiting for. The league and Europe will always provide more satisfaction of course, and be the bigger lure and event but I felt all these miles from home as if we were really on top of the mountain, all our achievements summed up, explained by winning this name changing trophy that I hope one day will mean a lot more to many more.


    Next to me, and looking as ridiculous as me as another Santa, was my dear friend Paul from Ricky. We first met in Amsterdam before the 711 tournament in the 80s, and since then we've stood together in Rotterdam, and stared dumbstruck as we watched events unfold in the Nou Camp. Every big United drama we've shared, and through a friendship formed at United we've shared the highs and lows of life away from United what with its tragedies, melodramas and highs and lows. Pardon this sounding like Gwyneth Paltrow's Oscar acceptance speech but it just seemed right, however big a set of twats we looked, to hear the final whistle and know we'd done it, having seen so much before together. I wished my Mum watching back home could have been here. Maybe those here in 1999 felt the same, but however happy I was back then I felt detached watching it back home on tv, and I knew how fortunate enough I was to be here now. We all did.


    And the players perhaps realised that as they took the rare step of coming straight to those travellings Reds once the elongated and phoney presentation had taken place. The trophy was put aside, and led by Rio, the whole squad applauded the Red Army. It actually felt pretty moving, like we'd all been appreciated (for once, and Fergie even sent a letter to all who'd gone afterwards thanking us), and I waved hoping they'd understand that Santa would sort them all out in a few days times. "Ob bla di, Champions of Planet Earth", "Bring on the Martians", "Are you watching Merseyside", and then it was over, bar a few Gamba fans who'd stayed to applaud their 3rd placed team receive their own trophy and then wish us well. Job truly done, we'd achieved what we'd come for. How history will judge just how important that achievement is, I don't know or care, and I must put the selfish thought process of how do we go from this to Boro on a cold Monday night, because move on we must, and always do. This isn't a brag at being there, because trust me it's not, but I felt a passage of my Utd life climaxed dressed as an idiot, and I hope we all get plenty of opportunities to see us do it again.


    So the Santa costumes got binned, and I left Tokyo for probably the 2nd and final time, but so happy with what I'd seen and done, and at the peoples happy attitude towards Utd fans, the boisterous but never out of order actions of a Red Army at times maligned but when in smaller numbers always well behaved, and the laughs we'd had in the land of the rising fun.


    I now know why so many people in Tokyo wear the fog/smoke masks all the time though after I got back with a killer of a flu which I couldn't shake over Xmas! Next time they play it in Abu Dhabi, land of city's going down with a billion in the bank. Nobody out in Tokyo had heard of Man City, but enough knew about United (and Ronaldo, Rooney and Beckham in particular) for me to know that it's important that United continue to break the boundaries in all four corners of the globe. Liverpool and Bitter Blues playing down our trip is a back handed compliment and tells you something in itself. Some Reds may doubt the worth of this venture, but who knows one day, eh... Because Champions of Planet Earth/Universe has a nice ring about it, and though this journey ends, I suppose the fun is taking the steps back up a Mount Fuji like effort again to try and reach the summit time and time again so our rivalry extends to the best teams in the world as much as it has those in Europe and in England.


    And we did it all during the 50th anniversary year, a year that started so flatly against city but ended with us being Champions at home, in Europe and across the globe. Does it get any better than that? Fond farewell, 2008!


    by Barney RN153


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  7. #37
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    The Red News Reditorial from RN193 - Wayne Rooney - good...great...but still not world class


    The Red News Reditorial from RN193 - http://www.rednews.co.uk/subscription.php


    I wrote after Wayne Rooney's one-two with Ryan Giggs as he adeptly swiveled into the curve of the ball to glide it into the Wembley net in front of the Barcelona fans, one of his most intelligent of goals for Utd, that the world and its stage could now await for our Number Ten. Instead, barely 16 months later, rather than the world at his feet, its eyes are trained on his midriff as we shuffle uncomfortably upon hearing the ultimate putting down of any injury concerns from his manager: “The injury is maybe a blessing because he can concentrate on his fitness now in the gymnasium in particular.” Ouch.


    Fergie's man management can come in many forms, an arm around the shoulder, and the older ways of a tea cup hurtling towards it instead; it's just we don't often see either, it's all played out behind closed doors so we often don't get to hear about it until events are all played out; the livening up of a banal autobiography by a player who recalls the time Fergie tried to throttle him. Public criticisms and digs are just not his way, unless it’s an opponent or a journalist, until he feels such a timely grenade is necessary, and after weeks of tabloid speculation which we usually take with a pinch of salt, Fergie seemed to throw the very shaker at his star striker.


    With the wages that Wayne Rooney received after his October ultimatum and sudden turnaround, it has often been argued on these pages that such billing and paying should see him raise his game to such world class status and icons. That he did in terms of end result, ironed out inconsistencies with fewer creases, and a scoring season last which matches his very best. Yet there was still the odd raised eyebrow, of a perceived decline or levelling off by some, perhaps more apparent and caused by the way we seemed to over depend on him. If Rooney wasn't playing or well, or even just not playing full stop, then United didn't. That can't go on for very long and the Robin Van Persie arrival has more to do with rectifying that over reliance than anything else, but if we can quibble about how good, great or indifferent Rooney was last season, he's no nearer being on that stage that Ronaldo and Messi occupy each yearly European awards ceremony that some, myself included, hoped and possibly expected he would be.


    Some saw the burden of carrying the lofty expectations of the team, and the side itself, as a possible reason for yet another story brewing, others not so forgiving; the events that October though now beginning to become a distant dream (or would be nightmare), the elephant memories that most Reds possess, especially when crossed, makes some feel that whilst encouraging spectators, mere voyeurs to his greater script - if he were ready to use and abuse the greater name of United, they would do the same in return; until any inevitable parting, which some still think will happen, despite the continued protestations, sooner rather than later.


    But later is becoming just that, much, he's still here, and whether it be a gradual realignment since Fergie talked of cows and the grass this side being better than t’other, or because in one quick and significant signing, Fergie had devalued the overall importance and reliance of the player he once over depended upon, he’s not the only star in the United sky anymore. Now was the time, if any, when Fergie could swing the axe and raise, in public and private, both whispered or announced, his concerns. Fergie is canny enough to know that.


    I was always worried when Rooney himself as far back as two years ago said he doubted he could be playing into his 30s, his style of play the cause he alluded to, as Reds were more inclined to look through any metaphorical bins for diet and fuel habits. It can become a self fulfilling prophecy if you doubt whether you can actually do or achieve something, and whilst Rooney's advisors would ring Talksport a few weeks ago to clarify that his book comments about coming back to training overweight were in fact about 2009, not 2012, let us not forget that in 2011, even with a smile and in a light hearted chat, he admitted on England duty last August that: “The fitness coach gave me a programme to follow over the summer but I left it behind. I honestly didn’t lift any weights, run, nothing. I was a couple of kilos heavier than I should have been but I feel that has benefited me. I can easily put a lot of weight on, so I had to watch what I was eating. But I enjoyed the time with family.”


    Matt Dickinson of the Times used the language of Bobby Robson describing Gazza as he tweeted: “Wrote about Rooney fitness, refuelling concerns the other day. Can't say I find his explanation of weight issues in Mirror too reassuring”. We can hark back to the days when we could freely mix with Robbo, Norm and McGrath, but they are gone, and if truth be told it wasn't doing the culture of the club much good let alone the drinking culture - any player not following a well thought out programme, in an age where most players don’t touch a drop, is chasing the pack right from the off. Now Rooney readily talks about adjusting his career as he gets older: “I even think about playing in midfield permanently, but only later in my career. Why? Well, in midfield I don’t have to be as sharp as a forward.” That sort of talk concerns me. A player like Rooney, and any player at United, has to be as sharp as he can for as long as he can.


