Being the world’s biggest football club, with the widest reaching and most diverse set of fans, Manchester United are always going to be the most talked about.
When us United fans aren’t singing the club’s praises, rival supporters are having a dig, while many in the media usually side with our critics.
One thing that’s been prevalent in our club’s esteemed history is the amount of erroneous, incorrect, made up stories reported as ‘facts’ by men other than just Rafa Benitez. Only this week the latest United based bit of nonsense was being spouted regarding Cristiano Ronaldo’s black armband wearing for the Real Madrid game that took place on the anniversary of the Munich disaster. Twitter, the worldwide web and many forums were awash with how Ronnie had underlined his legendary status for many United fans by wearing an armband to pay his respects to his former clubs’ darkest moment.
While I love Ronnie and do not share any of the ill-feeling that some United fans may towards him, I’m not about to give him undue credit when it comes to such a historic and emotionally charged event as the Munich air crash. A quick check of the Real Madrid website told anyone that cared to google- then translate that the first team wore black armbands in memory of former youth coach Antonio Mezquita – who’d died that very morning.
Yet despite this some people even claimed Ronnie probably did it for both -however that’s possible – and even though it was unofficial it was probably true. None of which made even the semblance of sense to me and was merely the invention of over-zealous United fans trying to elevate Ronaldo to a higher status than he is already afforded.
There’s nothing wrong with being misguided or mistaken but when it comes to anything to do with such a tragic and historic event as Munich then I’m sorry but it’s not something I’d ignore.
The Ronnie black armband for Munich story was not the only United myth that’s been reported so many times it’s become considered true over the years. Since as long as I could read -and no us Mancunians don’t learn that at the end of our Secondary School education- I’ve read and even heard United tales that are just that- ‘tales’ of the ‘fairy’ variety.
Here’s a personal top five list of Manchester United myths with an explanation as to why all of them should be taken with more than just a pinch of salt.
5. United are not even from Manchester. This pile of drivel has been served up by our bitter blue neighbours for the best part of 35 years. According to anyone from the Stockport Mafia United are from Trafford and therefore not ‘proper Mancunian’ like Sheikh Mansoon is.
Well while United now play at Old Trafford which is situated in the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford, our original home was North Road, Newton Heath. It was here the first ever United team- which was called Newton Heath Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Club played their home games. It was United’s birthplace and is very much in Manchester- in fact it’s less than two miles from that other footballing trophy haven -Eastlands.
City fans will claim that as United no longer reside there, the club isn’t from Manchester- well had somewhere like Maine Road been big enough to hold all our fans we could have built a stadium in Moss Side or Clayton perhaps, but we needed somewhere much bigger. So we made Old Trafford our new home, a whole three miles from Manchester City Centre.
4. Manchester United always get dodgy penalty decisions at Old Trafford. This one’s been doing the rounds ever since United started dominating the Premier League, all of a sudden managers, the media and opposing fans were banging on about how ‘The Theatre of Refs’ was a place where the opposition could expect to concede a penalty as soon as a player made a tackle or even looked like making one for that matter- inside or outside the box. United of course could hack players down with delirious abandon as no one would dare to award a penalty against us.
Unfortunately those pesky facts get in the way of yet another piece of anti-United propaganda take last season for example; The Reds were awarded five penalties at Old Trafford. Seems like a lot? Well Chelsea were awarded eight at Stamford Bridge, while the likes of West Ham, Sunderland and those lucky, ref friendly chaps at Hull all received more penalty decisions at home than United did.
Going back a bit further -from 98/99 to 2007 the amount of penalties awarded against United at Old Trafford were the exact same number that both Arsenal and Chelsea conceded- 8.
In terms of penalties awarded and conceded the facts don’t tell the full story, after all how many times at Old Trafford have we seen teams defending for practically the whole game? These teams barely get near United’s box let alone in it, so the chances of them getting a penalty are limited. United fully attacking teams, teams which can often panic and make rash challenges, or simply grow tired of keeping up with better players can make lazy sloppy challenges.
This season United have been awarded penalties against West Ham and Arsenal in the League at Old Trafford, while the Gunners been awarded, three EPL penalties at the Emirates and Man City six at Eastlands.
The point is attacking teams will always be awarded more penalties and concede less, but United are far from the most fortunate when it comes to either department.
Continued on Page TWO
3. Denis Law relegated United in 1974. Arguably the most famous- or should that be ‘infamous’ back-heel in Old Trafford history. ‘The King’ has he was known to the United faithful scored the winner for Manchester City in the final game of the season. Considering United finished five points adrift from safety, even if Law had forgot which team he played for and scored a hat-trick of own goals, it wouldn’t have mattered- United were doomed.
2. More people in Manchester support City rather than United. The thing about this myth that’s constantly perpetuated by City fans and lapped up by our rivals is there’s only on way to disprove it and that’s to ask every single person in Manchester which team they support. Of course this is nigh on impossible so the next best thing is to refer to a study conducted by Manchester University in 2001 which was titled: ‘Do you come from Manchester? A postcode analysis of the location of Manchester United and Manchester City season ticket holders 2001′
The report found that despite their being a greater proportion of City’s season ticket holders coming from Manchester- or in the study’s case having an ‘M’ postcode, the number of United season ticket holders coming from Manchester was actually greater. There were a thousand more Manchester residents with United season tickets than with City ones.
Of course this doesn’t tell the full story as there are also fans who don’t own a season ticket, plus its ten years old. The fact remains though that this is the only real study conducted into the myth and it shows more United fans than City ones in Manchester owning season tickets.
1. “Man U” is an insulting term for United with Munich connotations. For whatever reason, in recent years the idea that referring to United as Man U has something to do with insulting us over Munich has gathered momentum. There’s been one too many misinformed United fans claiming that people who use the term are trying to use it derogatorily.
Some of this stems from the fact that some rival fans call United ManUre in a p*ss poor attempt at humour via a bit of divergent spelling. This is totally different from the term Man U however which is actually used by some United fans. Just recently Danny Simpson tweeted how upon Neville’s retirement he was grateful for the help he’d given him during his time at ‘Man U.’ Was Simpson raising the spectre of Munich with an evil tweet? No. He, like many others has probably never heard of the Man U myth and a myth is exactly what it is.
Tom Clare author of the superb book ‘Forever a Babe Growing up with Manchester United’ explains the origins of the two different terms as merely a product of slightly lazy journalism when reporters had to be as succinct as possible with every story they filed.
To quote Clare: “Even Big Ron used the term ‘Man U’ when he was manager of United” Now Atkinson may be prone to the odd bit of foot in his mouth, but he was hardly likely to be desecrating the memory of the Munich victims every time he spoke about his employers.
Check out Clare’s full explanation: here
Read more of Justin’s work at the NEW Man United blog ‘Red Flag Flying High’