Remi Moses having a dust-up with Jesper Olsen, Jim Leighton in the 1990 FA Cup final, Ralph Milne, Garry Birtles, Alan Brazil, Gordon Strachan’s consistency and Liverpool’s ongoing success.
All things that were crap about supporting Man United prior to 1991.
By the lofty standards set by Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign and the expectation set by the clubs eye-watering resources and revenues, Manchester United are considered to be in a new era of “crap”.
Of course, this more recent version of ineptitude is nothing like its ’70s and ’80s cousin. The latter truly featured periods of United being utter pants. By the time Fergie led us back to the league crown in 1993, it had been a drought of 26 years, with relegation in 1974 being fresher in the memory than Sir Matt Busby’s finest hour in 1968.
Even moments of celebration were often tainted. The joy of the 1977 FA Cup victory was quickly ushered out the door to be replaced by turmoil as Tommy Docherty was sacked over an affair with the club Physios wife. The 1985 win, while not seeing such a devastating aftermath, was still soured by the harsh sending off and subsequently poor treatment of Kevin Moran. As the first player ever to receive a red card in the final, not only was a winners medal initially withheld, he was even deprived of the customary royal handshake.
By comparison, finishing 7th, 4th, 5th and having a mediocre start to 2016-17 results-wise doesn’t seem so bad.
I love Man United. They’ve been part of my life for as long as I remember. I want to enjoy watching them again.
It’s not that I don’t want what’s best for my club. It’s not that I don’t recognise that when a team can buy a player for a nine-figure sum like they’re picking up a packet of mints at a supermarket cash register, they should be competing for top honours.
It’s that I’m just tired of reacting to individual games of football based on some broader context. I want to think “Oooh, unlucky!” when we don’t quite get it done against Burnley or don’t quite get all three points in a strong performance against Arsenal.
As it is, it feels like any dropped point obligates me to look forlornly at the league table, hope sucked back into the darkest recesses of my soul as Chelsea move further, ever further away in first place.
Now objectively, I’m actually not too concerned this season. As my late Grandad Larry used to tell me: “The league means nothing until after Christmas”. As an Evertonian (they were the first home team he watched after leaving Northern Ireland during the troubles) he didn’t always have that much to watch after Christmas either.
More importantly though, I’m encouraged by the fact that while Man United have their flaws right now, there’s a lot they’re doing right. They’re performing satisfactorily in most areas of the pitch. They just aren’t making the most of their chances. They could also do with managing games better late on.
Last season, we seemed to be playing to a philosophy that declared that under no circumstances must the ball leave the ground and only in moments of dire need, must a pass be made to anybody who’s more than five feet away and within arms-length of an opposing player.
This was phenomenal for possession stats. It just meant that creating chances was a rarity and for some reason, whenever the other team did get possession, United acted like they’d never faced another team with the ball before.
So I see genuine reason for hope.
I also have my own expectations. I would like to see a title challenge. Champions League qualification (and I mean via the league – back-dooring through the Europa and finishing 8th isn’t good enough) has to be the minimum target.
However, until we get to the run-in, I’m just going to watch any non-do-or-die game in a vacuum. Not literally of course. I need oxygen to live. I will though, take the matches for what they are. If we win, great. If we draw, it could be worse. If we lose, I’ll go into the standard three-day mourning process.
Now all I have to do is look forward to our next game…