    (The Red News Reditorial from RN193 - http://www.rednews.co.uk/subscription.php)


    We hear David Moyes felt like banging his head against a wall about what Rooney ate - I've heard for the penchant for sausages, and no, don't laugh - and whilst the odd fag and pint won't make that great a difference per say, the game has moved on, and when we're worried as to exactly whose company Rooney will eventually be talked alongside, with any headlines like these, it's almost back down the snakes and ladders board as out come the Gazza comparisons. More journo nonsense of course, but let’s not forget he was dropped for Blackburn last season after issues from a night out. “During the season, I don’t think there’s any harm having a take-away now and then. The club always has someone on hand to talk to me about diet if I need them.” Fast forward a few paragraphs: “When I get up in the morning after a game, I struggle to walk for the first half an hour. I ache a bit. It wasn’t like that when I was a lad.” In the modern game, there can be a connection where once nobody cared, or any were realised. We like saying he's one of us - a real lad, and all that - but the difference comes when you start acting like we do, surely? Piers Moron's missus, Celia Walden writing in the Telegraph of a meal with the two couples in June: “…the boy from Croxteth made his appearance later on when the drinks started arriving in twos, and he fell backwards into an oversized flowerpot at the end of the night, but by then the Roonster had won me over.”


    United fans will forgive most things - the Scouse heritage most obvious - and we know Rooney tries on the pitch as much if not more than any, but with him already being observed warily with every step since events back then, it does him no good to lads and lasses working their balls of just to see him and the team play to find suggestions about excess weight, like almost a joke, with not many laughing.


    You see we may well see Rooney and Fergie hugging come May, looking as good as gold, as thick as, er, well, you get my point. But we also know in our X Files marked Jaap Stam, Ruud, Beckham and Keano circa the end, that there is always a subplot and story behind the veneer, and only two games into a season the cold reply of why he didn't start the fateful Fulham game was met by a “He wasn't as fit.” You'd have liked to have seen, if anyone of worth was still allowed into press conferences to actually ask, Fergie queried as to why he wasn't fit. Euros there may well have been, but he'd still had a significant pre-season under his belt, or so we thought. Rather than he looking like he needed to re-notch his belt.


    Some thought the extracts from his book were fascinating. I found it all still quite bland, if not as bad as Hunter Davies' first book, still quite clearly more the words of the ghostwriter than the subject - “It feels like I’ve put my head in front of a BaByliss Turbo Power 2200.” (as if he said that). But I don't go for this cheap dismissal about his intelligence. His football brain, anyway.


    He is a deep thinker about the game, and I was always impressed whilst the likes of Michael Carrick admitted they wouldn't be watching the Rome or Wembley Finals again, he did; to study, to learn. David Winner in one interview for a short feature in the ESPN magazine last May got more significant thoughts about his footballing thought process than a rather dull description of that city game in his book where a highlight is him telling us what the scoreboard said the score is. And the quite ludicrous description of that controversial pre-season return (of ‘09): “The scales in the club gym tell me I've put on a few more pounds than expected – seven. Seven! Then I remember – I drank a few bevvies while I was away. I'm stocky.” ‘I remember I drank a few bevvies’, hmm, hardly Steinbeck eh…


    Perhaps Fergie once making his point is now going for the arm around the shoulder approach, public blast achieved, but the problem is you can't quite masking tape repair the gap between player and those who just don't trust him anymore in the stands. Minority some may still be, but it is a significant one. I asked on twitter how Reds now feel about him, if their views had changed, after yet another apology, this time in the book - though his dismissal of it as a ‘bad choice’ and ‘mistake’ were still wide of the mark to how significant it had been, well to us anyway - and the answers were split, if sided towards those who want him to do the business, and just best leave it at that.


    He asked himself which had been his best year in the Premiership. One well known Red tweeted him: “I liked the one where you almost joined City. That was a great one.” That's what happens when you ‘play’; with United, it is lop sided towards perceived fans’ trust and who they believe, and whilst I am more forgiving, I don't really trust any of them when it comes to transfer matters (see Rio meeting Cuddly Pete in that Chelsea restaurant to hasten a deal with Comfortable Gill or for ulterior motives), and modern footballers are not that which I grew up with; fewer heroes, less frequent doting. 


    So I love watching him play, want him to stay as long as he’s great and giving his all, understand some of the pressures he's under as the England toy thing to pick up and then discard by the press when he's in vogue or not, but that's about it. Rooney now says: “It is an episode that I am not proud of but it has helped me because it has given me great desire and hunger to be more successful at this club.” I’m not saying that should be it or good enough or appease, because Reds are allowed to still feel hurt, even though I'd urge it dull a bit, for sanity sake as much as anything as we'll see more like it if the Glazers remain with their false economy, but he has done what he said since then - given his all. Which makes the Super Fat me reality show this summer that much harder to accept. He's running out of time, already, to lift his Pantheon, and any culpableness in slowing down any possible arrival on that UEFA stage is frustrating as fuck.


    Take notice then of his own words about Ronaldo in 2007: “Ronnie’s ambition isn’t just talk either. In the changing rooms before the 2006/07 season I notice something different about him. He’s come back from the World Cup muscly and beefed up, like he’s been on the weights all summer. I know one thing: this change hasn’t come about by luck. He works bloody hard.” So do you Wayne on the pitch, but we also fear what you do off it... England didn't help either. Allowing that Vegas lads’ trip so soon before the Euros was madness. ‘These are grown men’. But quite often, they aren't really, are they? That raises questions too about United's approach of getting the best out of their most prized assets and their trust in their training away from Carrington.


    Rooney does admit in the book: “I don’t like getting shouted at by anyone. It’s hard for me to take, so sometimes I shout back. I tell ‘Fergie’ he’s wrong and I’m right.” You wonder if SAF, as can be his way, has that in the back of his mind when things aren’t going well. You always fear for a player who doesn’t just ignore the advice when he’s on top of his game, essential to the team, but when the tide begins to turn and he’s no longer as vital - as Becks. and co will testify.


    We’re not at that stage now. But this was supposed - I thought it would be - when the world was Rooney’s stage. Instead he is realising the MUFC world waits for no man and however great he’s been, this stage of his career could pass him by in a flash if he’s not too careful. Fergie often talks of not carrying any passengers, of the United bus always moving with momentum; shame then that the one we relied on for so long is having to jog behind blowing to make this season’s journey when he finally could have real quality help alongside him. He should have been waiting, primed and ready.
    We don't often defend Neil Custis on these pages but whilst Reds were quick to give him stick about his story that United could - could - offload for £50m, what it did suggest was that something wasn't quite right between the pair. We found that out later with a dismissal of it all like a teacher about a wayward pupil, the relationship once so lopsided to the player, now about turned, Fergie holding the cards, the story still plausible then, Fergie could offload if he wants to. In talking up the new boy, the new game changer, Fergie said: “Van Persie gives us that maturity and experience of a front player and I think we probably needed that.” That as much as anything should have been chilling words to Rooney. It's not just about having a rival, but someone who could now be a short term replacement. None of us want that.


