Supporting the greatest club in the world isn’t exactly a difficult experience if we’re completely honest.
Yes, we may have lost our second Champions League final in three years and I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard “we always make it hard for ourselves” but by and large being part of Ferguson’s red and white army is a joyous endeavour, where the good times far outweigh the bad.
With a constant stream of trophies, goals and victories its easy for some fans to forget just how fortunate we are and how far we’ve come since the dark-ish- days of Fergie’s early reign.
In the 20 odd years I’ve spent following United I can pretty much count on one hand the times I’ve been ashamed of the behaviour of some of our fans.
In 1996 it was the booing of Lee Sharpe at Old Trafford who had something of a shocker in one of his final games in a red shirt- his substitution was met with a chorus of cheers and applause. 2008 at half time against Villa I watched with disbelief as some fans ran towards the tunnel to give Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo abuse- although I think that may have been more to do with the drugs they were on rather than just passion.
2009/10 saw one of the worst examples of ridiculous behaviour by United fans when Dimitar Berbatov was hounded in the game against Spurs. Before he’d even touched the ball, shouts of “useless, lazy Bulgarian tw*t” etc, could be heard from more than a just a small minority and let’s not forget the treatment Michael Carrick recieved against Bayern Munich.
I digress however, the point isn’t that United fans are ungrateful, in fact it’s the opposite, United fans are the best in the world of that I’m in no doubt, and next season may give us the perfect opportunity to prove it.
In David De Gea United haven’t bought the finished article, a player who’ll make Edwin Van Der Sar seem like a distant memory. What we’ve got is a 20 year-old supremely talented player who will need time to settle into not just at a far bigger club than he’s been at previously but also a whole new country, culture and way of life.
It would be easy if De Gea were to struggle during the first few weeks of his United career for some fans to get on his back, to let him know our disappointment via a few well timed shouts or maybe even chants of “Edwin, Van Der Sar, Edwin, Edwin, Van Der Sar.”
When the fans are on a players case you can feel it in the air, the end of the 2009/10 season is a prime example, the feeling of anger aimed towards Berbatov by some fans was almost tangible.
This isn’t the norm though, I remember in 1995/6 Andy Cole had started the season struggling for goals after a somewhat mixed first season at United. He’d scored a good amount of goals but the club had finished trophyless and much was made of his failure to convert one of the chances he’d had at Upton Park which would have given United the league.
With only 2 league goals in the opening twelve games, Cole wasn’t enjoying the best of starts. Cue the United fans. In the game against Southampton at Old Trafford, the crowd chanted “Andy Cole…” throughout the entire game, almost in unison and after an hour were rewarded with a goal from the former Newcastle man who rounded off a four one win.
United fans aren’t all the prawn sandwich eating glory hunters some would have us labelled we can be among the most loyal, understanding and patient fans around people seem to forget we experienced over a quarter of a century without a title, yet still had the biggest crowds in Britain. Next season if De Gea struggles it may be just the sort of test for United fans to show we have a right to call ourselves the best in the world.
I’m not saying he will of course, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the young ‘keeper may take a little while to settle in.
Read more of Justin’s articles at Red Flag Flying High