    They may well hug, kiss and make up, but it'll now be the player who looks over his shoulder to see if Fergie has his fingers crossed rather than the other way around. As Christopher Davies the journalist put it to me: “The love affair with manager or fans not what it was. No split but sleeping in different rooms.” He is a game changer. He works his socks off and can raise our cockles as much as his. He is often the story, as well as changing and affecting it. But he's also now looking at a clock that has started ticking on him. Fergie provides a glowing foreword to the book: “I’d like to think I’ve made one or two good decisions during my time in football, but there is no question the signing of Rooney from Everton is up there with the best of them.” He wouldn’t have thought in publicising that book, Rooney would have to deny being sold, “if I'm wanted at this club, I'll be at this football club as long as possible.” Game, set and match to Fergie, where hopefully United benefit. Never another summer like this one tho’. Off plan. Wayne Rooney's next move isn't his own, it is Fergie's to make.


    It may seem strange debating how good a player is who has scored over 180 goals for United, who we have (over) relied on for so long. Those Reds who still feel betrayed (or feel he publically dissed his team-mates in the dressing room by questioning the greater ambition) don't let on during games about how they feel, and quite rightly so, be it for not wanting to cut open old wounds or harming the greater MUFC collective and impetus, and that's not the dance we're eyeing anymore anyway, more pressing concerns always come, and usually go.


    I love watching Wayne Rooney, but I have sometimes feared if Wayne Rooney now loves the game as much as he once did, but we can never question his enthusiasm for playing. Whether a Red in K Stand has forgiven and forgotten is neither here nor there. It's whether Fergie has, again. No Manchester United player should be called for their fitness, or seen an injury considered a ‘blessing’. It's not so much Rooney seeing out his career, or them going out for a nice Valentine's meal all made up that concerns me; it's that each summer I was rather hoping to see Wayne walk up that stage to the applause of his peers in Monaco, not read another headline about ‘who ate all the pies’. It can still happen, his stage, theirs. This might indeed be a ‘blessing’.


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  8. #38
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    The Editorial from November's Red News 195 - a new RN196 is out this Saturday.


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    Why do you support United? It's a very personal subject, some get the hump when asked it, close to our hearts about our love and passion for a thing we care about in both quantifiable and unfathomable measures, and our answers can embrace the simple to the elongated, but where both points entwine somewhere up the path to Sir Matt Busby Way where once was Warwick Road.


    Such talk - which can level the most hardened as we talk of family reasons, or out of our tragedy, or Bestie, or whatever, - can stroke our subconscious as we remember those early days of support when life and United seemed so simple; way before Automatic Cup Schemes and Gimps and where first visits can raise a conversation to goosebumps talking about our first time with more resonance than any sexual encounter around a similar rites of passage path. Older, balder, fatter yet not much wiser I still get the buzz when seeing the lights of her; always her, my Manchester United which I visualise as untainted away from all the club and funny commercial/finance business, and on the approach to the ground after being pissed off about and pissed on by the heavens when selling, I waddle to my seat packing all my troubles away for the next two hours - with troubles on field about to nag just as much - with the excitement that youth can conjure and perhaps only MUFC and big breasted nudity can still stroke.


    Sadly in the age of the internet and a more informative world, it also seems less tolerant of ways if not in ways of behaving, and whilst arguments about whether we're heading (sit down, shut up) too far in one direction than the other, instead of regaling each other with talk of first times and welcoming all comers, it becomes twisted so some lecture others on why and ways they should support United, if they came from this path or that, or intolerant of how the person next to them is behaving even if he really isn’t misbehaving. Don't get me wrong, I raise quizzical eyebrows at some 35 year old from wherever planting himself at Old Trafford for the first time who only decided to trot down Sir Matt Busby Way a year before because we win things, but I try and suppress the lectures because who am I to dare pick out, decide and tell anyone what to do when I possess the frailties of the human condition which makes any such ‘top Red’ guide to being a Red redundant as every case will be different and who the fuck should decide anyway.


    But I very much doubt that there is a single Red out there who decided to support the greatness of being that is Manchester United Football Club because they wanted to argue the toss at 2am on an internet forum over the pass ratio and worth of Michael Carrick, or because they fancied threatening another, half their age, on twitter because debating somewhere down the line became arguing which morphed into lecturing and then a blind ‘I AM ALWAYS RIGHT, FACT, YOU KNOW NOTHING, YOU ARE WRONG’ view of the world. We can all succumb to this on occasion, a strange fear of saying ‘you know, what, I just don't know about X or Y’, and in a depressing post 2005 world of supporting United with all the factions and frictions now nearly a decade on, it's almost as if as a collective we've forgotten how to have as much fun as the old days, that we have to put a morose face on the world, and sift through the weekly life of United like a gold digger, picking out the bad bits to sigh and moan at before we enjoy the better morsels of rare gold nuggets in the pan.


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    Don't get me wrong. As those who moan that I moan too often about the Glazers in my Editorial will know, my long term opposition to those who have taken £500m out of our club on needless and pointless practises ‘just’ to take their lot and reduce a debt we didn't have to a more ‘manageable’ £359m is clear, but that doesn't mean - with the decisions I made back in '05 - that I'm not going to enjoy my matchday, my United mates, my United life. You can separate the good from the bad.
    Whilst of course it is still the United way despite the more cavalier return to United ways to test our patience and blood pressure each game, you can't argue that it's not been a lot more fun this season than the football of the last two years and I was slightly crestfallen in the stands at Chelsea as we finally put the league win hoodoo to bed to have two blokes in front of me who seemed to be studying up on a Masters of Miserabilitis. Of course the knee-jerk reaction to throwing two goals away can be understood in the context of fearing the worst, but even at 2-0 up as United dominated the early stage, there seemed to be more zest to shout out at the bad pass, or giving the ball away than what we were doing well. Now such high demands are great, but it appeared to be a teeny weenie bit out of control. Temperance and all that. In Braga and after Villa I know lads who after coming to terms with the great comebacks, countered with ‘but the first half was shocking’, and though they were legally right, please break out in a smile they were reminded (with swear words!).


    A mate summed up this strange United psyche as he moaned about the new stickers appearing on our travels. “We've got flags, stickers and songs celebrating a soap character who isn't real person, has no connection with United, has never played for United, when we don't even have songs for players who have been here years, what the fuck is all that about?”. He has a point of course, but can be perceived as a somewhat miserable one! At least they are singing something, trying, having a go. They may overdo it, but let’s hope they learn rather than scorn from the off. That sort of drive and passion develops into next generations, into us, into future Reds going all over. As we pointed out to him ‘do you remember when you were young and did daft things?’, hell a few hours later on the Portuguese super ale he was doing daft things himself!


    We can often drown ourselves in this self fulfilling prophecy talk of it not being like the old days. It isn't. Seating butchered that in an instance, and whilst we must fight for better treatment (and safe standing, not just give up on that with a shrug), if you slump back in your seat, however old, conceding defeat and looking at nothing but a bygone era it gets you nowhere. You're still going to games now, at a high cost, why not if not recreate the old days, slip into the new ones more comfortably than we do. Fight for change. Nothing to lose, and however frustrating so few kids at United is, and how lowly they are encouraged by United, there are some on our scene who must be encouraged by us. Told off if it goes too far on more extreme behaviour - but not scorned as if a bounce and goon here and there is a sin. United need to realise this. Fergie praised the fans in the 2nd half of Spurs. Well that game the stewards in K and co. stopped patrolling telling us what we couldn't rather than could do, and Utd fans didn't throw themselves off any top tiers; they supported, as loud as in recent times. Disappointment afterwards in defeat but still many saying this was the best atmosphere and buzz in some time. It raised cockles. Utd not encouraging this each and every game is criminal. Work with us, not against us.


    But we need to do our bit too. Be a bit more tolerant, less abusive or scornful of the Red next to you be it on twitter or at the game; judging on first impressions rather than over time does harm. There are some knobs in our support, if we judge them at that first particular moment we think that, they may stay viewed as such, and though some might be 24-7, others won't, as they could think the same of me when a slobbering wreck on the now occasional Euro Aways. Too often we preach, and in practice whilst it's cliche land to say we're all different so group hug, every argument doesn’t necessarily define them as a person. We may feel uncomfortable at United slobbering themselves at this global fanbase, and pour scorn at some of their laughable figures, and at some groups of tourists arriving at United for their theme park ride before quickly getting off but watch this video of Indian Reds back home, mimicking the classic '93 youtube K Stand's Barmy Video- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DF3VwXRG4xY and tell me that doesn't make you smile, and then buzz off the emotional legacy of what this club does to people near and far. Proud of this Red Army.


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    I'm here to enjoy myself. I will continue to fight for better owners, but also share this era with like-minded souls and make the unpleasant as palatable and pleasant as possible. That's not selfish. I do this fanzine at a near loss not to earn profit, but to give United fans a voice. There is no vested interest, not here for the buck. Supporting United is such a buzz, it is what I did before this and will do after, nothing on earth and all that. So that however unpleasant this era is off the pitch I am staggered that so many- online at least, always online! - seem to find it so hard having anything pleasant to say about the on pitch, and, well, anything. That's not borne out at aways where Reds have the craic, if at home the atmosphere tends to be more like a care home for the elderly when everyone is fed and they want to prepare for bed, but as I sell the mag people seem happy, on the whole; they go with mates, on their own, in groups, pissed, sober, late or early as they always did. So why inside or online do they seem to turn into if not moaning Muppets, then Waldorf & Stadler. “This is rubbish…” “But we came back from 0-2 down to win 3-2 and go top of the league…” “But it was a rubbish 3-2!”. There was criticism of Wootton and Keane when we went out of the League cup, and in the words of reply from one RN seller: “give your head a wobble, it's the league fucking Cup where they're meant to learn”. Maybe we should amend the words from ‘we’re a right bunch of bastards when we lose’ to ‘right bunch of whinging bastards whatever the result!’. Of course our ethos, our history and demands to play football the right way, the attacking United way, is a blessing and must not be compromised, but it can be somewhat of a curse when titles and trophies pass us by and we still pick multiple faultlines. Sometimes ‘it’ is never enough. Sometimes it should be. We're bloody hard task masters. Rightfully so many would argue, whilst covering our ears when the bloke next to you at a game personifies that!


    The real world is not nice at times if it fucks with you, and though I'm not naive to think United - as shown by the Gimps - can escape that, we do come to United for the escapism so that it should get as many free passes as possible. With bile, moaning, and hatred (aim it instead at the ABUs) it doesn't become the satisfying pleasure United should be - the reason why you still go after the delight of the first time and all the ones in between. In essence it is a most simplistic pleasure. Walking to ground, after a beer or before, with friends or family, see the ground, the buzz at the stands, the highs and lows that follow. We are right to voice disapproval at those underperforming, at poor performances (though not for booing during a match like at Spurs for Christ Sakes), and demand much, but you don't want to veer into the greedy, the never happy territory of the Moaning Dead.


    There is, as Banksy and RN covers passim would testify, always hope. Maturity, perspective, age can either burden you or make you less uptight. Alcohol helps of course. After the Wigan game eight of us sat down and one beer merged into quite a few more and the topic of our best United XIs came up. Now to highlight the madness of my point here, I actually saw a row on twitter about who should, or should not be included in your best ever XIs - it's a bit of fun I felt like shouting out. Players you've seen, players all-time, it doesn't matter, just go with it rather than squinting to pick fights out of nothingness. We are all anal about something and any anonymous conflict online can itch that; but here we were, in person, arguing, saying ‘bollocks’ to put down another's suggestion yet laughing about it afterwards. There is a lot to be said about real life encounters whilst utilising the best of the virtual world (in seller Lee’s case that is endless looping of youporn.com).


    Anyway, this group of all ages, upwards of 50 and downwards towards teens put their cases forward. We started to sing our nominations, which made it all take longer and us drink more which was probably the point but ‘Stevie Coppell on the wing’ and ‘Andrei Kanchelskis’ to the Russian Song became ‘Ruud Van Nistelrooy tra la la’ as we belched out these songs to the bemusement of those non Reds around us, as I persuaded the majority that I felt Schmeichel couldn't be included because of what he'd done to the United fans staring depressed after beating us in city colours, and finally a few relented and in came Van der Sar. (it’s a controversial one!). We did not care if it was 4-4-2, or 4-3-3, and only one having seen Bestie live and in his prime, his passionately, starry eyed description of his play had us all switch to him in an instant even though we'd said it was players that we'd all seen play. In a way it is the most inane and beautiful debate you can have, great with a few of you, your best United XI, but at the end whilst you actually begin to ignore the silliness of leaving X and Y out, it just shows how blessed we are to have seen so many true greats. At any particular time - Eric, 1999 - we say it'll never be as good but there is nothing like a Utd chat, and its memories, which gives hope to the future in remembering its past. You don't down tools that we had Eric, wail that's it, give up. You dream of another. They had King Denis, we had King Eric. It does happen. And there always is another.


    This isn't a top Red thing. That's the last thing I ever intend. But in my lifetime as a Red I can take one simple thing from it - the pleasure. Yes it can be painful at times, because it replicates the good and the bad of life itself. We moan, rightly so, but try not to drift into a whine, like a spoilt brat. Many of us share that weird equilibrium of loving the purity and essence of MUFC but disliking the whored out and sold out MU bit. But I sense from some Reds, especially in the online world where thoughts aren't formulated, they are clicked on in seconds, for better or worse, that there is no enjoyment coming from some about, well, anything. Like our collective psyche is messed up. No united, in United. There is always a negative to be focussed on. I know, and do preach on that one thing, that there is a bigger picture of ownership that we should all focus minds on, but the smaller picture provides, as it should, that goonage and cockles warming delight that it always has. And even good times can be had drowning out the memories of the bad. Let's have a bit more fun!
    I am a firm believer that you should have as much fun - without harming anyone! - as you possibly can in life. Of course life being what it is it will do all it can to prevent this with the pitfalls that are thrown at you like the opening iconic scene of Indiana Jones and the double whammy catch 22 that too much fun will limit that very life you want to enjoy itself. But hey.


    The off field problems should not be used as a stick to beat on field. The cynicism towards the club sometimes rubs off misdirected at the team, raised eyebrows at certain value signings shouldn’t weigh that signing down. Miserableness spreads. From someone at the Fans Forum using the rare opportunity to put something to the powers that be and then asks why the jacket potatoes at OT are so cold, to every little morsel of fun being dissected and dismissed as if we’re all bloody lab rats being studied - they dared do what, jump up and down, at a football match?! Of course modern football is ill, how terminal we do not yet know but if you are still going (and this is not a dig at those who aren’t out of choice or forced through finances) it does no good to retreat into a darkened room each matchday. As that soppy stocking filler of a film Love Actually ends with Bill Nighy saying ‘come on let's watch some porn’, so let's watch some bloody United and have a laugh together. The world is odd and fucked enough without us making it harder for ourselves and trying to curtail the enjoyment of MUFC by battling each other. There’s enough days in the week to be depressed about rather than a Saturday (or Sunday, or Tuesday or...). Fucking Mondays for example. Bob Geldof was right on one thing.


    And whilst we celebrate the genius of my generation’s King, the smile permanently on our faces (well, in theory!) these past twenty years was though he may well have been the catalyst, it didn’t end with him, we carried on what he started to even greater heights. No rest on laurels, no rest on backsides shouting we’re doomed. Because we’re not. 1992-2012 - happy days. So let’s have some more. And let's enjoy these days more. Because we - the team, these heights, the trophies, us ourselves - won't always be here to enjoy them. Make the most of it. The internet is great for many things, including sharing memories and dare I use that dreaded word 'bantzzzz lolllll', but surely not for arguing at dawn's crack over William Prunier with a 16 year old in Fiji.


    So go on then… I will for a laugh. I realise they won't play together and I don't worry about how they will gel and try not to flagellate over who hasn't made it… But my best MUFC XI (that I’ve seen!). Van der Sar (Paddy Roche just missed the cut and Schmikes, ambassador or not, why did you do that, that day at Maine Road?!), Irwin, Albiston, Buchan, Stam, Ronaldo, Giggs, Robbo, Keane, Scholes, Eric. Subs - all of the rest! It'll change tomorrow. It usually does. That's the point. It's fun.


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  9. #39
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    With a new RN198 out on Sunday 10th Feb, here is the Editorial from RN197 on the paradox of Sir Alex Ferguson and how Reds view him


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    For me, this (http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/wp-c...ex_605crop.jpg) then, a stunning image: Fergie out of his element, yet in his element.


    Taking a class at the prestigious Harvard University, after giving unprecedented access to one of its Professors for a case study, who knows the reason as to ‘why?’, but perhaps it is because like all great leaders in their last days, they start to become intrigued by their legacy. Courted by businessmen and politicians, SAF seems no longer to be viewed as a mere mortal, certainly not just another football manager, or even THE boss, and with that comes understandable fears that like say a Tony Blair figure, or any leader removed from his roots if not feeling that way themselves, talk of legacy becomes an obsession which unravels, can be their undoing. Staying on too long, or making decisions which appall the very people who helped mould him and support their journey. Talk of Fergie’s legacy can split United fans when they take in every facet. Talk football alone however, and his legacy is planted in stone already; in a bronze statue, a gold Knighthood, and more silver than Buckingham Palace. Your view of his all round legacy is your take alone, to make alone but with consideration from others, history however will probably form its own natural and inevitable conclusion. A lasting legacy.


    A few years ago we feared that Fergie had lost his hunger - a kick out at a water bottle at Watford in 2006 in front of a startled Ryan Giggs put paid to that, as he rose to yet another challenge (this time from Chelsea, as rivals, noisy or not, come and go) but resurfaced last year as Mike Phelan seemed almost horizontal as we struggled at Norwich, crying out for inspiration on the pitch and by its side. Not this year though. Days shy of his 71st birthday, it was incredible seeing the passion and hairdryer still on show. At home to Newcastle. A half of a season still to go. The man for all occasions, the man for all comers, showing who is still boss and whose single minded drive is as stubborn as the character it rules. And from it, comes this incredible era. Without him, none of this. Blessed as well as blistered.


    But if you know anyone that age, health can wreck havoc, whether they or we like it or not, and whilst we observe perhaps ever more closely every cough and splutter in interviews, it is remarkable that so many take for granted what none of us can. Yet, on the outside at least, there seems no let up in both drive and energy; tireless rather than tired looking. So you wouldn't bank against him still doing this at 81, with the help of old Lady Fortuna and our hopes, but there is a feeling aided by nudges from some of his pals who we know from his Aberdeen days who think he may well retire this summer. We've been here before of course, but not quite at this crossroads in age, which makes me want to celebrate every badly timed jig at a goal more than ever. To love him more than I dislike some parts of his decision making. I may question the man at times, but I love the manager unconditionally now, and I respect what he is if not all he has done off the pitch, and in a dull repetitive world where we make or break heroes and crown legends rather too easily, Fergie is the antipathy to the apathetic, giving us all we ever dreamed of yet making many feel that's still not enough. With us for 26 years, not a few seasons.


    That Newcastle game, and his behaviour during and after, was perhaps a microcosm for his and our United time together; ups, downs, scares, goonage, rants, ABU over reaction (to a goal they got given remember!), raised eyebrows from us and them, and a fist pumping departure as we marvelled at just how we and he keep doing it, time and time again, even though by now we should be more accustomed and less startled when it plays out as we know it can. Ignore Newcastle surrounding the officials themselves of course, Fergie is ALWAYS the story.


    Whilst Fergie's marmite layer might be understandable as ABUs don't get him and lash out because it's us, and they wish he were theirs, there is still a section of United's support who remain unconvinced, doubting and even betrayed by events in 2005 and since. Who use understandable gripes to plant grenades.


    Every decision dissected like biology lab rats, achilles heels are probed like planets - his obsession with rotation, his lack of tactical nous, especially at the highest levels, the midfield, always the midfield, and the paradoxes that separate the man from manager as character faults and managerial errors get poured at like a kid with a magnifying glass on a sunny morning near an ant hill.


    The case study by Anita Elberse is interesting not just for the greater insight it gives into his recent thinking - as he seems to court and give American media and historians time that others closer to home eye with envy, and he reveals that these comebacks aren't just flukes, which we all knew of course. But they are worked on in training as Rene Meulensteen explained: “We practise situations for when the going gets tough, so we know what it takes to be successful in those situations.”


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    He may have a latter day Sir Matt coaching routine these days which is viewed from an office at a distance away from the actual training (which leads to inevitable questioning of Mike Phelan's impact when results go wrong, but rarely when right), but again praise is always reserved when it comes to Fergie’s innovation, as it gets directed elsewhere. First Kiddo, then McClaren now Rene get the praise for scientific foresight. Yet it is he who employs the sports scientists, and whilst there are understandable concerns over our higher injury rate than it should be, it is interesting that he explains how he now sees three layers to his United squads now - over 30s, 23-30 year olds and then the kids, all to keep the conveyer belt continuous - and has installed a Vitamin D machine at Carrington ‘put there to help Utd counterbalance the lack of sunlight in Manchester’ as he suggested this season staggered one week holiday breaks (which the press haven’t yet twigged at) in the Winter for each player ‘to replenish vitamin D’. The team now wear gps vests in the close season which give detailed individual player analysis twenty minutes after each pre season game. These ideas may all come from others, but Fergie is quick to utilise them. There are mistakes, of course, and after this amount of time the marvel is how few there have been, but at times some get exaggerated at any particular moment because it's the here and now, no patience for formed opinion, where perhaps muffling the sound of the moans might be worthwhile with hindsight. There are of course also the more serious concerns - deals like Bebe, and all that surrounds them like rotting fish waiting to be discovered as the smell lingers, but though from time to time he may lose the plot, the key is he has never lost the plot.


    As we revel in city's latest circus act as manager and player squared up like headless chickens, we know that Fergie doesn't just like keeping things in house (“We fine the players, but we keep it indoors”), but perhaps the propensity to rotate is now a tool (as much as a curse!), he uses, however frustrating at times to watch from the sidelines, to prevent the individuals over weighing the team boat, as he rids the likes of Carlos Tevez for more rounded team players, somehow keeping them all happy, or at least onside. Results obviously help, but the team go along with this limiting of their mass appearance numbers and talk it up in interviews. “I tend to say to them ‘look I might be making a mistake here’, I always say that - ‘but I think this is the best team for today’. We may argue with it at the time, but it gets us ‘there or there abouts’ each and every season.


    Crucially when we delve into the bigger picture, the all around personality, we should have an adult conversation without resorting to abuse about the whole package. And ignoring those who crudely condemn him with words usually aimed at rivals than our own. Yet also with Fergie it's almost deity levels that you don't dare criticise him. Why not though? We do with other people we love and have great regard for - parents, lovers, barmaids, each other - so why can't we pull him up on Coolmore, ‘grown men moving on’, ‘he wouldn’t sell Madrid a virus, but he'd sell them Ronaldo’ and not challenging the Glazer frugality with one hand as they take with the other, whilst accepting all the other good things he provides alongside.


    Perhaps because I am of the view of separating on field from off field - foregoing his view that he feared for his staff and that greater singular debate or selfishness or just plain selfish - I never thought he should walk in 2005, and though I wish he wouldn't be so toadying to the Glazers, for reasons as yet unknown but which he insists are just because they leave him to it, he has found, it seems, as happy a working medium with manager-COE-owners as any during his time. It sits uncomfortably with me - that their leeching of half a billion pounds in pointless debt prevented him for using it to build in transfers and greater investment in the club. In a grown up world I'd love to see him properly questioned and explain his views, but I will not condemn him like some do with language I find startling coming from our own, to one of our own.


    I've said before it's probably because we held him in such high regard that some for a long time thought he could do no wrong - this snarling, passionate man on December 26th is no different to the one telling the “social club” of players their days were numbered back in '86 as he wanted to turn it back into a “football club”, or the one that thought any criticism of him, was against him as he snarled at Red News' Teresa McDonald after a friendly at Perth as he said criticism of players in a fanzine was counter productive. She gave him as good as he aimed at her, about the players then needing to show that same sort of passion on the pitch then. The next time they met, all was forgotten, forgiven, with a hug. These were different times, a lifetime ago when the football was not what it is now.


    Life and relationships are complex. Treat SAF as such. Though the company he receives and the status may be different, I see nothing different, for better and worse, in Ferguson throughout his time. Capable of extreme acts of kindness, and venom if crossed. Viewed as a God, people became upset that he showed fallibility as a human. It's what he is, what he's always been, because he was always going to have the human frailties we all possesss. But with superhuman skills to get the best out of the tools he has had as United manager.


    Because my life is pretty meaninglesss the mistakes I make will involve too much ale, over spending and not visiting the gym enough (or at all!), Fergie's will involve the big guns and the big decisions. I do not know what I would have done in his position, so try and be less judgemental if not still disappointed when feel let down.


    It is right when Reds feel uncomfortable that it's almost taken as a given that MUFC is now his club - David Gill incorrectly stating “Steve Jobs was Apple, Sir Alex Ferguson is Manchester United” - but he has become at one with it, transforming its fortunes and creating sides in his own character; tough, never giving in (shaped after his departure from Rangers as he talks of “the adversity gave me a sense of determination that has shaped my life. I made up my mind that I would never give in”). What he has made is United as a character. His character. Therefore a legacy can only be properly discussed when it's our children or grandchildren doing it.


    Like men in such power, his words carry great distances. Where else would a small “wee” loudly reverberate through the UK and landing at Pardew's uncomfortable ears like a weighted epitaph heavy now on his shoulders. All the time playing the press, from “youse are all fucking idiots” when asked about Veron, who he sold, or dismissing Dalglish's daughter when quizzing about which goalie is Number One - “I don't know why you're asking these questions, you're just looking for stupid little things.” deflecting a seemingly still pertinent question. He arrived from Aberdeen having 13 local scouts in Scotland, staggered that Untied only had 4. That changed immediately. “Football management in the end is all about the players. You think you are a better player than they are, and they think they are a better manager than you are.”


    He knows how to time the grenades, so much so that we all start seeing mind games when they may not even be there. He knows how to play the press, if less so the more questioning fans. It is strange to hear him so vocal about German supporters (“The crowds in Germany are fantastic and it is very cheap in relation to English football, which encourages supporter participation.”), yet keeping Utd fans’ at arms length, only really acknowledging now with the odd bow and fist pump rather than our concerns. But it is what it is. It can be argued that Fergie has always looked after number one, as some remember him threatening not to lead the team out at Wembley, the saga with son and agent, and then the sorry tango from that which would lead to horse jizz rows, 99 questions and an inevitable descent to Gingers eating us up like a black hole. That single mindedness probably is what makes his United so successful. That is his and our paradox, though it may well not be his legacy. Because that will be what he gave us, the riches, that which we'll tell our grandchildren about, the good times. After all, there were aspects of Sir Matt's past not in the microscope of today that should be left alone. There is even the first chink that he has his own questions towards the owners. “They have generally been very supportive.” We'd love to see that ‘generally’ defined.


    There is a right to constructive criticism but people who weren't even born before the really shit days at United seem to think one defeat makes throwing the toys out fair game. It's knee jerk overreactions to on field events which don’t help. He has maintained an ethos that Sir Matt instilled; family and ethics as well as ethos. Fergie telling Harvard: “Win, lose or draw. We show our face, and keep our dignity. We are Manchester United.” And “We cannot sit still at this club”. His demands after each success for more, probably his greatest triumph.


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    We have a right to demand the best, but when it's not happening, it's equally important how you deal with it and react. For 58 minutes of the Newcastle game, Utd fans near and far seemed to be grumbling like Mount Etna - we can still make a difference and maybe as we urged the team in the last 20 we did, but we need to show sometimes all game we're not the over bloated greedy whingers the ABUs/media portray us as. Ignore the execs. and their prawn sarnies, it's what we do that counts. How we back Fergie in his final days at the match and then let off steam about all the aspects to his human condition away from it with mates. We're having all these 3-2 wins and yes the journey is excruciating, painful and at times head fucking, but the destination is a right old goonage and as good a buzz as we’ve had in years. We always said ‘you score two, we'll score three’, now we've got it again, most don't like it! Never happy, us!


    The key is with squad decisions made, whatever frustration at midfield deficiencies (ongoing that one!) that have gnawed at us like psoriasis itching on skin, this is what we have, so we can but support in the final months. We can't affect decisions, but we can maybe shape a game or moment. Look at the Newcastle game, we fretted over defeat, and a lead cut back, instead city lose, we triumph and we extend the lead. So much can happen in a single game, spleens split and spent early on can be counter productive - so many imploded when 3-2 down, if any side it is worth waiting for, it is Fergie time! It really is if as if some prefer the sado masochist aspect to it all than the inevitable (hand) relief at the end! If we can't defend, whatever the angst, we're enjoying the attacking. United's very own yin and yang then, but you can't deny infinitely more exciting and memorable than the last couple of seasons. As Paul at Rantcast said: “We're not very good, but we are great. And I wouldn't swap it for the world.” We owe him so much. It's got conditions of course. It's bound to with that length of time. Yet that time can cloud rightful praise.


    We know the difference that Van Persie has made to this side, but it is the bigger unity that Fergie sells to all who arrive, so that RVP actually thinks it is those around him who have aided him: “I feel that I'm surrounded by Champions.” Fergie’s powers come in many forms, his siege mentality and even minor details, all well prepared. There is always usually method in his perceived madness. On ‘Fergie time’ and his watch tapping: “All I do is point at my watch to help the referee make the right decisions!” On banal post match interviews? “I know there is a time factor in these interviews, so my response is long and doesn't give them anything that is critical. And I certainly never discuss an individual player. The players know that - it stays indoors.” And the players remain on their toes. Fergie told Harvard: “I like to tell different stories and use my imagination” as Ryan Giggs explains: “You can never tell what he is going to say. I remember we once lost to Southampton even though I had scored. We were expecting a tough post game talk, but he just said ‘Ryan's goal might have just won you the league on goal difference”.


    We are all flawed. But some are better with their frailties than others. And we still buzz off him, this 71 year old man. A septuagenarian working magic! In the wake of ‘wee’ club gate, a much more important ‘wee’ got ignored. On last season: “I've still got a wee bit of anger in me, thinking how we threw the league away last season. My motivation to the players will be that we can't let city beat us twice in a row”. That anger drives us, his team, his players and his and our club forward, at the same incredible pace he's maintained for over two decades in an era where everything changes, his an almost calming influence if we can maturely argue moot points about ego and self interest. He is our manager. He was a man of his time. His time in charge is nearing its end. Let's make the most of it. There will never be anything like him ever again. I will never feel as strongly or care for a Manchester United manager as much either. Every single one of us doesn’t, but I wish every single one of us did love Alex Ferguson.


    ‘No question about that.’


    Barney


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  10. #40
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    The Reditorial from RN198, February 2013 - a new RN199 is out on Saturday 2nd March 2013.


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    Nobody does loud indignation quite like football. Throbbing veins, bloated, be it the media (bringing in and casting aside their David De Gea screams like the bins), social media (‘THE BALL BOY WAS A TWAT’, ‘NO HAZARD IS A TWAT’), or those banter giving (which we'd rather not accept) pundits where you have to question the gene pool of professional footballers where all it can give us back is the likes of Jason Cundy, Mark Bright, Niall Quinn, Alan Smith and so and so on. Going on and on.


    And of course Alan Shearer. Where let us mourn the death of irony after his recent gem: “I am surprised to see Remy go to QPR instead of Newcastle. I would have a good guess financial things had a part to play. While I hope QPR get out of it, I find it hard to say he chose them over Newcastle.” Cough. A lot. Then go to the Doctors for it. Shearer talking money. He’s his own comedy sketch show nowadays.


    But this is the modern game, sickly itself for much of the time, where everything yesterday gets quickly forgotten, and today's non events will hog tomorrow's news for less time than Katie Price can hold onto men. Where anybody can reinvent themselves, ready to patronise us ‘mere’ fans in the procession line of football razzmatazz. Showtime.


    But sometimes it looks into our eyes and stares back. They will toss it aside like a badly cooked chip, but we cling on to the recent agenda flung towards news copy once again regarding ticket prices, hoping that this time it might be different, but expecting the same script. We've been here before of course. Every so often we and they do a sorry dance shrinking away from us as Tess Daly must feel when Bruce lunges his arms forwards as we have something to agree on; away ticket prices are wrong (and I’d like to highlight all high prices, not just away from home). And then it'll be gone. Our concern but no longer theirs; each United away ticket announcement mentioning that abhorrent tax on us on our travels just because we support a successful team (and some of us doing this since when we were once not), Category A, producing more shrugs, wondering just what our own limits will and may be.


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    First it was a £40 ceiling, then that became £50, but we still go, unable and unwilling to say enough is enough. That's not a dig. I reached the grand old age of 42 recently - Douglas Adams once reckoned that number was the answer to the universe (and life, and everything), so I'll keep you posted on that one, but as you embrace middle age much like you would an approaching Scouser, you get to that point - well I have - where you look at then and now, all you dreamed of, where you ended up, ambitions dreamed of and discarded. Happy with your lot or not, the script produced unable for rewrite.


    This isn't a sob story. I'll leave that to Joe Hart on European nights in front of an unfortunate camera, but I know that when life has been both good and shite that United has been a constant throughout. Not just a part of my life, but lived alongside my life. It is both a drug and that statement also devalues its worth at the same time. But whilst when I first starry eyed looked at the mass of the Stretford End in another footballing world (where you could pay on the gate and everything) 36 years ago I was too innocent to allow United to be an escape from a life where basically Action Men, United and fish fingers ruled. But then adulthood arrived, and United was always eyed each weekend to allow some breathing space from the rest of the shit that the world would offer. I realised how important United in our lives was and could be.


    And it's stayed that way, despite real life shit (Glazers) interfering with the bit that was supposed to be the escape and greed pawing at the heart if not the soul of United like Tom to Jerry. We can talk - as we like doing - about the 70s and 80s but those days have long gone. Whatever steps the game takes next, those days will not return. Ever. You either stay on and enjoy what highlights the ride still has to offer, or get off and content yourselves with the great highs you had when United rose like a dipper, lifting emotions, you and mates like no drug ever can.


    £50 was my ceiling for away tickets. So when Chelsea first went there I thought ‘fuck that’ (and them), and if I got Chubbed, I decided I wouldn't try the network of mates at face value that we all utilise (and I hope United's new plans for away ticket distribution doesn't mess with). There is a small, communal (and very drunk) group of Reds who long since stopped going, but still travel to aways (though not in as big numbers as say 10 years ago), the self proclaimed ‘Matchday club’ who in Manchester or far would support United exactly like you or I do, but either too skint, or principled, or whatever reasons, wouldn't or couldn't pay the obscene money now asked to watch just 90 minutes football and where comparing to a night at the theatre is both so stupid and indicative of those within the game now that I just wish I could leave them all to it. So I joined TMDC, at a pub in London watching a Chelsea away a few years ago, about 50 present in this pub and a great drink was had, with every much as concern, cheers (if not songs) and support as was going on the short distance away at the actual stadium. It was a buzz, everyone knew each other but I left convinced that whilst I will undoubtedly do it again (and more often if they keep going with prices), it just wasn't the same as being there. That being there such a hold.


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    They had me. Chelsea that is, a team I couldn't care a less about, well actively loathe with what their modern club represents (though saying that, not much time for their neanderthal 80s version either), but still grasping and tickling my balls like a late night stripper in the Dam (so I’ve heard). So I went back for the fix. Slightly guilty, a stand with no leg to stand on. And the prices continued to rise.


    We look to Germany with envy. And with justification. In the vacuum of the terrible events of 1989, sadly finance stepped in as it does in most walks of life. It seized an opportunity as men with no real interest or care for football realised the best moment to step into a business is when it’s on its knees, and whatever hope we had for the right sort of changes to be made in our name and those who lost their lives quickly evaporated as this actually became cleansing in all but name. Knee jerk reactions; how did we end up here and Germany there? A social conscience compared to one that doesn't seem to have one at all? Yes, they were thankfully spared disasters, but why then now do we still seem so many light years away from their model and moving further away from it?


    They are all at it here. We all know the now often repeated joke. Sky reporter to Evertonian: ‘Why are you travelling to Southampton on a Monday night?!’ Evertonian: ‘Because of you lot.’ And we all laughed. But it's hollow, because they fuck with us and we gobble up the morsels of a few Saturday home 3pms and yet with our pants down the fight - the fight as fans to say enough is enough - seems as hollow. We just want to go, close our ears and eyes to all this but just doing that allows them to screw us tighter.


    We rightly mistrust rival fans, especially those who so actively hate us all year round, but perhaps our only option is to try and agree on this one thing - a basic starting point of this is fucked - so that we can talk about what can we do to save it together. United fans of course should pretty much joke at city about everything but it was unsettling to see some laugh at city not selling out at Arsenal and then boast at how many thousands applied for Real Madrid's more expensive tickets. We should be proud of our massive support, but not at what we are charged. On this one point, the bigger point is how wrong it is to be charging its core audience - still, for now, the average working man - to see the team like they always have and want to. No man (utd fan) should ever have to give up not because of their own choices, but the prices decided by men who eye pure profit margin and probably hope they wish they could charge us more.


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    It comes down to us. It shouldn't be our battle alone, sadly. But inaction leads to further greed and more of our game gone. In theory, fighting for us, its people, is what we vote Governments in for, or MPs at least, to fight for us, not to turn their backs. But they say it's up to the Premier League and they in turn (now as they did when Red News asked them these same questions in RN133/RN134 - a full six years ago) that they can't do anything about it, it's up to each club. And they eat at all the profits together. And we serve them.


    The elephant in the room heavily breathing like Joseph Merrick is that only empty seats will really make a difference. Look at those clubs walking towards the bright and very sane door of safe standing backing - because they can't fill their own seats. The Premier League on this, again, turns 180 degrees on us - attendances up to 95%, nothing to worry about here. But that's at the biggest clubs, and their theme park attractions, elsewhere there are questions and concern, and whilst the game masturbates itself about best league in the world, that classic Fergie foreboding of cycles in football means the game bloats on thinking this will last forever. They even said the average age at PL games was 41 years old compared to 45 last time they did a survey and this was a good thing. Laughable. Premier League stadiums are full of dinosaurs. They have pissed off younger fans, or not even connected with them. What are their plans when we're all too old? Somebody else's problem. Until then, only bank balances, 39th game proposals, and squeezing the goose matters.
    We can chant ‘Against Modern Football’ all we like, but we have to create a new view of what comes next rather than blindly pointing to the 70s and 80s and saying we want it back. That's gone. What comes in its place is something we have to keep banging heads at (that old brick wall approach we loathe so much), to maintain this dissatisfaction vocally and visibly enough that they can't turn it off like a switch and we'll all refer back to it in 6 years again as it disappears like smoke. That’s what they would want.


    We have so many examples of excess to choose from. The noble efforts of United demanding we get charged the same as West Ham's £20 home fan charge in the FA Cup game only for us to rule out any exemptions for the Replay and place a non-members fee on their fans when why the hell would they be a member at OT? The only time United seem to show us love is when they text us - about spare seats, or quick fire snatches of funds for the allergy inducing Automatic Cup Scheme. The missus could (well, she's seen me in the flesh so maybe not) think I’m having affair it bleeps that often near a Cup game; just telling me when they will take money for games we've not even progressed to yet. We get it. You want our money. Now. Yet you don’t seem to want anything else from us, not even dialogue.


    Adverts in the MEN, infamous waiting lists, student discounts that normal ST holders paying large wedges up front don’t qualify for - not the under 16s they should be enticing, but Uni kids offered discounted tickets for home Cup ties we've paid full price at (what is that all about?). All the time devaluing the Season Ticket ‘experience' with next to no chance in away ballots, making one seem more and more pointless, and a bloody nose I suspect awaits if they think they can push up our own prices next season on an already under pressure United collective household. The almost offensive ACS system means many have to buy for games they won't or can’t attend and struggle to shift, and it manipulated so that to apply for aways you have to stay in it - the small print not saying that not only are home tickets spare and available for most matches nowadays (even the biggies), but you’ve as much chance of finding Luis Suarez telling the truth - and his teeth onside - as winning an away ticket in the ballot if just in the standard pot. The pull for a ST not quite as strong. Unless those around you still make the whole experience worthwhile.


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    It's across the board. UEFA fine Ajax fans for a noble flag. City fans showed a very british protest whereas in Italy and Germany they'd be protesting outside but here we pay up and can’t even hold banners up as a yellow jacket creates some new rule so TV doesn’t capture it and ruin the ‘experience’. Don’t mess with the brand We know city fans are part-timers (and they can't even sell out their own ground let alone an away end), and any talk of their own noble boycott at the Emirates probably had more to do with them never going there than the £62 tickets but it at least gave us the opportunity to see yet more hang ringing and buck passing from the likes of Dave Richardson and Hugh Robertson. Our questioning makes them uncomfortable.


    £40 quid limits become £50 become £60. Our fight against this exploitation like Brucie’s tired old pecker itself, presumably every once in a while rising to the fore only to limply be forgotten. Will this debate get brushed under another carpet? Will we see the £70 away ticket next season? Prices have risen an unreal 710% collectively in the past 20 years. Our wages haven’t. As @Luzhniki2008 points out, Arsenal was £26.50 a decade ago, and £38 five years ago. Now it is £62. city just £21 in 2003, yet even Norwich over £50 pounds this season.


    We can complain to each other, we moan on twitter but do you do anything about it? I say that as a person who can’t give it up, knowing with open eyes how wrong this modern machine all is - but also that going to games is all I have ever done, but then if not ready to dance with elephants, there are aways lesser avenues, dull even, but worth persisting at; keeping it in the news, writing to your MPs, gnawing at them like they do us with prices. It is all head banging, but maybe just maybe we create a small dent to eventually crash through. Join the FSF campaign.


    The prediction of the demise of this boom period has been rumoured and greatly exaggerated for so long, the game cares little for those they walked over to intrude into our game. But they forget, it’s you and I, and people like us, working people, who buy the tv packages, the kits, the tickets - and it all comes down to when will people have had enough. If not through choice then economic reality? Value for our money may well be when Van Persie bangs one in in the last minute but up and down the country where they don't have such luxury, fans are rising up and leaving empty seats because what's the point for them. Charged a fortune to watch Darren Bent squander yet another chance is not half as evocative as the brand that has been violated to the point we could call in a plastic surgeon on the ‘Premier League’.


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    People will pay the £60 break through of the ceiling. Some will not. United’s problems, for now, only lie ahead. Football should, but it won't, develop a conscience, as somewhere football missed an opportunity in the wake of ‘89 and the Taylor Report to not just do right thing, but do the right thing by its principle stakeholders - us. Protect us. Not just physically, but financially, and that of our clubs. Instead the stakeholders became share holders and they rinsed us in the name of progress. We're now so far behind Germany, all we can cling to is safety. They should have kept us safe in the 1980s. And now, morally.


    We're an old Old Trafford. If the true average age of ST holders is now 50+, Utd have so mistreated not just those still there, who go with cynicism and try and leave it at the gate so we can goon at our love, but also their sons, or the kids of those priced out. The future is not as assured as Mr Potatoe and Utd's official noodle and tyre sponsor would have you believe. Many new arrivals may just be here for the glory. And if that goes, and they do too, the affect may be more stark than any of us feared. Because those they let leave might never come back.


    We're here for the love of United, they for the love of money. It's a lopsided battle, it's a sorry dance that usually has one conclusion. But let's try once again and see if anyone will listen (or take notice of our political and financial threats). United now then, fans, or we disappear one by one through gerrymandering through long term pricing. Many good ones already gone, many unable to leave because of the hold of this glorious drug which can still create so much pain along with the joy but leaves their lives away from United so skint. But somewhere along the line enough surely has to be enough, be it individually or collectively. Better then to collectively try and do something now. What then? That's the next step, sadly, and that is what we disagree and fall out about. But let's hope we get there quicker than a club does with its £100 match ticket. The people's game no longer for its people.


    Nobody in their right mind disputes the good changes made to the game over the years but that didn't mean then steamroller over all that was good enough not needing change. And it shouldn't have to be that people who just want to go as they always have done, some for many, many years are told. or worse lectured ‘you should not go, don’t be selfish’ as it doesn't cut it, but knowing that, in theory at least, having to boycott and flirt with the elephant might be the only way to achieve anything, even if for one game to send a message. These are such complicated conversations, with all of us caring, at times too much, but lets not again constructive debate be drowned out by those arguing the loudest. This was, has and hopefully always will be our game, not theirs. So when do we start reclaiming it back then, because we're not going to get it back by sitting on our arses? Or waiting for others to act. Change modern football, then. But how? Let the discussion really begin, and not get forgotten for another six years.


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